INK SPOTS: Gettin' Sentimental (1939-1945) (Bernie Mackey/ Bill Kenny/ Charlie Fuqua/ David Lennick/ Ella Fitzgerald/ Ivory Deek Watson/ Orville 'Hoppy' Jones/ The Ink Spots) (Naxos: 8.120624)
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THE INK SPOTS Vol.2
"Getting Sentimental" Original Recordings 1939-1945
By the mid-1930s the Mills Brothers had re-established a market for male vocal groups and they were soon followed on the popular scene by the Ink Spots with their own, rather less innovative and more predictable, brand of close-harmony. One of the most commercially successful crooning ensembles in popular music history, the original Ink Spots were formed in 1934 by lead tenor and guitarist Jerry Franklin Daniels, second tenor Ivory Deek Watson, guitarist and baritone Charlie Fuqua and bass-singer and string-bassist Orville Hoppy Jones, while the lads were employed as porters at New Yorks Paramount Theater. Initially they specialised in Mills Brothers numbers and soon became well known in New York circles through a handful of records (by January 1935 they had already made their first four sides, for Victor) and theatre and radio appearances, before being imported to appear at plush London venues later that same year by the English bandleader-impresario Jack Hylton.
They continued to place an emphasis on the up-tempo style of their role-models (and, indeed, to record a further seven sessions, for Decca) until 1938. However, after Daniels was replaced (due to illness) in 1939 by high tenor Bill Kenny and the success of their first US pop chart hit, a No.2 version of Jack Lawrences If I Didnt Care, conscious changes were made to their sound. Their new-found tempi were relaxed, with stylised arrangements permeated by Kennys high falsetto fluting complementing Joness half-spoken basso profundo interjections, in a unique recipe which, by and large, never subsequently required alteration. Their other early US hits in this new vein included, in 1939, "Bless You" (No.15), "My Prayer" (No.3) and their first No.1 "Address Unknown".
An enormous hit on US radio, by the early 1940s the Ink Spots were also a grand-scale world-wide commodity on records specialising in a preponderantly Tin Pan Alley repertoire their records sold well among the white populations on both sides of the Atlantic. Their further hits included, in 1940, Im Gettin Sentimental Over You (a US pop No.26 revival of a 1932-vintage George BassmanNed Washington standard already world-renowned as Tommy Dorseys theme-tune), Fred and Doris Fishers Whispering Grass (No.10), "When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano" (No.4) and a further No.1 with Dick Robertson, Nelson Cogane and Sammy Mysels We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And Me).
By 1941 the Ink Spots were bill-toppers on the US variety circuit and the ever-expanding catalogue of their hits continued with Emerson Scott and the Renés Someones Rocking My Dreamboat (at No.17), Stanley Cowan and Bobby Worths Do I Worry? (at No.8) and Eddie Seiler, Sol Marcus, Bennie Benjemen and Eddie Durhams I Dont Want To Set The World On Fire (at No.4). "Evry Night About This Time" (a US No.17 in 1942) was followed in 1943 with "Ill Never Make The same Mistake Again" (at No.19) and, at No.2, a best-selling early vocal version by Bob Russell of Duke Ellingtons "Never No Lament", entitled Dont Get Around Much Anymore.
In 1944 Orville Jones died but a fortuitous and more than satisfactory replacement was soon found in Bill Kennys brother, Herb. That year brought a further crop of Ink Spots hits, including A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening (a No.16 cover-version of the Harold AdamsonJimmy McHugh standard premiered by Frank Sinatra in his first starring screen-musical Higher And Higher), "Dont Believe Everything You Dream" (at No.14), a No.7 version of Fred Ahlerts Ill Get By (contemporaneously revived in MGMs comedy-drama vehicle for Spencer Tracy, A Guy Named Joe) and, with Ella Fitzgerald sharing credits, two more No.1s : Im Making Believe (a little-known number by James V. Monaco and Mack Gordon from Sweet And Low Down, a sort of early Benny Goodman biopic) and Allan Roberts and Doris Fishers Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.
In 1945, a further collaboration with Ella (an April No.5 hit-version of the Duke EllingtonJohnny Hodges standard Im Beginning To See The Light) was to provide the Ink Spots with their first Golden Disc. During WW2 the boys were engaged in entertaining troops at service camps throughout America but found time to appear in a few morale-boosting films, notably The Great American Broadcast (made in 1941, this 20th Century Fox musical traced the growth of the American radio industry) and Pardon My Sarong (a 1942 Abbott & Costello knockabout set in the Tropics).
The Ink Spots retained their niche in the market throughout the remainder of the 1940s and, despite being outsold by bebop and rock-n-roll in the mid-1950s and notwithstanding subsequent changes in personnel a group performing under their name survived until the mid-1990s. From the 1970s onwards records made by the original quartet continued to feed via LP and CD reissues a special kind of nostalgia, culminating in 1988 with the award of a retrospective Grammy for their first hit If I Didnt Care and in 1989 with the inscription of the names of the groups original personnel in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.
Peter Dempsey, 2002
Transfers & Production: David Lennick
Digital Noise Reduction: Graham Newton
Photo of The Ink Spots (b/w original Michael Ochs Archives/Redferns)
From top to bottom: Hoppy Jones, Deek Watson, Bill Kenny, Charles Fuqua
The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.
As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennicks work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specializing in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalizers, compressors and the inherent limitations of A.M. radio. Equally at home in classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, Syracuse University and others.