SPOTLIGHT ON THE INK SPOTS - PART ONE
"Knock Kneed Sal
Above: Deek Watson was a tenor, baritone, and sometimes "talking bass" singer, guitar and tipple player, composer, and actor. He was an original member of The Ink Spots. He was their designated lead singer for uptempo, jive songs. He left The Ink Spots in late 1944 and formed his new vocal group, The Brown Dots.
Click HERE for "The Story Of The Ink Spots", the complete book by Deek Watson, published in 1967.
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For an accurate, complete biography of The Ink Spots, this website recommends the book "More Than Words Can Say" by Marv Goldberg.
Above: INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER, May 26, 1928: A GROUP OF UNIQUE ENTERTAINERS
A group of local boys, members of what is known as a coffee pot band, are now touring the state and playing at various theatres. The boys are styled as the "Percolatin' Puppies," by their management. They sing, dance, joke, and play on their unique instruments. They have been well received by audiences throughout the state. They were employed by Jack Dempsey, at his camp when he was in training to fight Tunney, the last time.
Above Left: INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER, May 6, 1933: THOSE RIPPING RIFFS
The four Riff Brotherswho really aren't brothers at all, are Naptown's [Indianapolis] most bizarre gift to radio entertainment. Here they are, folks, as you know them. Melvin Campbell, Ivory Watson, Arville [Orville] Jones, and the inimitable, former Indiana Ballroom eccentricity, "Simp Green" Elmer Olliver. They're burning 'em up every night over WLW. And you know how!
Daily News (New York City) dated 9/23/39.
Entrance to Paramount Theatre for the September 23, 1939 stage and screen show.
Above Left: DETROIT FREE PRESS, December 29, 1940:
STARS ON MICHIGAN STAGEFamed swing and melody quartet, the Ink Spots, Deek, Billy, Hoppy and Charlie, will be among the stars at the New Year's Eve stage show which will be held at both the MICHIGAN and PALMS-STATE theaters Tuesday night. For the rest of the week, the stage show will be at the Michigan.
(Top Left: Deek Watson, Center: Bill Kenny, Bottom Left-Right: Hoppy Jones and Charlie Fuqua.)
Above Left: ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, June 1, 1941:
The Four Ink Spots will perform with their band tomorrow night at a dance for white patrons only in the Shrine Mosque. A dance for Negroes only will be given Tuesday night at the Municipal Auditorium.
(Left-Right: Deek Watson, Bill Kenny, Hoppy Jones, and Charlie Fuqua.)
Above Left: LANCASTER (OHIO) EAGLE GAZETTE, June 28, 1941:
THE INK SPOTS IN BUCKEYE DANCELANDThe Ink Spots who with their band, the Sunset Royal Orchestra, come to Danceland this Sunday night for a one nighter, call themselves a novelty quartet, because they hi-do-ho in their best Harlem manner and then, with a lightning change of pace, start a ballad in their own inimitable dulcet styling. The Ink Spots are fast in their methods, with little restraint at any time. Besides their own part of the show, the Sunset Royal Orchestra will also be a featured part of the evening's entertainment. Wheeler Moran (above right) directs this band, with Froshine Stewart (above middle) its chanteuse. The Spots, celebrated songsters of stage, screen and radio, appeal both to dancers and music fans that want to listen....
(Left-Right: Bill Kenny, Deek Watson, Hoppy Jones, and Charlie Fuqua.)
Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle-Gazette dated 6/28/41.
Above: Picture is from the MORNING CALL (Allentown, PA), September 4, 1938.
The Sunset Royal Orchestra. Ace Harris is front left, with white jacket. Harris was the Ink Spots' pianist/arranger from June 1940 to early 1942.
Daily News (New York City) dated 10/14/36.
Daily News (New York City) dated 11/22/37.
Daily News (New York City) dated 2/3/40.
Philadelphia Inquirer dated 3/1/40.
Minneapolis Star dated 11/26/40.
Above: PITTSBURGH COURIER, July 11, 1942:
INK SPOTS ADDED TO "DOUBLE V" HONOR ROLLThe famous Ink Spots have been added to the honor roll of "Yankee Doodle Tan" pluggers. The "Double V" song was introduced at a recent Pittsburgh dance engagement to 1,000 ardent fans of the Ink Spots and Doc Wheeler's Sunset Royal Orchestra. Pictured (above left) with the top rhythm quartet is James G. Thompson, campaign director, and amiable Doc Wheeler. The gentleman on the extreme right is Ken Bryan, the new arranger and accompanist for the Inks. Many top artists have pledged their support to do their part to instill "Yankee Doodle Tan" in the heart of every American.
NOTE: "Yankee Doodle Tan", written by black composers, was considered the first patriotic song dedicated to the "colored men in Khaki". The song was promoted by various black artists, including the Ink Spots and the Golden Gate Quartet (but not released on record by either group).
Above Left: HARTFORD COURANT, November 13, 1942:
The Four Ink Spots, with their all new stage show, open an engagement of three days starting today at the State Theater. Headlined in the big in-person show is "The Dynamaestro," Lucky Millinder and his Band. Also appearing in person is "The Queen of the Swing Spirituals," singing, swinging, Sister Tharpe. Others in the show include the dancing novelty, Peg-Leg Bates, sensational one-legged dancing star, the comedy team of Gordon and Rogers, and many others. A special midnight stage and screen show will be presented tonight. The shows are continuous through midnight. The last complete stage and screen show goes on promptly at 1:15 a.m.
