Ink Spots at the Savoy

Weegee, [Ink Spots performing at the Savoy Ballroom], October 1943 (660.1993) (Eastman Kodak Safety film, 4×5 negative)

‘Cootie’ Williams, Sultans Score at Savoy Reopening
New York – When the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors last Friday night there was a line at the box office which wrapped around the block to get in on the first night reopening. As early as seven o’clock, two hours before opening time, the crowd was waiting to jump to the music of Cootie Williams and the Savoy Sultans. With a limited by law capacity of 1500, the sale of tickets had to be discontinued four times. But still the jitterbugs came.


An unexpected added attraction, the world famous Ink Spots sang a few numbers for a more than appreciative audience. And the familiar strains of the swing which the “Home of Happy Feet” was always famous for, kept the Lindy Hoppers happy.
There are a few changes there, including the new leather upholstery, the sign which is required by the fire laws giving the capacity of the hall in a conspicuous place, and the uniformed special officers. Otherwise, it’s still the same old Savoy. The Pittsburgh Courier, October 30, 1943, p. 19

Weegee, [Ink Spots performing at the Savoy Ballroom, New York], October 1943 (15856.1993) (Gelatin silver print, 8×10 inches)

After seventeen years of operation the Savoy Ballroom (596 Lenox Avenue) was closed by the New York City Police Department in April 1943. When the Savoy reopened on Friday, October 22, 1943, the Cootie Williams Orchestra and Savoy Sultans performed, and the Ink Spots also sang a few songs. Weegee photographed the Ink Spots performing at the Savoy Ballroom, presumably at the reopening on October 22nd, 1943. Two years later the photo was used in the “Harlem” chapter of Naked City, in part, to illustrate improved race relations after the Harlem riots, which occurred just two months earlier, in August, 1943. This wonderful photo of the Ink Spots has presumably not been published in 73 years and the full-frame negative has never been published before. Almost exactly a month after the above photo was made (and the impetus for this series of blog posts looking at Weegee’s work in October, 1943), Weegee made one of the most significant photos in his life and perhaps one of the most significant photos in the 20th century, “The Critic.”

Weegee, Naked City, 1945, p. 200

About a week after Weegee’s photo was made, the Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald recorded Cow Cow Boogie. (Foo-Gee is anachronistic but fun.) Don’t Believe Everything You Dream was recorded about two weeks after Weegee’s photo was made.

Cow Cow Boogie (Cuma-Ti-Yi-Yi-Ay) by Ella Fitzgerald and Ink Spots; Don Raye; Gene De Paul; Benny Carter, November 3, 1943

Foo-Gee, by Ink Spots; Erskine Butterfield, 1941

Don’t Believe Everything You Dream by Ink Spots; Jimmy McHugh; Harold Adamson. November 17, 1943

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