No need to hop aboard a time travel machine courtesy of H. G. Wells, a trip of nostalgic note has already been arranged by the Downtown Cabaret Theatre of Bridgeport. For one weekend only, Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, you can revisit the glory days of two legendary rhythm and blues and rock and roll groups when The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers take the stage.
The Ink Spots were a popular vocal group of the 1930’s and 1940’s who still have a place in our musical hearts today. They, along with The Mills Brothers, were black vocal groups who defined their times, paving the path from rhythm and blues to rock and roll, with more than a nodding acknowledgement to doo-wop.
Originally hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, their name changed from “The Four Riff Brothers” to “King, Jack and Jester” to become “The Four Ink Spots” at the suggestion of bandleader Paul Whiteman in 1934.
Known for their “natural instinct for hot rhythm” according to Melody Maker, their first big hit was “If I Didn’t Care,” followed quickly by “Address Unknown,” “Java Jive,” “I Can’t Stand Loving You,” “Cow-Cow Boogie” and “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.” The Ink Spots were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
The last original member of the group, Charley Fuqua of New Haven died in 1971. Ray Richardson has kept the music of the legendary group alive for the last forty years. According to Richardson, the group added talking parts in the middle of the songs, so you could say The Ink Spots were the first “Rappers.”
Elvis Presley said he copied The Ink Spots when he spoke a chorus in “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” This current assemblage in addition to Ray Richardson includes lead singers Ervin Payne and Leroy Harris and second tenor Doyle Jones.
Inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998 and the recipient of a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement that same year, The Mills Brothers can boast at least three dozen gold records, 2000 recordings and over 50 million copies sold. As an American jazz and pop vocal group, they began in Ohio in the late 1920’s as the “Four Kings of Harmony.” Their early signature sound was their imitation of musical instruments, which grew out of an incident at an amateur talent contest when they discovered, while on stage, that their kazoo was lost.
Under the leadership of John Mills, the son and grandson and nephew of the original group’s members, the magic continues with the addition of Elmer Hopper, who spent over two decades with the legendary Platters. Their parade of hits includes “Tiger Rag,” “Cab Driver,” “Glow Worm,” “Lazy River,” “Paper Doll,” “Yellow Bird” and “Basin Street Blues,” among many others.
For tickets to “Magic Moments” ($39.50-59.50), call the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport at 203-576-1636 or online at www.,downtowncabaret.org. Performances are Saturday, September 17 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, September 18 at 5 p.m. Don’t forget to bring goodies to share at your table.
Stroll down memory lane with these two legendary groups for thousands of “magic moments.”