(NOTE: This is a publicity picture for the 1942 movie "Pardon My Sarong". Top-Bottom: Bill Kenny, Hoppy Jones, Deek Watson, and Charlie Fuqua, with guitar.)
Above Middle: HARTFORD COURANT, November 15, 1942:
END ENGAGEMENT AT STATE TODAYThe Four Ink Spots, creators of "If I Didn't Care" and America's greatest quartette are appearing in person with their all new, all star stage show for the last times today at the State Theater. Headlined.... [remainder is same as above].
Above Right: HARTFORD COURANT, November 11, 1942:
AT STATE FRIDAY[essentially the same text as above articles]. (Along with The Ink Spots, the picture includes Lucky Millinder and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.)
This is a publicity photo for the 1941 movie "The Great American Broadcast".
The Four Ink Spots will entertain on the Paramount stage beginning Friday. Their harmonizing varies from jive to sweet ballads.
Above: DES MOINES TRIBUNE, February 4, 1943: JIVIN' TALK IS EXPLAINED BY INK SPOT
The question most asked by fans of the Four Ink Spots, who open at the Paramount theater Friday, is "What do all those words mean that you boys shout to each other during your act?" Billy Kenny, top tenor of the harmony quartet, answers for the boys. "We call them riffs. Suppose my partners, Goldenmouth Watson, Charlie Fuqua and Hoppy Jones, blend in behind me during my solo spot perfectly. I shout 'Home Cookin',' for what can be more perfect than home cooking? Occasionally we all shout 'Burn the wires,' and get a solo on the bull fiddle by Hoppy [who usually plucked on a cello, not a bull fiddle]. When I sing a sad ballad the other Spots come up with 'That brings me down.'" Lucky Milliner's orchestra is headlined with the Ink Spots....
NOTE: The picture is from the 1942 movie "Pardon My Sarong" starring Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, and Virginia Bruce. (L-R) Deek Watson, Bill Kenny, Hoppy Jones, and Charlie Fuqua. They are singing "Do I Worry?"
Above: DES MOINES, February 6, 1943: The Paramount Theater stage show presents the Four Ink Spots, singing sweet and solid harmony. [Again, this is from "Pardon My Sarong".]
Press And Sun Bulletin dated 12/10/37.
Pittsburgh Courier dated 8/15/42.
GETTING DOWN LOW to hit the bass notes is Hoppy Jones. Other Ink Spots from left are Bill Kenny, Bernie Mackey, and Deek Watson.
Above: COURIER JOURNAL, March 12, 1944: INK SPOTS DELIGHT IN CORNY JOKES WHILE THEY'RE RELAXING OFF STAGE
Probably because they are accustomed to singing simultaneously on the stage, the Ink Spots all talk at the same time off stagebut not in harmony. Headliners at the National Theater this week, the famous quartet, whose records are the main support of the juke box, attempted to tell how they got their start. "We were porters at the Paramount in New York," began Deek Watson. "One night after the show we were singing on the stage and"began Hoppy Jones, the "talking bass."
"This Moe Gale comes in and says 'go right ahead boys,'" began Bill Kenny, the poet of the group. "We went to Europe the next day," began Bernie Mackey [who joined the Ink Spots in late 1943 to temporarily fill in for Charlie Fuqua, who was serving army duty].... "Oh, happy day when we came back to the Paramount to give a show," exclaimed Deek, or maybe it was Hoppy or Bill or Bernie....
An off-stage custom of the Ink Spotsand fortunately only off stage, otherwise they would be run offis a rivalry in making corny jokes. The worse the jokes are, the more they are appreciated.... "Deek's our suit man, he must have fifty suits as a hobbybut he won't wear two-pants suitsthey're too warm." Loud and appreciative guffaws greeted this sally. "Do you like music?" Hoppy asked Bernie. "Here, I'll give you a whole band," handing him a rubber band....
All four men have homes on Long Island. Hoppy has seven children; Deek and Bernie, one child each; and Bill has "a wife, a dog, and a mother-in-law." Deek and Hoppy went to the same high school in New York. Bill attended a Washington, D.C. high school, "the old politician," and Bernie went to school in Brazil, Indiana....
(CAVEAT: Much of this article should be taken with a grain of salt.)
Above: Label image of Decca 2286 B recorded on January 12, 1939 and released in February 1939. Deek Watson sings lead. This is the flip-side of "If I Didn't Care" (recorded on the same day), the song that made The Ink Spots famous.
Above: Label image of Decca 3987 B recorded on July 25, 1941 and released in September 1941. This song (as well as the next below, "Nothin'") features dialogue interchanges between Deek Watson and Hoppy Jones.
Above: Label image of Decca 4045 A recorded on August 12, 1941 and released in November 1941.
NOTE: Most discographical information provided at this website is from Ferdie Gonzalez' Disco-File.
Listen to this week's selections featuring The Ink Spots on Decca from 1939/1941 using Windows Media Player:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]
1. Knock Kneed Sal
2. Hey Doc!
ALL THREE SONGS played in sequence
[To download audio files, right-click on link
and then click "Save link (target) as..."]
At Immediate Right: Clipping
(Chicago Tribune 9/2/40)
At Far Right: Clipping
(Reading Times 8/5/39)
Click HERE for SPOTLIGHT ON THE INK SPOTS - PART TWO (BILL KENNY - LEAD SINGER).
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