For this performer, a nickname based on hopping is only a step in the right direction. Orville "Hoppy" Jones used his vocal talents to create actual walking, not hopping, basslines on many popular records by the vocal group the Ink Spots. He thereby spawned legions of imitators whose low-end rumblings would be quite threatening if amassed but retain a great deal of charm on their own. Jones also deserves distinction as part of the elite who keep performing right up to the end, in his case the sad event coming in 1944 while on-stage at the Cafe Zanzibar in New York City.
What eventually became the original Ink Spots lineup evolved out of several Cincinatti groups in which Jones was a member in the early '30s, a trio called the Three Peanut Boys and the plus-one Four Riff Brothers. In photographs of the riffy quartet, Jones is shown playing a tenor guitar which is held up by a cane, quite an interesting arrangement. The Ink Spots first performed in 1934 and began recording the following year. By then the combo had evolved its own style, expanding beyond earlier mimicry of popular performers such as Fats Waller. Jones began performing in what would be called his "patter" style during a radio broadcast in 1935, creating a deeply voiced spoken interlude that was just the kind of event listeners looked forward to, and wanted to repeat. While the high quality of the group's falsetto singing is never questioned, a combination of Jones' vocal techniques and his on-stage personality made him a focal point of the group.
He was replaced by Cliff Givens, the group itself becoming a cliche example of a lineup changing so much that the audience has no idea if any of the membership is actually entitled to be there. Franchising and illegal duplicate versions of the group's name further blotted the reputation of the Ink Spots while strengthening even further Jones' stylistic stranglehold over the bass singer's role in vocal groups. He was a huge influence on both David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations. Examples of Jones' unique vocalizing include the 1938 "When the Sun Goes Down" -- in which he imitates a guitar solo -- and the breakthrough "If I Didn't Care," featuring one of Jones' "talking" bridges. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi