The Ink Spots
The original line-up consisted of Jerry Daniels (lead tenor/guitar), Orville ‘Hoppy’ Jones (b. 17 February 1905, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 18 October 1944; bass), Charlie Fuqua (d. 1979; baritone/guitar) and Ivory ‘Deek’ Watson (d. 1967; second tenor). Most sources state that this enormously popular black vocal quartet was formed in the early '30s when they were working as porters at the Paramount Theatre in New York. Early in their career the Ink Spots played ‘hot’ numbers, and travelled to England in the mid-30s where they performed with the Jack Hylton Band. When they returned to the USA Daniels became ill and was replaced by Bill Kenny (b. 1915, d. 1978). The new combination changed their style, slowed down the tempos, and had a big hit in 1939 with If I Didn't Care, which featured Kenny's impressive falsettto and a deep-voiced spoken chorus by bassman Jones. This record set the pattern for their future success, mixed with only a few slightly more uptempo items, such as Java Jive, Your Feet's Too Big, and two of several collaborations with Ella Fitzgerald, Cow-Cow-Boogie and Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall. The latter sold more than a million copies. Throughout the '40s their US hits included Address Unknown (number 1), My Prayer, Bless You, When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano, Whispering Grass, We Three (number 1), Do I Worry?, I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire, Don't Get Around Much Any More, I'll Get By, Someday I'll Meet You Again, I'm Making Believe (number 1) and I'm Beginning To See The Light (both with Ella Fitzgerald), The Gypsy (number 1 and a million-seller), Prisoner Of Love, To Each His Own (number 1 and another million-seller), It's A Sin To Tell A Lie, You Were Only Fooling (While I Was Falling In Love), and You're Breaking My Heart (1949). The group were also popular on radio, in theatres, and made guest appearances in movies such as The Great American Broadcast and Pardon My Sarong. Orville Jones died in 1944 and was replaced by Bill Kenny's twin brother, Herb (b. Herbert Cornelius Kenny, 1915, d. 11 July 1992, Columbia, Maryland, USA). A year later, founder member Deek Watson recruited Jim Nabbie (b. 1920, Tampa, Florida, USA, d. 15 September 1992, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) as lead tenor, and then Watson himself was replaced by Billy Bowen. Subsequent personnel changes were many and varied. There was some confusion in 1952 when two different groups began using the Ink Spots name, Charlie Fuqua and Bill Kenny each owning 50 per cent of the title. Fuqua's Inkspots consisted of himself, Deek Watson, Harold Jackson, and high tenor Jimmy Holmes. Other members included Isaac Royal, Leon Antoine and Joseph Boatner (d. 8 May 1989, Laconia, New Hampshire, USA). In the early '50s the Ink Spots had further chart success with Echoes, Sometime, and If, and Bill Kenny also had US hits in his own name, including It Is No Secret (with the Song Spinners) and (That's Just My Way Of) Forgetting You. It is said that, over the years, many other groups worked under the famous name, including one led by Al Rivers (d. 17 February 1993, aged 65) who sang with the Ink Spots in the late '40s and '50s, and another fronted by Stanley Morgan (21 November 1989, aged 67), an occasional guitar player with the quartet in the '30s. In 1988 the orginal group's first hit, If I Didn't Care, was awarded a Grammy, and a year later the Inkspots were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Jim Nabbie's Inkspots appeared extensively worldwide for many years through to the early '90s, until Nabbie's death in 1992 following double bypass heart surgery. Gregory Lee took over as frontman when the group co-starred with Eartha Kitt in the UK tour of A Night At The Cotton Club, during which, according to one critic, ‘they reproduced the sedate four-part harmonies with skill and just enough spontaneity to satisfy their long-term fans’. In 1995, when the Inkspots were in cabaret at London's Café Royal, the lineup was Grant Kitchings (lead tenor), Sonny Hatchett (second lead tenor), Ellis Smith (baritone and guitar), and Harold Winley (bass). The latter is said to have worked with the group for more than 40 years.
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