By Cait Brennan
The Bible says music tore down the mighty walls of Jericho. In the 1960s and ’70s, rock and roll did the same for a generation of girls and young women. The rise of pop culture brought women and girls an unprecedented level of freedom, power, and influence. Perhaps it can’t quite be called “feminist,” and it may seem like a small thing, but before the mid-’60s, before the Beatles and Monkees, who could have imagined whole magazines devoted to pin-up boys?
And what boys. Girls of the early 1970s had Tiger Beat, 16, Right On! and countless others delivering a buffet of sumptuous male pop star pinups. The names are familiar: David McCallum, Kurt Russell, Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones, Donny Osmond, David Cassidy. Even Dark Shadows‘ Barnabas Collins made the grade. Imponderable, borderline zen questions were asked (“What kind of girl does Donny go for?” “Does an age difference really matter?”) Estrogen bubbled. Pillows were kissed. The whole universe smelled like Bonne Bell. It was, in a word, dreamy.
Those famous names may live on, but for a brief moment in the ’70s there were no bigger pop-culture dreamboats than Mark, Bill, and Brett, The Hudson Brothers. Television comedy stars, movie stars, fine musicians, hit recording artists—in their time, the Hudsons were as big as it gets.
The Hudson Brothers were once the Salerno brothers, three kids born into a music-loving family from Portland, Oregon. Wild about the Beatles, the brothers formed a band called “MySirs.” After winning a Battle Of The Bands contest, MySirs were brought to New York by Chrysler to promote the automaker’s new line of vehicles . . . on one condition: they had to rename the band after a Chrysler model. Thus “The New Yorkers” were born.
The band signed to Scepter Records, where they toured and released a handful of singles without alerting the Billboard charts. The group bounced from New York to Portland to L.A., from label to label, releasing pop gems for Decca and Warner Bros. with similarly frustrating results. The brothers changed the group’s name to “Everyday Hudson” then simply “Hudson,” and in 1972 they released a full-length LP on the Playboy Records label. The following year, they signed with Elton John’s Rocket Records. Despite star-level backing and some stellar pop hooks, it seemed the Hudsons could not break through to the mainstream.
In 1974, fortune smiled on the trio in a weird way, when The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was due to go on its annual summer hiatus. The Hudsons were musicians, not television stars or comics, but one night Sonny & Cher writer/producer Chris Bearde saw them at a party, a chance meeting that changed all their lives. Bearde recounted discovering the Hudsons for a recent DVD release. “I was at a party one night and was introduced to these three guys with plaster on their shoes. They had been drywalling their friend’s house. They did this Three Stooges kind of routine for me and the rest is history. I took them in and introduced them to Allan Bly (who became co-producer of the show) and we took them to meet the president of CBS programming, Fred Silverman. He gave us $10,000 and told us to put the guys on camera.”
Bearde was an influential writer and producer who had worked extensively in Australia and Canada before coming to the US. His pioneering Canadian late-night satire series, Nightcap, beat SCTV and Saturday Night Live to the punch by 15 years. He struck gold upon his arrival in Hollywood as one of the original writers for Laugh-In, and would blaze a trail through some of the most memorable television events of the 1970s, from classy variety show master Andy Williams to the somewhat less classy Chuck Barris’s Gong Show.