PRE-INK SPOTS GROUPS - THE PERCOLATING PUPPIES

MAY 1928 - ? 
 
 

MEMBERS:

Ivory "Deek" Watson and 6 unknown members

"A group of local boys members of what is known as a Coffee pot band, are now touring the state and playing in various theatres. The boys are styled as the "Percolating 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." [Indianapolis Recorder, 26May/28]

While much of the early history of pre-Ink Spots groups has probably been lost, we do have proof that this group existed. Ivory "Deek" Watson had referred to being a member of this group in his book, The Story of the "Ink Spots" [Watson with Stevenson, Vantage Press, 1967] , but we know that many comments in this book are inaccurate. What a joy it was to find the above picture during a search of newspapers in Indianapolis. While Deek Watson is not mentioned specifically, it seems reasonable to conclude that he was, given the close fit of his words and what was found during our search. Watson even refers to wearing "chefs' hats and aprons" [p. 15] when they performed their shows. He states:

I had a group called the "Pecolating Puppies." We played a small tea pot, a medium sized coffee pot, and a very large coffee pot, plus guitars. The sounds we were able to make were fantastic. We played on the streets. At the end of each such performance we passed the largest of the pots among the audience. The toughest thing about this way of making money was the fact that all of us had to keep our eyes on the cat who passed the collection pot for the evening, or else some of the money found its way from the pot to his pocket before dividing time arrived! [p. 13]

You can see the three pots he describes in the picture as well as what look more like ukeleles than guitars. Watson talks about the traffic jams they caused when they played and the fact that the police chased them in order to get traffic moving again. This apparently led to a move off the streets to theaters and clubs. Watson says that a person named Tommy Devine, who owned the Indiana Roof ballroom gave them a chance to join his show and to broadcast over WFBM in Indianapolis. He goes on to say that they quickly became well known and toured throughout Indiana and Ohio. We have no confirming evidence of this to date but we do have evidence of one likely appearance at the Walker Theatre in Indianapolis. In a column, At The Walker, it states:

A group of local boys making up what is known as the "Coffee Pot Band," was an added attraction Monday night. These boys sing, dance, joke and play their unique instruments in a way that seemed to please." [Indianapolis Recorder, 16Jun/28]

It is difficult to estimate how long this group performed. Watson talks about getting together a whole show and touring as "The Harlem Hot Shots, with Deek Watson and his Percolating Puppies." but it would be helpful to find support for this tour. Since the Riff Brothers were not formed until 1932, this group could have continued beyond 1928 but there is no proof of this.

Revised 1May/02