Leon Hughes sang with the original Coasters (Bobby Nunn, Carl Gardner, and Billy Guy) up until 1958. His tenor voice is heard on many of the groups hits. Some of those hits include: Smokey Joe's Cafe', Searchin, Young Blood, & Yakety Yak. Leon also appeared on The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen and Dick Clark's popular new national show - American Bandstand. Before joining The Coasters, Hughes had been a member of doo wop groups The Hollywood Flames and The Lamplighters. He had been working at a car wash when Bobby Nunn had recommended him as second tenor for The Coasters. In 1956, he recorded with The Celebritys which included his brother Elder O'Neal. That same year, he also recorded on his own label Leoneal Records with The Signeals which included his sister Shirley Hughes and his brother Elder O'Neal. Leon also recorded a single as "Leoneal and Janet" (backup vocals by The Signeals).
After leaving The Coasters, he teamed with Bobby Nunn to record as The Dukes in 1959 for Flip Records. "Looking For You" b/w "Groceries, Sir" (Flip #343), and "I Love You" b/w "Leap Year Cha Cha" (Flip #344) were the singles released.
In the 1970s, he recorded with several Coasters groups. In 1975, recorded with "The Coasters Two Plus Two" for Chelan Records. The record "Searchin' 75" b/w "Young Blood" stated that these recordings were from the album called "Reunion." In 1976, he recorded an album with "The World Famous Coasters" which included Will "Dub" Jones. This album was released on American International Records (In Europe on DJM). In 1998, a CD called "Leon Hughes: One Of The First Original Coasters" was released on Oldie CD, and a VHS tape called "The Coasters: Tribute To Their Greatest Hits" was released. Hughes still performs with a Coasters group, sometimes as "Leon Hughes and his Original Coasters." He also has done some performances with a Hollywood Flames group.
With Carl Gardner's death on June 12, 2011, Leon Hughes is now the last surviving member of the original Coasters.
Leon has received numerous accolades for his 67 years in entertainment. He received the Rhythm and Blues Pioneer Award in 1994.
In 2014, Leon Hughes was honored with a Doo Wop Hall of Fame Award in Hollywood California. Leon was given a Recognition for his over 60 years in entertainment by The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. In addition, was also given a Certificate of Recognition for his outstanding contributions in entertainment from the U. S. Congress. He was presented this honor from U.S. Congress Representative Maxine Waters (D. CA.).
Various group singles and recordings
- Smokey Joe's Cafe (1953) (The Robins)
- This Is My Plea/Juanita (Caroline #2301) (1956) (The Celebritys)
- We Made Romance/Absent Minded (Caroline #2302) (1956) (The Celebritys)
- Juanita/Show Me The Way (Leoneal #1483) (1956) (The Signeals)
- No One/What Is This Thing (Leoneal #02) (1956) (Leoneal & Janet)
- Leap Year Cha Cha (Leoneal) (unreleased) (1956) (The Signeals)
- Down In Mexico/Turtle Dovin (Atco #6064) (1956) (The Coasters)
- One Kiss Led to Another/Brazil (Atco #6073) (1956) (The Coasters)
- Searchin/Young Blood (Atco #6087) (1957) (The Coasters)
- Yakety Yak (Atco #6116) (1958) (The Coasters)
- Looking For You/Groceries, Sir (Flip #343) (1959) (The Dukes)
- I Love You/Leap Year Cha Cha (Flip #344) (1959) (The Dukes)
- Searchin ’75/Young Blood (Chelan #2000) (1975) (The Coasters Two Plus Two)
- If I Had A Hammer/If I Had A Hammer (Disco Version) (AI #1122) (1976) ("World Famous" Coasters - also issued as The Coasters)
- So Fine / Baby What You Want Me To Do (AceHi #M-101) (ca 1977) (The World Famous Coasters)
- Millar, Bill (1974). The Coasters. London, England: Star Books. p. 70. ISBN 0-352-30020-5.
- Steve Propes, & Galen Gart (2001). L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965. Milford, NH: Big Nickel Publications. p. 28. ISBN 0-936433-18-3.
- Steve Propes, & Galen Gart (2001). L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965. Milford, NH: Big Nickel Publications. p. 157. ISBN 0-936433-18-3.
- Steve Propes, & Galen Gart (2001). L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965. Milford, NH: Big Nickel Publications. pp. 47–48. ISBN 0-936433-18-3.
- http://leonhughescoaster.com/ [The Coasters website]