A vocal harmony legend turns 100 years old Friday

I stay in touch with the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania-based organization devoted to the history of musical harmony and doo-wop.  I’ve covered every one of the organization’s Hall of Fame inductions and concerts for the past decade, and have developed long-lasting friendships and professional working relationships with the Hall’s organizer, Tony Butala (who is also the lead voice on the harmony trio The Lettermen), as well as CEO Bob Crosby (who worked as a television producer for many years) and Tracy Rogers (who joined the Hall staff in 2002 and has worked tirelessly ever since).

Harold Jackson of the Ink Spots, holding one of his group's original recordings. Photo by Chuck Miller.

During one of the Hall’s inductions, among the guests and performers attending was Harold Jackson, at that time the last original surviving member of the vocal harmony group The Ink Spots.  Your knowledge of the Ink Spots may be remembering Fred Sanford intoning “If I Didn’t Care” on an episode of Sanford and Son, but the Ink Spots were one of the most popular vocal harmony quartets – they, along with the Mills Brothers, the Modernaires and the Pied Pipers, defined the music of the 1940’s and pre-rock 1950’s.  In 1989, the Ink Spots were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; ten years later, they became part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

The Ink Spots recorded for the early record companies Victor and Decca; in fact, Harold Jackson is the last surviving member of the Ink Spots whose voice can be clearly heard on the Decca recordings.  And Mr. Jackson is going to celebrate his 100th birthday this Friday.

To celebrate this milestone from one of the music industry’s legacy groups, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame wants as many people as possible to send birthday wishes to Harold Jackson.  A birthday e-mail may be sent to Mr. Jackson, care of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, by simply clicking here.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jackson at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions.  That’s my copy of an old Decca 78 he holds in his hands in the above photograph.  His bass vocals were still tight and strong when his Ink Spots performed at one of the Hall’s induction concerts.

Here’s some examples of the Ink Spots’ sweetest recordings.

“If I Didn’t Care” (from a 1950’s music video) – that’s Mr. Jackson speaking the bass vocals in the middle of the song.

“Java Jive,” a classic track, great great stuff.

“I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” a song you might recall as being used in advertisements for the video game Fallout 3.

So let’s send Harold Jackson of the Ink Spots a happy 100th birthday, and thanks for all the great songs!