MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY: THE INK SPOTS AND THEIR MUSIC

ADDITIONS AND ERRORS FOUND AFTER PUBLICATION
(in no particular order)


Over the years, since my book was published in 1998, I've uncovered a few errors. Also, I've found out some additional facts that are worth sharing with my readers.


Bob Benson - ERROR - the photo on page 77 shows pianist Asa "Ace" Harris (1 Apr 1910 - 6 November 1964), not Bob Benson. Here's a photo of the group with Bob Benson at the piano. The others, left to right are: Charlie Fuqua, Deek Watson, Hoppy Jones (who's actually holding a bass!), and Bill Kenny.

Ink Spots with Bob Benson at the piano

A blurb from 8 June 1940 in the Afro-American has Bob Benson leaving and Ace Harris joining. Note that there was a pianist named Johnny "Ace" Harris, who died in April 2000 at the age of 83. For many years, he claimed to have been the Ace Harris in the Ink Spots; he wasn't.

Ray Tunia - had been with the orchestras of Doc Wheeler, Chris Columbus, and Tab Smith. He turned up with violinist Stuff Smith in April 1943, and from there briefly went with Lucky Millinder, before joining the Ink Spots.

Teddy Williams - Replaced Billy Bowen in early 1952; the Ink Spots were then: Bill Kenny, Charlie Fuqua, Adriel McDonald, Teddy Williams, and Harold Francis. He left around August 1952 [ERROR not in 1953 as it says on page 254], probably as a result of the Kenny/Fuqua breakup; he was replaced by Ernie Brown. A vocalist with Sonny Stitt (sax) on Prestige, 1950-51, Williams had had two records for Federal in early 1951 (with the Federalites on one and backed by Al Cobb's Orchestra on the other).

Everett Barksdale - He was probably the original replacement for Charlie Fuqua in 1952. They were then: Bill Kenny, Everett Barksdale, Adriel McDonald, Teddy Williams, and Harold Francis. He was with the Ink Spots for at least one appearance in September 1952 at the Toronto Casino. With Sidney Bechet (1941) and the Jubalaires in 1945. In 1950-1 he's on some Louis Armstrong recordings. In June 1952 he's on a Red Caps session. In December 1952 he's on Capitol recordings of the Art Tatum Trio (with Slam Stewart). 1954-56 - he was a session musician (backed Nappy Brown on "Don't Be Angry," as well as Lavern Baker and Ruth Brown). 1957 with Red Allen. 1961 session musician behind Solomon Burke.

Jimmy Kennedy - ERROR: his name is Jimmy Cannady, not Jimmy Kennedy (I assume that I just misheard what Adriel McDonald said). Although he was referred to as a "new member" (baritone & guitar) in a 10 January 1953 article on the Ink Spots, he'd replaced Everett Barksdale around September or October 1952 (he's correctly identified in the Ed Sullivan picture on page 235, although his name is misspelled). They were then: Bill Kenny, Jimmy Cannady, Adriel McDonald, Ernie Brown (not Teddy Williams), and Harold Francis. With Benny Carter's Orchestra (1947). He'd been in the original Bill Doggett Combo, which recorded for King around April 1952. Had the Jimmy Cannady Quartet, which backed 4 Brothers & A Cousin on Jaguar in 1954. Active session guitarist in the 1950s.

Ernie Brown - Joined in August 1952 to replace Teddy Williams (he's mentioned as being with the Ink Spots at a September 1952 appearance, along with Everett Barksdale). ERROR: the photo on page 235 identifies Teddy Williams in the group; it should be Ernie Brown. He had also been with the Blenders for a while in 1950. In a 10 January 1953 Afro-American article, the Ink Spots were: Bill Kenny, Adriel McDonald (bass), Ernie Brown (rhythm singer), Jimmie Cannady (guitar). Both Brown & Cannady played guitar.

Fletcher Smith (his actual first name might be "Judge") - Sometime in 1953, at a show in Vancouver, he, Bill Kenny, Jimmy Cannady (guitar), and Ernie Brown (second tenor) signed a napkin, as the Ink Spots. Where was Harold Francis? Had he quit? Where was Adriel McDonald (probably didn't like signing napkins)? In November 1939, Smith had been the pianist with Pete Brown's Jump Band. He was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra in the early 1940s and then with Slim Gaillard's Boogiereeners in 1945 (leads "Queen's Boogie" & "Nightmare Boogie" on Queen). With Earl Bostic in 1950s on King. In 1953, he did Swing Time 329 ("Brand New Neighborhood" and "Mean Poor Girl"). Combo 79 was by Fletcher Smith's Squares in March, 1955 ("Ting Ting Boom Scat"/"A Rolling Heart (Gathers No Love)"). Was also with the Deeptones.

