Born in Brownsburg, Indiana, Hughes started his career as a critic in 1950 when he joined the staff of Musical America. In 1955, he became a music critic for The New York Herald Tribune. He left there in 1960 to join the staff of The New York Times where he worked as a music and dance critic until his retirement 26 years later in 1986. He was notably chief dance critic of the newspaper from 1963-1965 and was chief music editor of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section during the early 1980s. He died in Sarasota, Florida at the age of 87.