Tonawanda News — Phil Hudson and his brother, Jerry, have come a long way since graduating from Cardinal O’Hara High School in the Town of Tonawanda, Phil in 1969 and his brother in 1967.
But the two have come full circle, starting with performances by their band in front of classmates and now, as headliners performing with the E.L.I. Three Dog Night Tribute band on that same O’Hara stage Feb. 28.
At the performance, the duo will receive the first Cardinal O’Hara Fine Arts Lifetime Achievement award.
The two recalled playing at O’Hara when they were students.
“The school was big and brand new — it was the popular school to go to,” Phil Hudson recalled. “It had a great social atmosphere.”
His brother agreed with the reminiscences, including stories about Father Bruno, the school disciplinarian in the 60s.
“In late 1966, we put together a group which had some regional success and out of the area as well,” Jerry Hudson said. “We did live work at area colleges and were very successful.”
“We stayed together after high school for four pretty healthy years,” Phil Hudson explained. “We have strong voices and everybody sang. We became known for our vocals.”
The brothers said they were not a typical band but one with lots of complex harmony which few singers did.
In 1969, they put out their first record, “The Road,” which sold upwards of 100,000 copies. They also released a second popular record.
The two, natives of the Town of Tonawanda, continued on with a successful career in music with “The Road.”
“We played together until about 1975. Jerry became more interested in the stage and in writing,” Phil Hudson said. “I played in a band called White Chocolate.”
For his part, Jerry Hudson said that he continues to write fiction, mostly short stories.
“It’s difficult to get the (publisher’s) door open. So I keep knocking.”
He decided to move to Los Angeles, where for 12 years he was successful working in movies and television shows and as a singer. After returning to Western New York, he turned his talent to acting. Among other shows, he stars as Bob Cratchit in the Alleyway Theatre’s annual “Christmas Carol” production.
In the meantime, Phil Hudson later joined his brother in California and worked for three and a half years in movies, until returning home to Western New York and continuing in the music field, later joining the E.L.I. band.
In addition to Phil Hudson, members of E.L.I. who will perform at O’Hara are Mark Valentino from Hit-n-Run; Tom Gariano, A-List; Rick Ryan, Weekend; Tony Dalfonso, Party of Nine, and Paul Bataglia.
Bill Tepas, president of the Cardinal O’Hara Alumni Association and the prime mover behind the concert, said that this is the third year that the alumni association has promoted concerts with the sole purpose of rehabilitating the auditorium at the school.
“It’s a three-phase project that will cost about $85,000 to complete,” Tepas said. “These concerts have already raised $50,000.”
The first phase was rehabilitating the stage, adding air conditioning and 94 new seats. The second phase was repainting, replacing carpeting throughout and refurbishing 428 seats.
The last phase is the lighting and sound.
“The auditorium has seen a lot of use in more than 50 years,” Tepas added.
The presentation of the Fine Arts Lifetime Achievement award was a surprise to the Hudsons.
“It feels great to receive this award,” Jerry Hudson said. “It’s a great idea to actively promote the arts. I’m glad O’Hara’s music and art programs are coming back.”
“I was shocked and surprised to learn about the award,” Phil Hudson said. “It’s a privilege — special — gives me such a warm feeling.”
The show will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the school, 39 O’Hara Road, Tonawanda. Tickets are $15 and some are still available.
For tickets, call 695-2600, ext. 312.