Tag Archives: Bill Kenny

WHEN COMMERCE MEETS ART, NICELY

How did the Chrysler Corporation enter my college classroom?  It was an unexpected visit, because I teach English, not business, and it happened after the class meeting was over.  But the automative corporation was chaperoned by the Ink Spots, so I feel good about it.

I have an especially nice group of students in an Honors class twice a week early in the morning.  And I’ve had conversations with some of them after class — the subjects being literature and music.  At some point I must have said something about my deep immersion in “older” music and thought nothing of it. 

Last week, one of my very personable, insightful students said, “Professor, I heard the Ink Spots perform WHISPERING GRASS on a Chrysler commercial, and I wanted to hear more of them.  I have to look them up on YouTube — I heard a cover of THE GYPSY by Frank Sinatra . . . ” 

I was astonished and delighted, and told the young man about my Facebook friend Austin Casey, who has a page devoted to the Ink Spots and Bill Kenny — http://www.facebook.com/#!/Mr.InkSpot — and a YouTube channel that’s pointed in the same direction.  One sweet bit of evidence is this:

If a major American corporation is using beautiful music to sell its cars, I feel more kindly towards them: one more young person now knows about the Ink Spots.  (And, being a hopeless improver, I told him about the Spirits of Rhythm on YouTube: perhaps he’ll come back in April and happily tell me about Leo Watson.  Youth wants to know!)

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BOBBY HACKETT, IMMORTAL

Seen up close, Bobby Hackett appeared to be one of us.  A diminutive man, neatly dressed, he spoke quietly, in a deep voice.  With Whitney Balliett, he chain-smoked, drank black coffee, and ate peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches.  Many other people we know have performed all or some combination of those acts.  I was close enough to him to exchange a few sentences; to have him borrow my Flair pen (this was 1972) to autograph my copy of COAST CONCERT. I wasn’t blinded by radiance; I sensed no otherworldly aura in the man.

But when Hackett began to play, it was clear that he existed on another realm, far beyond the ordinary.  And this lovely impression remains.  Consider his ethereal playing on this 1950 or 1951 recording — billed as the Ink Spots, it’s a feature for singer Bill Kenny:

I know that “immortal” is a cliche of advertising.  But it seems to me that someone who played — no, plays music as delicate and resonant as that, so precise yet so deep in feeling, has never died and will never leave us.  How could we thank Bobby Hackett sufficiently?

And thank you, Austin Casey, for inviting me into Hackett’s world once again by pointing me to a recording I had not heard.  Music of the spheres.