Friday, February 20, 2004

Gene Hughes, 67, lead singer of the Casinos

Musician later became promoter

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati native Gene Hughes, lead singer of the doo-wop group the Casinos, was also a well-known country music promoter.

"He touched so many lives with his music," said his wife, Lynnette. "He set the guidelines in the way they do promotions these days."

"He loved music," said his brother Ron of Mason. "You should have seen him when he got onstage. In spite of arthritis, he just came alive."

"The guy was terrific and was so nice to everybody," said Dusty Rhodes, Hamilton County auditor and WSAI-AM radio disc jockey.

"He was a good friend, and we worked with him for years," said Dan Allen, WSAI-AM program director and disc jockey. "He was a wonderful guy and had great stories.

"In the '60s, when a WSAI disc jockey was hanging out at the club where the Casinos were performing, he wanted them to record for him. They agreed and recorded on the Fraternity label at the King studios in Evanston. 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' was on that album," Allen said.

When WSAI-AM returned to the oldies format last year, its first concert was held in March. The station recruited Mr. Hughes and the Casinos to perform. It was his last performance in Cincinnati.

Mr. Hughes died Feb. 3 in Saint Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tenn., of complications from an October car accident. He was 67.

He and his brothers began singing on street corners and at the former Church of God at 12th and Elm, Over-the-Rhine. In the 1950s, the family moved to Winton Place. The brothers formed a band with high school buddies.

Mr. Hughes dropped out of Withrow High School after the 10th grade when he was 17 and joined the Army. He received a medical discharge after about a year and a half and returned to Cincinnati.

In 1958, he formed a group called the Capris with his brother Glenn and friends J.T. Sears, Roger West, Ray White and Peter Bolton. When they learned another group had that name, they changed to the Casinos.

Their first recording was "Do You Recall" with Mr. Sears as lead singer. Mr. Hughes was the group's co-manager and producer but took over as lead when Mr. Sears was killed in an automobile accident.

They cut nine 45-rpm records and had a regional hit in the mid-60s, "She's Out of Sight."

Finally, in 1967, the Casinos recorded John D. Loudermilk's "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye." The hit achieved No. 6 on Billboard's pop charts and spent 10 weeks on the Top 40.

The slow dance and "make-out" song later made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "One Hit Wonders" room.

They began touring with Dick Clark as their promoter. The group recorded Don Everly's song "It's All Over Now," which reached the mid-60s on the charts. After two years of touring, the group broke up.

Mr. Hughes worked as a record distributor and began an independent promotion company in 1977.

In 1984, he joined MCA as vice president of promotions and managed such groups as Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

He became a national promotion executive for MCA, A&M/Nashville.

In addition to his wife of seven years and his brothers Ron and Glenn, survivors include; six children, 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

A tribute concert will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at Rhinos World Class Billiards, Building 792, Eastgate South Drive, Eastgate.

Memorials: Gene Hughes Memorial Fund, 2804 Azalea Place, Nashville, TN 37204.


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