Bill Kenny

b. 12 June 1914, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 23 March 1978, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. After winning a Savoy Ballroom talent contest early in 1936, Kenny was heard by Moe Gale…
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Artist Biography

b. 12 June 1914, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 23 March 1978, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. After winning a Savoy Ballroom talent contest early in 1936, Kenny was heard by Moe Gale who was handling the Ink Spots. Kenny replaced Jerry Daniels and under a new contract with Decca Records the group made several records, but did not really click until 1939 and ‘If I Didn’t Care’. With Kenny’s high tenor vibrato floating over Orville Jones’ talking-bass, the record caught the public’s imagination and went to number 2 in Billboard’s charts. Among other Top 10 hits were the same year’s ‘My Prayer’, 1941’s ‘Do I Worry’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire’, 1943’s ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’, and 1949’s ‘Maybe’. Meanwhile, personnel changes had come with Charlie Fuqua leaving for military service, Ivory Watson departing through personal disagreements with Kenny, and Jones’ sudden death in 1944. Kenny’s brother, Herb, was one of the replacements but he too moved on. By the early 50s, not only had the Ink Spots undergone changes (with Kenny now were now Adriel McDonald, Jimmy Holmes and Ernie Brown), they had also been emulated, in some cases slavishly so, by other groups although Kenny owned the rights to the group’s name. Towards the end of 1953, while on tour in Canada, they split up.

From then on, Kenny worked as a solo act. In 1956 he toured the UK as Bill Kenny And His Ink Spots Trio, which featured Kenny singing with instrumental backing from pianist Andy Maize, guitarist Everett Barksdale and bass player Harry Prather. On some of his solo recordings in addition to his tenor singing he adopted a talking-bass voice to retain an Ink Spots sound. Alongside pop material, Kenny also recorded religious music in Decca’s Faith Series. Retired to Canada, he wrote poetry. The sound of Kenny’s voice lifting out over the ensemble laid down a pattern that would be reflected over the years by the use in many groups of prominent light-voiced lead singers: Sonny Til, Maithe Marshall, Frankie Lymon, Curtis Mayfield and Russell Tompkins Jnr.