George Molchan came to Gary in 1928 with his seven
siblings and after High School, enrolled at Gary Community
College. In 1951, he met Meinhardt Rabbe, one of the original
"Wizard of Oz" munchkins who later became the original Oscar Meyer
"Little Oscar". Raabe heard about Molchan while on a stop in
Gary. Raabe, who wished to retire, offered the four feet,
five inch Molchan the job as the Oscar Meyer mascot and he
accepted. George traveled the
country in the hotdog-shaped Weinermobile, passing out whistles and
meeting the crowds. He appeared in commercials and on
TV. He retired in 1987 and moved back to Hobart in
Post-Tribune Kass Stone April 14, 2005
Born September 28, 1919 in Gary,
Died March 16, 1990.
Tom Harmon was a famous
football player, All-American, and a Heisman trophy winner in 1940
while playing for the University of Michigan. Harmon was
chosen by the Chicago Bears in the first selection of the NFL Draft,
but chose not to play football. He had a brief career as an actor,
starring as himself in the biopic Tom Harmon of Michigan. He
appeared occasionally in films throughout the forties and
fifties. From 1946-1947 Harmon played football professionally
with the Los Angeles Rams, but wartime injuries to his legs limited
his effectiveness. He focused his professional career as planned on
being a sports broadcaster on radio and television, one of the first
athletes to make the transition from player to on camera
His son is actor Mark Harmon, star of the t.v.
series NCIS. His grandchildren are musical performers
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, and actress Tracy
Nelson; being the children of the late teen idol,
Ricky Nelson and Kristin
James "Pookie" Hudson, Opal
Courtney Jr., Willis C. Jackson, Gerald Gregory and Ernest
The Spaniels started their career singing at dances
and talent shows at Roosevelt High School in Gary. A year later,
they were making records in the rhythm and blues vocal harmony group
style of the 50's which was later known as doo wop. Their best known
hit was "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight".
The Spaniels are best known for their massive 1954 hit,
"Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" (number five R&B). They were the
first successful Midwestern R&B group, coming from Gary, IN, by way of
Chicago. Lead vocalist James "Pookie" Hudson was a graceful lead singer
who influenced many who came after him, most notably Aaron Neville. They
were also one of the first (if not the first) R&B groups to perform
with the lead singer on one microphone and the rest of the group sharing
another, and initiated a trend toward using tap dance routines in live
shows. Their often a cappella recordings showcase the purity of a sound
and style uniquely their own. It was also the Spaniels who partially
brought about the formation of one of R&B's legendary labels, Vee-Jay,
which became one of the most successful black-owned record companies in
The story of how the Spaniels came to prominence begins in
late 1952, when lead singer Hudson was convinced by four of his Roosevelt
High classmates — Ernest Warren (first tenor), Opal Courtney, Jr.
(baritone), Willie Jackson (second tenor), and Gerald Gregory (bass) to
join them for a school talent show. They had debuted as Pookie Hudson and
the Hudsonaires for the Christmas show and fared so well they decided to
continue. Not wanting to join the bird group club (Orioles, Ravens, etc.),
they decided on the name Spaniels.
In the spring, the group visited the local record shop
owned by James and Vivian Bracken, who had begun developing a record label
called Vee-Jay Records. They soon moved their operation to Chicago, in a
garage off 47th Street (later they would relocate to offices at 1449 South
Michigan Avenue). The Spaniels were one of the first two artists signed to
the label (the other was blues guitarist Jimmy Reed). On May 5, 1953, the
Spaniels recorded "Baby It's You," released in July. On September 5,
"Baby" hit number ten on the national R&B best-seller charts.
The Spaniels' next session produced additional singles,
including "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," which took off in March
1954, but it took about six months for the record to break nationally,
charting at number five on the R&B charts. Its success prompted the
McGuire Sisters to cover it for the "white" market, stealing a lot of the
Spaniels' thunder when their version landed in the Top Ten (number
Original member of the Spaniels dies at age
BY BOB KOSTANCZUK Post-Tribune staff writer
GARY -- Opal Courtney Jr., an original member of the legendary
Spaniels, was found dead Thursday in his Gary home. He was 71. The
singer's daughter, Mona Courtney, said her father died of a heart
Part of one of rhythm and blues' seminal vocal groups, Courtney sang on
the original recording of "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight." An R&B
hit in 1954, the Spaniels' lovely street-corner song is considered a
classic of the doo-wop genre. Courtney also sang on "Baby, It's You," a
national R&B hit for the Gary-based Spaniels in 1953. The song helped
launch Vee Jay Records, a trailblazing black-owned label, formed in
"He had a real high tenor voice," said Gary's Willie C. Jackson, an
original Spaniel. "His voice always cut through; it was very clear," noted
Gary's Wilton Crump, a latter-day singer and musical director for the
Courtney, who could also sing baritone, was preceded in death last year
by James "Pookie" Hudson, lead singer and songwriter for the Spaniels.
In 1991, the Spaniels received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and
Blues Foundation of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington,
Ewart G. Abner Jr., ran Vee-Jay Records, a company that had been
founded in Gary, Indiana, in 1953, by Vivian Carter and her husband.
James Bracken -- Vee for V. Carter. Jay for J. Bracken -- and had
moved to Chicago in 1954.
From the beginning --
Vee-Jay's first release, by the Spaniels, a
quintet formed at Roosevelt High School in Gary, established the
group as one of the leading doo-wop acts of the Midwest --
the company was one of the most powerful of the independents, strong in
the full spectrum of R&B from the Spaniels to the Dells,
and from Jimmy Reed to John Lee Hooker. In 1963, it was Ewart
Abner – with the blessing of Carter and Bracken, who was
the guiding force of the label -- While he was at the helm,
Vee-Jay became the Beatles' first American label.
It was Blavat, the year
before, who had convinced Abner that Vee-Jay could prosper with
white artists as well as black, bringing him a quartet of
Italian-American kids from New Jersey, the Four Seasons,
who had a song called "Sherry,"
which became a No. 1 pop hit and a No. 1 R&B
hit for Vee-Jay in 1962.
"I got him to pick
up 'Sherry' at the 1962 convention, down in Miami, at
the Fontainebleau, Association of Record Merchandisers," says Blavat. "I was
with Morris Levy. I bump into Bob Crewe, who I knew forever.
He wrote 'Silhouettes.' He says, 'I want you to hear something
I just cut with these kids. It's a song called "Sherry.'"
I hear it. I said, 'I think this f....n' thing's a hit.' I
play it for Morris; he says, 'That's the worst piece of shit I've
ever heard.' I say, 'Crewe, don't get discouraged.'
Now, Abner loves me for my ear, O.K.? Between 'He Will Break
Your Heart,' by Jerry Butler, which I busted wide open for him,
between this, that, the other thing -- I mean, God gave me an ear. I
take Crewe up to Abner's suite. Abner hears it. He says. 'You know, Geator, I think
you got something here. But it's a white artist.' I said. ‘Abner,
who the f... knows the difference on an acetate or a record
if it's white or black? If a hit's a hit, it's got no f....n'
color, man.' They make the deal.