Fletcher Smith

Henry Braswell - Replaced Ernie Brown as second tenor at the very end. He came on board in April 1954. At the time, the Ink Spots were: Bill Kenny, Henry Braswell, Jimmy Cannady, Adriel McDonald, and Fletcher Smith. This is the last of the Kenny groups. According to Braswell, their final performance was in Wildwood, New Jersey, when Bill Kenny informed them that he was dissolving the group. This is how it all ended:

In June 1954, Kenny and the Braswell-Cannady-McDonald-Smith group did a live appearance with Ed Sullivan in Connecticut. Everything went well and Sullivan asked the group to appear at a show for returning Korean War veterans to be held on his July 4 TV program. Kenny accepted, and then privately informed the group that he couldn’t afford to pay them for the appearance, so he was going alone. The unusual thing about this is that Kenny had always taken the group along and paid them, even when he didn’t let them perform. Sullivan was so angry about the group not being present on his show that he placed Kenny nearly at the bottom of the bill, headlining the Step Brothers instead. They disbanded after an appearance at the Bolero Bar, in Wildwood, New Jersey, that ended on July 14.

The final group

Tip, Tap And Toe (the dancers in "Pardon My Sarong") are Raymond Winfield, Sammy Green, Teddy Fraser.

Brown Dots - ERROR - page 155. Manor 1163 is by the first Brown Dots group, not the second.

Hoppy Jones - ERROR - page 133. Hoppy's wife was Esther Zippen from Cincinnati, not Esther Golden.

ERROR - page 127. Says "Kenny also countered"; it should say "Gale also countered"

ERROR - page 238. The photo identification for the Butterball Four is incorrect. It should read: (Left To Right) Melvin Moore, Billy Bowen, Eddie Thompson, Kelly Owens, Clyde Austin.

ERROR - page 180, in the Note in the middle of the page, "it's" should be "its". (Neither I nor the proofreader caught this one. Sorry.)

Charlie and Jerry - ERROR - all "Charlie and Jerry" should read "Jerry and Charlie". This was the actual name of the duo, even though Jerry Daniels always referred to them as "Charlie and Jerry". They appear on WKBF (Indianapolis) from 19-28 June 1931, at irregular intervals.

Huey Long - ERROR - Huey Long turned 94 in 1998, not 93. He died in April 2009 at the age of 105.

ERROR - page 82. The second 20th Century record did have a flip side. The record should be listed as "Bone To Pick" (TCF-57)/"Alabamy" (TCF-58) (these are the actual titles on the disc).

Jones & Campbell - appear 9 April 1928 at the Shriners' 16th Annual Easter Event (a musical comedy in 3 scenes called "Bright Lights"). They were praised for their dance routine.

King, Jack & the Jester - Appeared on WLW and WSAI (in Cincinnati - both owned by the same company) from 27 December 1933 thru 1 July 1934 (including almost every day in June 1934). Only one listing was marked King, Jack & Jesters (10 March 1934), which seems to indicate that Hoppy Jones didn't join until July 1934. This information came from Jack Hanna, who did a lot of research in the local papers. Unfortunately, this conflicts with the story of the origin of the group that Jerry Daniels told me. This is how I dealt with it;

The following should now be the entire 1933 chapter:

From February 1933 to September of that year, the Four Riff Brothers got the chance to do a fifteen-minute radio program on WLW in Cincinnati (about a hundred miles from Indianapolis), replacing the departing Mills Brothers. Probably during the late spring of 1933, Deek Watson left to do a solo act; presumably he was replaced in the group. In September, Slim Green also left. (Green had at least four releases on Decca's Sepia series in 1935. Despite later stories about his death in the '30s, Slim lived on until around 1960, when he died of pneumonia in Detroit.)

Meanwhile, Jerry and Charlie were touring the Midwest with the Whitman Sisters vaudeville show, one of the most popular programs in TOBA (the Theatre Owners Booking Agency), the main booking agency for black theaters. By July, the show having disbanded for the summer (theaters were not yet air conditioned), the pair found themselves on vacation in Cleveland. It was here that they ran into Deek Watson, performing as a single. These three alumni of the Indianapolis street corners decided to form a trio.

