Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Ink Spots: Gypsy

The Ink Spots were a hugely-influential jazz vocal group that forms a direct link from the jazz and popular music of the Thirties to the R&B music of the Forties and rock and roll of the Fifties. The group consisted of various members during a lengthy 20-year run, but the vocal lead was usually handled by singer Bill Kenny on most of the group’s recordings.

The original Ink Spots came together in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1933, with members Orville Jones, Ivory “Deeks” Watson, Jerry Daniels, and Charlie Fuqua. Bill Kenny joined the fold in 1936.

The group made their first recordings for Victor, in 1935, with versions of “Swingin’ on Strings” and “You’re Feets Too Big,” the Fats Waller song.

The early singles of the Ink Spots sold surprisingly poorly, but the group scored a huge hit in 1939 with the song, “If I Didn’t Care.” The single sold 19 million copies and featured the Ink Spots signature “top and bottom” style in which Bill Kenny sang the lead and Orville Jones performed the “talking bass” below the lead vocal.

During the Forties, the Ink Spots scored a slew of hits including many that hit the top position on the pop charts. Of these hits, “Gypsy” proved to be the biggest, remaining at the top of the charts for 13 weeks.

The original Ink Spots disbanded in 1953, just before the dawn of the rock and roll era. Many groups adopted the name, “Ink Spots,” and claimed kinship to the original group.

The original Ink Spots recordings are best heard via the following collections: “The Best of the Ink Spots” (1955), “The Best of the Ink Spots” (1965), “The Ink Spots in Hi-Fi” (1967), and “The Anthology” (1998).