OTHER GARY NOTABLES
JOHN A. BUSHEMI
World War II found Bushemi (1917-44) at the start of a promising photojournalism career. His talent was already so obvious that he was recruited by the public relations office of the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, artillery training center, and shortly after by Yank, the army magazine for enlisted personnel. His first assignments captured the life of the Fort Bragg trainee. Yank put him into the thick of the Pacific theater. He photographed combat and its heroes in the Solomon Islands, Kwajalein and Eniwetok, where he became the second Yank fatality of the war. He carried a big flash camera for his best work. He was famously fearless and famously convivial, the kind of guy everybody knows and likes. Boomhower's biographical sketch does him proud, but, of course, the photos do better. Spontaneously but professionally composed--Bushemi wasn't called "One Shot" for nothing--and exceptionally well calculated in terms of focus and lighting, they are the kind of pictures that have become iconic of WWII. Ray Olson Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.
American GIs who participated in the invasions of such far-flung Pacific Ocean locations as New Georgia, Makin, Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok during World War II could always count on a blistering reception from the Japanese forces defending those isles. They could also depend on their efforts being documented for their fellow soldiers and folks back home by a good-natured, talented photographer from Gary, Indiana: John A. Bushemi.
Assigned to Yank, the weekly magazine written by and for enlisted men, Bushemi specialized in "photography from a rifle’s length vantage point," according to his colleague Merle Miller. His work with his ever-present Speed Graphic camera earned Bushemi the distinction of being the "outstanding combat photographer" for the magazine, noted its managing editor Joe McCarthy. That distinction came as no surprise to those who knew Bushemi in Gary, where he had received numerous awards for his work as a photographer for the Gary Post-Tribune. While working for the newspaper, he had earned the nickname "One Shot" for his uncanny ability to capture even the fastest action with just one click of his camera’s shutter.
One Shot: The World War II Photography of John A. Bushemi examines the life of this son of Sicilian immigrants who worked in Gary’s steel mills for a time to earn enough money to buy his first camera. The book features Bushemi’s work, from his early days photographing soldiers training at the Field Artillery Replacement Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, to his frontline assignments among the grizzled American forces who engaged in the bitter fighting against the Japanese. Marion Hargrove’s book See Here, Private Hargrove made Bushemi a well-known figure to the home-front audience and GIs around the world.
Covering the invasion of Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands on Febraury 19, 1944, Bushemi and other correspondents became the target for a series of Japanese knee-mortar shells. Shrapnel from the shells hit and mortally wounded the photographer. As navy surgeons frantically attempted to save Bushemi’s life onboard a transport ship, the photographer gave his epitaph, telling Merle Miller: "Be sure to get those pictures back to the office."
Bushemi was awarded the Bronze Star for personal bravery, initiative and professional ability.
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 country.
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 seven).
Original Member of the
Spaniels Dies at Age 71
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 attack.
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 Gary.
"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 Spaniels.
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, D.C.
Vee Jay Records
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