Male Singers

The Influence of the Ink Spots on Doo Wop

The Ink Spots was one of the first African-American groups, along with the Mills Brothers, to reach both black and white audiences. and they exerted great influence on the development of the doo-wop vocal style.

Formed in 1932 as the King, Jack, and the Jesters, the group became the Ink Spots when they relocated to New York City. After Herb Kenny replaced original member Daniels, the group began a slow evolution toward its distinctive sound.

In 1939 the Ink Spots scored a huge hit with “If I Didn't Care,” on which Bill Kenny’s tenor lead contrasted with Orville Jones’s deep bass. In establishing the prominence of the high tenor lead and adding spoken bass choruses to the backing harmonies, the Ink Spots laid the groundwork for countless doo-wop and rhythm-and-blues vocal groups, from the Ravens and the Orioles to Motown’s Temptations.

Among their many hits in the 1940s were “Address Unknown,” “My Prayer” (later rerecorded by the Platters), “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” (a collaboration with Ella Fitzgerald), “We Three,” “To Each His Own,” and “The Gypsy.” In the early 1950s, the group split into two, and multiple incarnations of the Ink Spots continued to perform through the 1990s. The Ink Spots were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

(Encyclopedia Britannica)

image of The Ink SpotsTHE INK SPOTS were a vocal jazz group who gained international fame in the 1930s and 1940s. Their unique musical style presaged the rhythm and blues and rock and roll musical genres.

Image of The Mills BrothersTHE MILLS BROTHERS was a vocal group famous for using vocal approximations of instrumental sounds. They began performing in 1928 and were enormously popular and a key influence on 1950s doo-wop.

Image of Billy Eckstine

BILLY ECKSTINE (1914-1993) was noted for his rich, almost operatic bass-baritone voice and as an influential band leader who helped usher in a new style of jazz called bebop.

BILL HENDERSON (1926- 2016) was an American jazz singer and actor in television and film. He began his career in the early '50s, often performing with Ramsey Lewis. Between 1959 and 1961 he recorded for Vee-Jay in New York. He spent two years with the Count Basie Orchestra, recorded with Oscar Peterson and Horace Silver.

Image of Johnny HartmanJOHNNY HARTMAN (1923-1983) specialized in ballads. He recorded with Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie and with Erroll Garner but is best remembered for his 1963 album with saxophonist John Coltrane, a “must-have” for jazz fans.

Here is NPR's Jazz Profiles produced by JM Jazz:

Billy Eckstine: A Crooner Who Crossed Barriers
by Tom Vitale, July 2014, NPR

Billy Eckstine was smooth as silk. He was tall and handsome, sported a pencil-thin mustache, and sang in a distinctive baritone.

"I consider Billy Eckstine the Jackie Robinson of popular music," says Cary Ginell, author of Mr. B: The Music and Life of Billy Eckstine. "Before Billy Eckstine came along, blacks, they would either sing blues or they would be in jazz bands, or they would sing in vocal groups, like The Mills Brothers or The Ink Spots. Or as a novelty singer. But they were not permitted to enter the domain of Perry Como and Bing Crosby. And Eckstine was the first one to successfully do that.”

Ginell says Eckstine's popularity rivaled Frank Sinatra's. Eckstine "was recording million-selling records for MGM," Ginell says. "He was mobbed by teenage girls wherever he went. He really was a matinee idol, so to speak, in the recording industry, and had his eyes on proceeding into film and television as well in the 1950s."

And then, all at once, Eckstine's future as a crossover media star was cut short by a single photo in a LIFE Magazine profile in April 1950.

"The profile featured a photograph of Eckstine coming out of a nightclub in New York City, and being mobbed by white teenage girls," Ginell says. "But America wasn't ready for that in 1950. White America did not want Billy Eckstine dating their daughters."

Eckstine continued to record and perform, but white disc jockeys would not play his records on segregated stations.

"Maybe black male singers are not supposed to sing about love," Eckstine said. "You're supposed to sing about hurt.”

To see the video in full screen, click the icon in the lower right-hand corner, and to get back, do the same. IMPORTANT:

“If I Didn’t Care”
Jack Lawrence

“Till Then”
Seller, Wood and Marcus

"Prisoner of Love"
Columbo and Gaskill-
Leo Robin

"My One and Only Love "
Guy Wood-
Robert Mellin

"Baby Won't You Please Come Home"
Clarence Williams-
Charles Warfield