First calling themselves the "Gate Brothers," they broadcast a couple of shows on WHK (Cleveland) in October and November 1933. However, by the time they landed a job on WLW and its sister station, WSAI (both in Cincinnati) in December 1933, they had become the "King, Jack, and the Jester." Deek was the "King," Charlie the "Jack," and Jerry the "Jester." Like many other acts of the day, they did a sustaining fifteen-minute show multiple times a week. A "sustaining" show was one with no sponsor; you were an employee of the station itself, which paid for the show. At this time, commercial radio was still in its infancy, and anything and everything was being broadcast to determine listeners' tastes (the same thing was to happen in the early days of television).

The King, Jack and the Jester not only sang their swing numbers, they did commercials for the Crosley Broadcasting Company; Red Barber, future sportscaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, was their announcer.

The following should now be the beginning of the 1934 chapter:

When Grace Raines, pianist and vocal director at WLW, decided to relocate to New York, she asked the group to join her. This was too good an offer to pass up; Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Cincinnati were good for exposure and fine-tuning, but New York was one of the entertainment capitals of the country.

However, don't think that WLW was small-time radio. Known as "The Nation's Station," WLW advertised (in September 1938) that it had a staff of fifty radio voices and fifty-three musicians. In 1934, WLW, located at 700 on the AM dial, started using an experimental 500,000-watt transmitter (by com‧parison, big stations today use about one-tenth of that wattage). With that much power, they were probably heard in most parts of the country. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), deemed this wattage excessive and unsuccessfully took the station to court to try to force it back to 50,000 watts. The station continued to transmit at 500,000 watts until March 1939, when the FCC finally won the battle and made it settle down to a more respectable 50,000 watts (even though crediting the station with material‧ly contributing to radio knowledge).

The King, Jack, and the Jester didn't leave for New York immediately. There were probably contractual obligations that kept them in Cincinnati through July 1, 1934. During that time, they appeared almost every day on either WLW or WSAI.

Throughout the first half of 1934, they built up a following among midwestern listeners. Although there were many black vocal groups around, few got much recognition. Two who did were the extremely popular Mills Brothers (who had a 1931 smash with "Tiger Rag"), and the Three Keys. Jerry Daniels pointed out that the sound of his group was quite unlike the more polished style of these contemporaries. The style of the King, Jack and the Jester (and also of the early Ink Spots) was "swing," de‧rived from the big-name jazz bands, vaudeville acts, and the coffee-pot street-corner bands of Indianapolis.

At some point, to add a final touch to the group, Deek Watson recruited his former "Riff Brother," Orville "Hoppy" Jones, as a fourth mem‧ber. According to Jerry Daniels, they usually continued to call themselves the "King, Jack, and the Jester," but occasionally it became the "King, Jack, and the Jesters." Since all but one of the group's appearances on WLW/WSAI were billed in the singular, it's impossible to know exactly when Hoppy joined. What strains the imagination is that Hoppy was added as they were going to New York. This would mean that in a single month they would have had to add Hoppy, change all their arrangements to accommodate a fourth part, move to New York, change their name to the "King, Jack, and the Jesters," and then change it again, this time to the "Ink Spots." (Only one month went by between their last WLW broadcast and their first known appearance as the Ink Spots.) It's more reasonable to believe that Hoppy was added while they were still on radio in Cincinnati. This way, they could break him in. It's possible that they kept their old name in case he didn't work out.

Hoppy was the grand old man of the group, turning twenty-nine in 1934. That year the others would have been: Jerry (nineteen), Deek (twenty-one), and Charlie (twenty-three).

But finally, it was time to say farewell to Cincinnati and off to fame and fortune they went. (Actually, it took a bit longer than they'd hoped.)

When the King, Jack, and the Jesters got to New York in July 1934, they faced stiff competition within the entertainment world, as well as a problem over their name. Orchestra leader Paul Whiteman already had a vocal group within his band called the "King's Jesters," and when a conflict arose, it was not difficult to figure out who would yield. The newcomers from the Midwest renamed themselves the "Riff Brothers" for a while, and then the "Four Ink Spots."

