While Elvis is the unquestionable all-time king of music stars that have been impersonated, the original Ink Spots are the most impersonated group in music history. Numerous "Ink Spots" groups are still travelling the world claiming to be tied to the Ink Spots quartet but none of these groups have any legitimate, direct ties to the original quartet.
The original Ink Spots were Orville (Hoppy) Jones, Ivory (Deek) Watson, Jerry Daniels and Charlie Fuqua. They began performing as the Ink Spots in the summer of 1934 but, before they became famous, Bill Kenny replaced Jerry Daniels as lead tenor sometime in 1936. Bill Kenny dominated the style and sound of the Ink Spots quartet that became famous beginning in 1939 with the release of "If I Didn't Care". Only these individuals can be considered to be legitimate original "Ink Spots". The Kenny/Jones/Watson/Fuqua quartet continued (although temporary members filled in at times due to war service and illness) until Hoppy's death in October, 1944. The last known performance of a Bill Kenny Ink Spots group took place at the Bolero Bar in Wildwood, NJ on July 14, 1954. Other Ink Spots groups without Bill Kenny but featuring other original Ink Spots continued for some years after this date.
In total, only 16 singers and 6 pianist/arrangers performed as members of the original Ink Spots (quartets featuring either Bill Kenny or Jerry Daniels as lead tenor). They are: Orville Jones, Deek Watson, Jerry Daniels, Charlie Fuqua, Bill Kenny, Bernie Mackey, Cliff Givens, Billy Bowen, Huey Long, Herb Kenny, Adriel McDonald, Teddy Williams, Everett Barksdale, Ernie Brown, Jimmy Cannady and Henry Braswell, together with pianist/arrangers Bob Benson, Ace Harris, Bill Doggett, Ray Tunia, Harold Francis and Fletcher Smith. Huey Long, at 101, is the only living singing member of the original Ink Spots as of this date. The Family Tree page shows our best estimate of when these various performers were members of an "original" Ink Spots group.
The first known impersonators were appearing at Joy's Strand theater in New Orleans, about the third week of March 1940, under a billing suggesting that those "Ink Spots" were the original Ink Spots who had popularized songs such as If I Didn't Care, My Prayer and Memories of You. The real Ink Spots were booked to appear at Teddy Mancuso's Rhythm Club in New Orleans on Easter Sunday March 24th. The impersonation came to light when the manager of the Rhythm Club called to protest this flagrant violation of his contract. The manager believed the Strand theater Ink Spots were the same Ink Spots he had booked for the Rhythm Club. Racial concerns arose relating to the fact that the Strand was charging white patrons only 10 cents while the Rhythm Club was going to charge black patrons $1.15 to see and hear the real Ink Spots. Ink Spots manager, Moe Gale, lodged suits against the impersonator Ink Spots and Joy's Strand theater. Notices announcing the Ink Spots appearance noted that, "The management of the Rhythm Club wishes it known that they are presenting the original Four Ink Spots and NOT the Four Ink Spots appearing under that name at a local theatre." [The Louisiana Weekly, 23Mar/40 & The Pittsburgh Courier, 30Mar/40]
A note in the Carolina Times of 13Apr/40, mentions that a southern group was impersonating the Ink Spots and were alleged to have worked the entire state of Florida.
Many individuals have claimed to be members of the original group. To be a successful Ink Spots group it seemed that there had to be a very old member who claimed to have performed with an original Ink Spots group that included Bill Kenny. There are still groups today who make this claim and include it in their advertisements.
One of the more interesting but less known imposters seems to be a pianist, John H. "Ace" Harris who was born in Durham, NC on August 16, 1927 and died April 26, 2000 in San Diego County, CA. His memorabilia were offered for sale on EBay in December/02 and pictures on the offering page showed a typed autobiography, several records by the Ink Spots claimed to be given to him as a group member at the time of making the recordings (pianists other than the real Asa "Ace" Harris were on many of these records!!), items from scrap books showing Ink Spots appearances and other sundry items. Marv Goldberg told me he interviewed this "Ace" Harris who reiterated his claim but Marv could not satisfy himself that the claim had merit. The real "Ace" Harris, who played piano with the original Ink Spots was Asa "Ace" Harris who was born on April 1, 1910 and died June 11, 1964. There is a picture of the group leaving for Hollywood to make a movie on the Family Tree page that shows Ace at an age that fits with a person who would be 31 years old in 1941 (the Johnny "Ace" Harris of Durham would have been only 14 years old at the time!!).
Last revised - 9Feb/08