In 1944, the situation was getting tense for The Ink Spots. Lead vocalist and first tenor Bill Kenny was becoming more and more in control of the band, and second tenor Deek Watson was becoming a problem. The Ink Spots liked to portray themselves with a classy and professional vibe, but Watson was anything but. He drank to excess, and consistently clowned in photos and on stage. Kenny thought Deek made them look bad, and after clashing for some time, Watson left the group.
While The Ink Spots would continue, Deek Watson found himself needing a new group. He started his own, The Brown Dots, modeling his new quartet after the band that had kicked him out. By the time of their first recording session, the lineup was Watson, lead tenor Joe King, bass Jimmy Gordon, and baritone Pat Best. Among the four songs they recorded that day was “Sentimental Reasons”, featuring King’s lead vocal. It would become a standard of jazz that is still sung regularly to this day.
The song could easily be mistaken for an Ink Spots song, and this is clearly by design. It features the signature Charlie Fuqua guitar intro used on many songs by The Ink Spots, as well as a Hoppy Jones-esque talking bass bridge, this time “sung” by Deek Watson himself. They were trying to sound like The Ink Spots, and in the process hit gold with a song with a legacy on par with some of The Ink Spots’ absolute biggest hits.
The only universally agreed upon fact about the composition of “Sentimental Reasons” is that Pat Best was involved in the writing. According to Deek Watson, Best composed the music while Watson wrote the lyrics. According to Pat Best, Watson had nothing to do with the writing of the song at all. The original label features only Watson’s name in the songwriting credits, but the official publishing credits and subsequent releases feature both Watson and Best. Whether or not you believe Watson had a hand in writing it is up to the individual, either way, it’s a beautiful song.
The best-selling and perhaps best remembered recording of the song would be done just a year later, by the Nat King Cole Trio. It was not only the best-selling rendition of the classic song, but was Nat King Cole’s first #1 hit. It would become a staple for Cole, and he would play it live by himself and with his trio regularly, and re-record the song several times for later compilations.
In addition to Cole’s version, there were memorable recordings done by Ella Fitzgerald & The Delta Rhythm Boys, Sam Cooke, Vera Lynn, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more. It may not be an official part of the Great American Songbook, but is certainly on the periphery, and rightfully well regarded as a beautiful standard.
The Brown Dots didn’t last long, with Watson himself eventually being removed from the group while the remaining members started The Four Tunes. Deek Watson would continue to record with various groups, including unsanctioned Ink Spots clones, but never had another song even approach the level of success and longevity of “Sentimental Reasons”.