The story of the spin-off/imposter Ink Spots groups is quite fascinating. When you look at the whole spectrum and timeline of these groups you see that various members would bounce around from group to group and you almost get the feeling that these spin-offs/imposters were part of one large organization or league. Infact, you can think of the whole of these groups as something like the NBA, NFL, MLB etc. You had various teams like “Stanley Morgan’s World Famous Ink Spots” and “Charlie Owens’ Sensational Ink Spots” and you had All-Star players that everyone wanted on their team like the high tenor Orlando Roberson or the deep voiced David McNeil. That may seem like a bad analogy, but wait until we dive into these groups more and I think you’ll see my comparison isn’t far off.
Through the years many leaders of imposter Ink Spots groups claimed that they didn’t know the other imposter groups or their names but you have to question this seeing that nearly every single individual imposter Ink Spot was in some way connected to another and also seeing how geographically clustered many of these groups were. Regardless how aware they were of eachother, for the most part the public still thought there was only one Ink Spots group… the group they had heard in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. The group that recorded for Decca and had record breaking hits such as “If I Didn’t Care”, “Java Jive” and “The Gypsy”. Much of the public wouldn’t know The Ink Spots from the Mills Brothers, visually that is, and this really helped the imposter/spin-off groups thrive throughout not only the country but throughout the world. As Ink Spots imposter Joe Boatner once said in a 1981 interview about other imposter groups:
“The public didn’t know. All they saw were four black faces and four white suits. The only member of the group whose name they did recognize was BILL KENNY’S, and if anyone in the audience ever asked about him, they’d say he was sick, that he had a sore throat or something.”
*There are still today at least seven different groups claiming to be The Ink Spots.
The difference between the imposter Ink Spots groups and the spin-offs is that the spin-offs contained at least one original member whereas the imposters usually contained at least one singer who formerly sang with a spin-off group. Many imposter groups however were in no way connected to any original Ink Spots. These spin-off groups did just about as much damage to The Ink Spots legacy as the imposters did so I sort of think of them as one and the same.
The last thing I want to do is “celebrate” imposter Ink Spots. I feel very strongly that these spin-off and imposter Ink Spots groups have done near irreversible damage to The Ink Spots legacy. That being said, my goal is to share everything I know and will learn about these imposter groups to draw a greater line between the real Ink Spots and the phony-baloneys. I hope to create a dialogue here and get people involved. If you have any questions, comments, corrections or concerns please contact me. I’m not a writer so there will undoubtedly be some spelling and grammatical errors. Please forgive me for that.