INK SPOTS: Gettin' Sentimental

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"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 York’s 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 Lawrence’s If I Didn’t Care, conscious changes were made to their sound. Their new-found tempi were relaxed, with stylised arrangements permeated by Kenny’s high falsetto fluting complementing Jones’s 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, I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You (a US pop No.26 revival of a 1932-vintage George Bassman—Ned Washington standard already world-renowned as Tommy Dorsey’s theme-tune), Fred and Doris Fisher’s 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 René’s Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat (at No.17), Stanley Cowan and Bobby Worth’s Do I Worry? (at No.8) and Eddie Seiler, Sol Marcus, Bennie Benjemen and Eddie Durham’s I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (at No.4). "Ev’ry Night About This Time" (a US No.17 in 1942) was followed in 1943 with "I’ll Never Make The same Mistake Again" (at No.19) and, at No.2, a best-selling early vocal version by Bob Russell of Duke Ellington’s "Never No Lament", entitled Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

In 1944 Orville Jones died but a fortuitous — and more than satisfactory — replacement was soon found in Bill Kenny’s 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 Adamson—Jimmy McHugh standard premiered by Frank Sinatra in his first starring screen-musical Higher And Higher), "Don’t Believe Everything You Dream" (at No.14), a No.7 version of Fred Ahlert’s I’ll Get By (contemporaneously revived in MGM’s comedy-drama vehicle for Spencer Tracy, A Guy Named Joe) and, with Ella Fitzgerald sharing credits, two more No.1s : I’m 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 Fisher’s Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.

In 1945, a further collaboration with Ella (an April No.5 hit-version of the Duke Ellington—Johnny Hodges standard I’m 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 Didn’t Care and in 1989 with the inscription of the names of the group’s 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.

David Lennick

As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennick’s 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.
Disc: 1
Just For A Thrill
1 If I Didn't Care
2 Coquette
3 I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You
4 Hey, Doc!
5 Whispering Grass (Don't Tell The Trees)
6 Do I Worry?
7 I'm Beginning To See The Light
8 I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire
9 Maybe
10 Don't Get Around Much Anymore
11 Knock-Kneed Sal (On The Mourner's Bench)
12 We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, And Me)
13 Is It A Sin (My Loving You)?
14 Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall
15 It's A Sin To Tell A Lie
16 Someone's Rocking My Dream Boat
17 I'll Get By
18 A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
19 I'm Making Believe
20 Just For A Thrill
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