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The Ink Spots
Long ago, before sex’n’drugs ruled rock’n’roll, The Ink Spots found time to sing in praise of the more innocent stimulation offered by the coffee jug.
The quartet first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1934. With their trademark ostinato guitar intros, and vocal harmonies as warm as a mug of steaming java, they rapidly became a crossover success with black and white radio listeners across America, even touring in the United Kingdom in the same year. They were to prove immensely influential on a host of famous R&B close harmony outfits, perhaps most famously The Platters.
The original lineup of Orville ‘Hoppy’ Jones, Ivory ‘Deek’ Watson, Jerry Daniels (replaced by tenor Bill Kenny), and Charlie Fuqua underwent many changes, and there was considerable animosity between ex-members. None of that turbulence can be heard in the group’s sweetly melodious recordings, however, which showcased what Melody Maker described as ‘beautifully balanced and exquisitely phrased vocalisms. ‘Java Jive’ a caffeine fad song written in 1940 and recorded by The Ink Spots in July of that year, is fittingly a little peppier than the band’s hypnotic lonesome-heart ballads. Its smart wordplay is couched in smooth harmonies and topped off with a playful vocal from Watson – who ironically had once performed in The Percolating Puppies; their ‘instruments’ had included coffee pots.
- The Ink Spots’ music led to the rhythm and blues and rock and roll musical genres, and the subgenre doo-wop.
- The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
- Since the Ink Spots disbanded in 1954, there have been well over 100 vocal groups calling themselves “the Ink Spots” without any right to the name, and without any original members of the group. These groups often have claimed to be “2nd generation” or “3rd generation” Ink Spots. Many such groups are still touring today.
- Songs by the Ink Spots have been featured heavily in the popular video game franchise Fallout.
- BioShock and BioShock 2 also made use of the group’s songs — “If I Didn’t Care” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free” in the former, and “We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)” and “I’m Making Believe” in the latter.
- Still others were included on the in-game radio stations in L.A. Noire. The inclusion of The Ink Spots’ songs in Fallout and other games has sparked a renewed interest in The Ink Spots’ work among newer generations in recent years.