Monday, 15 August 2011

"Your Feet's Too Big" by... the Ink Spots?

I was doubly surprised when I first heard this one years ago. Fats Waller's recording of Your Feet's Too Big is so well-known, so funny, and so identified with him that I'd always assumed it was one of the hundreds of songs he composed. It wasn't; it was written by two fellows named Benson and Fisher.
The Ink Spots were one of the top singing groups of the 1940s with a succession of Top Ten hits, starting with their famous theme song If I Didn't Care recorded in 1939, and including My Prayer, Address Unknown, The Gypsy, Whispering Grass, I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire and many more. (When the Platters' version of My Prayer became a rock 'n' roll hit in the mid-50s, we kids thought it was a new song.) The Ink Spots' records, almost always ballads, followed a set routine that verged on campy self-parody: a guitar intro (always the same one) and a syrupy, falsetto vocal by tenor Bill Kenny at the beginning and end, surrounding a spoken middle section by the bass (often punctuated by the phrase "honey child"). Their trademark routine was so stylized and so familiar that comedians who did impressions loved to do the Ink Spots. Even we kids on 71st Street used to do impressions of them.

What I didn't know is that before Kenny joined the group in 1939, the Ink Spots were a jive group, as demonstrated here. This record was made sometime between 1935 and 1938. The singers are Ivory "Deek" Watson, Orville "Hoppy" Jones, Jerry Daniels, and Charlie Fuqua, accompanied by Daniels' ukelele and Jones' pizzicato cello. So here they are, the Ink Spots, before they were the Ink Spots.

Cushfoot, bladderfoot, slewfoot... flatfoot! 


  1. Those spots won't quit! I wonder which recording came first -- this one or Fats'? And I wonder how many of the "asides" are written into the music. That might be a ukulele, but to me it sounds more like a tipple -- which I think had twelve strings and was often part of the Spirits of Rhythm recordings. The Spirits are contemporaneous with the Mills Brothers (the Mills clan exploded as stars in 1931; the Spirits first recorded in 1933 and never made it in the same way). Up in Harlem at a table for two, there were four of us -- you, me, and our blogs. Right?

  2. Jerry Daniels played the tipple. Also the Tenor Guitar. The technical term for tipple back in the day was just a homemade string instrument. Theres also a recording of this when Bill Kenny was in the group. Ill try to upload it tonight and share it here asap.

  3. Thanks for the info. I'd love to hear the recording of this song with Bill Kenny in the group!