Many fanciful stories have been told about the origin of this name. The truth, however, is rather dull: their manager simply sat down and decided on it. It's a little harder to determine just who this manager was: Jerry Daniels said that the name came from Moe Gale; Deek Watson said it was a Mr. Heffman (Heffman and Wright were their first managers when they got to New York; they also managed bandleader Ozzie Nelson and comedian Joe Penner). They then switched to Moe Gale, owner of Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, but it isn't clear exactly when he took them over.

Nor were they the first to use "Ink Spots." When they came to New York, that name was being used by a small-time group, the Three Ink Spots, which was going nowhere. Somehow their manager (whoever he may have been) got involved, and decided to let the Riff Brothers try the name, which was tailor-made for a black group. Thus, they became the "Four Ink Spots". These are the Three Ink Spots:

The 3 Ink Spots

The Spots were lucky to hook up with Moe Gale, who not only managed many of the black acts of the day, but also owned the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue and 140th Street (the most popular nightclub in Harlem in the '30s, with the largest dance floor, nicknamed "The Track").

[The 1934 chapter then continues as written.]


Riff Brothers - on WLW from 9 February 1933 - 8 September 1933 (presumably this was after Deek, possibly after Hoppy too).

Percolating Puppies - On 26 May 1928 the Indianapolis Recorder published a photo of them. The article said they were "employed by Jack Dempsey at his camp when he was in training to fight Tunney the last time." It's an indistinct photo (I can't pick out Deek) that shows seven members with three coffee pots and two ukuleles or tipples.

Peanut Boys - A 23 May 1931 article in the Pittsburgh Courier announces Willard "Lord" Hamby joining Leonard Reed, Mifflin Campbell, and Orville Jones as pianist. They seemed to have had a single broadcast over WFBE (Wed 13 May 1931, from 6:30-7:00).

3 Spades - They actually did record; Jerry Daniels had forgotten about it completely. There was a single session for Columbia's Vocalion subsidiary on 21 October 1937: "Pan-Pan," "Fu Manchu," "Rusty Hinge," and "Yeah Man". Although Columbia declined to release any of the tunes, "Pan-Pan", written by Jerry, was recorded by Louis Jordan in 1941. ERROR (page 35): WSAI was sister station to WLW, not WKBF.

Brown Dots - on Brown Dot 298 (a New York label) ca. 1950: "I've Loved You So Long Baby" (298A)/"The Devil Beating His Wife" [sic] (298B). The 4 Dots on Castle seems to have been reissued on a 45, for some reason, around 1952. Deek on Jubilee 5138 (February 1954) as "Deek Watson, The Brown Dot": "Brown Gal" (JB-1-300) and "Why Does A Drink Make You Think" (JB-1-299). (Note that some copies have him as "Deek Watson, The Ink Spot".)

Lord Essex Scott had been the vocalist with the Earl Hines Orchestra in 1945-6.

Births and deaths - Hoppy was born Chicago and died in New York City on 18 October 1944 (age 39). Deek was born in Mounds, Illinois in 1913 and died in Washington DC, November 1969 (age 56). Charlie was born in 1911 and died in New Haven, Connecticut, December 1971 (age 60). Bill Kenny was born in Philadelphia in 1914 and died in Vancouver, British Columbia, March 1978 (age 63). Billy Bowen was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1912 and died in New York City, 27 September 1982 (age 70). Herb Kenny was born in Philadelphia in 1914 and died in Maryland on 11 July 1992 (age 77). Jerry Daniels was born 14 December 1915 and died in Indianapolis 7 November 1995 (age 79). Bill Doggett died in New York in November 1996 (age 80). Huey Long was born in Texas in 1904 and died there in April 2009 (age 105). Jack Lawrence, who wrote "If I Didn't Care", died in March 2009 (age 96).

Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots - Carl Jones, of the Delta Rhythm Boys, told Jason Gross in January 2001: "The reason we [the Delta Rhythm Boys] recorded with her was because she refused to record with the Ink Spots anymore. She had recorded a couple of things with them and it turned out very well. But she couldn't stand Bill Kenny showing off behind her on stage when they were performing at the Paramount, flashing his gold rings while she was singing. She said 'I'm not going to stand for that!' Then they had an argument. He said, 'I'm just as popular as you are.' So she refused to work with them anymore. So that's how we came to record with her."

The Great American Broadcast was released around February 1941; Pardon My Sarong was released around March 1942.

First known "Ink Spots"-type arrangement: "Tune In On My Heart", sung over WEAF on 15 February 1938. It has Kenny's high tenor ballad lead, Charlie's guitar intro, and Hoppy's talking bass bridge.

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