Although his studio featured one of the classiest, most distinctive and most accomplished signature sounds in all of song-poemdom, the name of Lee Hudson is little-known today because he never had a label to call his own, instead placing the productions of his eponymous, Southern California-based studio with existing labels or for use as private demos. What attention the studio did receive was further diffused by Hudson's emphasis of the name of his lead singer, Cara Stewart, on labels and in ads, keeping his own name that much further in the background.
Not that he could be blamed, for Cara Stewart possessed the finest female voice in the entire song-poem field. Supported by Hudson's light guitar comping and a "5 piece ork" simulated on a Chamberlin, her sultry mezzo-soprano would have leveled cities-full of men, had any of them besides the respective songwriters ever heard her sing. Stewart's torchy blues-pop style invokes comparisons to Julie London and Marilyn Monroe, only with a better instrument -- at least better vocal instrument -- at her disposal.
Whoever it was at the Chamberlin -- most likely Hudson himself (or perhaps Cara) -- was a virtuoso manipulator of the difficult keyboard instrument. Lacking, to be sure, Rodd Keith's surreal improvisational powers and uncanny arrangements, this musician nevertheless exhibited a skilled hand and some interesting arranging ideas of his (or her) own. Taking a cue from Les Paul, Hudson then lathered his recordings with enough reverb to float a boat; indeed, Lee and Cara were a song-poem analogue to Les Paul and Mary Ford, although whether they enjoyed a personal relationship beyond their musical one can only be speculated upon.
It is not known exactly when Hudson's studio first spun into gear, but our earliest sighting of activity there dates to May 1962. That point commenced a long period of remarkable promotional consistency, with sober, 1/8-page ads (in marked contrast to the carny-like ads of most of their competitors) run in issue after issue of the trades until November 1970, when one final ad appeared, announcing the dispersal of the studio's assets and Hudson's retirement to San Francisco. Whether Cara Stewart joined him in the move northward is best left to the tabloids and gossip columnists.
While most of the major song-poem companies maintained their own studios, Jack Curry's Air label, located clear across the bottom of the U.S. map in Miami, neatly complemented Hudson's operation, with a label but no studio. Although still subcontracting masters from other song-poem production houses, Curry became one of Hudson's best customers, and many of the recordings on Air and its "subsidiary" custom labels were Lee Hudson productions. Curry's family of labels therefore constitutes the bulk of the links below.
The AS/PMA discographies are arranged by label name, and thus there is no structural justification for a Lee Hudson page in this area. But this policy has kept Hudson and his wonderful thrush Cara Stewart artificially underrepresented, and so this label page without an actual label. The Les & Mary of the song-poem set need remain unknown no longer.
Advance || Air || Air-Loom || Blue Hill || Bluemoon || Bozark || Brosh || Clare || Echo || Fanwood || Iris || Lectron || Messmer || REO || Rhythm || Roxie || Sherwood || Sky-Hi || Songwriter's || Souvenir || Spin || Suncoast || Sylvan || Titan || TJB Brandes || Top Fifty || Top Rock
Discography ©2004 Phil Milstein