Huey Long is turning 103. He wasn't an original member of the Ink Spots but he was in the band in the 1940s and is the last of the Decca Ink Spots, and had a hand in "If I Didn't Care".
He'll be celebrating with the public at
325 W. 19th (in the Heights in Houston, between Shepherd and Yale)
Wed April 25th beginning at 6:30PM
Last year he played keyboards and sang briefly at his birthday party.
You can send him a card (even a postcard would do) at the address
c/o Gallery M2
325 W. 19th
Houston, TX 77008
Some people are working on a documentary about him, I hope they are getting his stories down. In the 1930s, he was in a band with Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Earl Fatha Hines.
Would say that Huey's career began in 1925 playing banjo for Frank Davis' Louisiana Jazz Band in the Houston area. He had to change to guitar by 1933 with Texas Guinan's Cuban Orchestra in Chicago. By 1933 he was with Jesse Stone, the composer of "Shake, Rattle & Roll."
In 1935 I find him doing studio work with Richard M. Jones and his Jazz Wizards with four Decca cuts- "Bring It On Home To Grandma, Blue Reefer (Tin Roof) Blues, Muggin' The Blues, and I'm Gonna Run You Down." Still in Chicago in 1936, he joined Lil Armstrong for studio work that produced "Or Leave Me Alone, My Hi-De-Ho Man, Brown Gal, Doin' The Suzie Q, Just For A Thrill, and It's Murder" on the Decca label.
The Ink Spots recorded two of these tunes later, incidentally. He was the assistant arranger and conductor for Zilner Randolph with the WPA Concert and Swing Band in the late 30's. Randolph actually was the composer of at least one tune from the Lil Armstrong session.
In 1939, he joined Fletcher Henderson at the Sunset Cafe in Chicago replacing John Collins. Soon after, Fletcher brought him to New York. Unfortunately, Fletcher had to disband that group about 1940/41 after which Huey worked with Johnny Long's gig band. He then joined "Father" Hines to play with such notables as Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, old Dizzy Gillespie and others. This band was eventually taken over by Mr. B. Musicians of the Swing Era tend to move around, and by 1944 Huey had formed his first trio that "lived" at the Three Deuces Cafe on 52nd Street in the city.
While playing at the Three Deuces Cafe in March of 1945, Huey was approached by Bill Kenny to join the Ink Spots. Regular guitarist Charlie Fuqua was in the Army, and Bill wanted Huey to replace Bernie Mackey who was filling in for Charlie. Huey told me that he and Herb Kenny joined at the same time and first appeared at the Paradise Theater in Detroit (the Ink Spots appeared there 29Mar-5Apr/45). He also said that Bill Kenny only wanted him to comp, not do the opening vamp, and add vocal support to the group. The Spots had not recorded anything since February of 45, and the new line up turned out "I'm Gonna Turn Off The Teardrops and I'll Lose A Friend Tomorrow" on 10/2, "The Sweetest Dream and Just For Me" on 10/3. They also did "Keep On The Sunny Side" which was never released, but a test pressing survives. Fuqua returned unexpectedly one night (on 26 Oct/45 at Glenn's Rendevous, Newport, KY) to take over his spot, which ousted Huey.
Bebop was catching on in 1946 and Huey did 2 studio sessions with Fats Navarro, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Al Haig, Gene Ramey and Denzil Best. Quite a change from the mellow "comping" with the Ink Spots, but Huey was a versatile artist who could do what they wanted for this style.
We find him in the Snub Mosley Band in England, 1952 entertaining the armed forces, and in Korea & Japan, 1953 with the Huey Long Trio on USO tours. Somewhere along the way he did some studio work with the Ravens. By the mid 50's he went to Los Angeles City College majoring in music with aspirations toward teaching, but only stayed for a few semesters. before he returned to New York.
After the ultimate break up of the original Ink Spots where Charlie Fuqua formed his own group, and Bill Kenny continued for a while with substitutes before doing a solo act, there suddenly sprouted many groups performing and recording as the Ink Spots. Deek Watson was responsible for some of these "spin-offs" that contained many artists with no connection to the original group. Huey was in one of these groups along with Orlando Roberson of fame with the Claude Hopkins Orchestra, Adriel Mac Donald who actually replaced Herb Kenny in the original group, and Walter Springer. They went into the Brookbound Lodge in CA on a handshake, and remained there for 2 years or so. Needless to say, they must have had quite a following in order to stay in one location for so long.
Huey can also be seen some weekends lounging at Venus Hair Salon...