Song 20 – Java Jive

SONG: Java Jive

ARTIST: The Ink Spots

YEAR: 1940

Listen to it here: 


Java Jive was written in 1940 by Ben Oakland and Milton Drake as a fad song and recorded later that year by The Ink Spots.  Their version reached number 17 on the charts and is seen as a light-hearted departure from the Ink Spots’ usual fare of broken and blue songs – a simple ode to coffee rather than laments such as ‘Whispering Grass’.  The Ink Spots version of the song is considered by many to be the definitive version of the song.


The original Ink Spots formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1934 with a bass singer, and baritone and two tenors.  In 1936 one of the original tenors Jerry Daniels was replaced by Bill Kenny, who was credited with helping the group see mainstream success, thanks in part to his unique tenor voice and insistence that the group sing mostly ballads (If I Didn’t Care, I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire), rather than the jives they were singing before.  

The group saw a lot of success in the 1940s and 1950s, but also saw a lot of personnel turnover due to personality clashes, being drafted into the army, and even the death of one of the members after he collapsed on stage.  The ‘original’ Ink Spots were officially dissolved by Billy Kenny in 1954.  

The group’s music stayed relevant even after the disbanding of the group, being featured in movies and television shows alike, well into the 21st century.


Java Jive contains some cultural references from the time, including Japanese spy movie ‘Mr. Moto’.


Another song that reminds me of my dad!  Papa DeCaigny is a fan of the Ink Spots, and I think I remember him mentioning that HIS dad was a fan as well.  Anyway, I love the Ink Spots and although this song isn’t my favourite of theirs, I still love it because to me it feels like the predecessor to Doo Wop, a genre that I LOVE.  There’s not a lot going on instrumentally, which I feel like lets the voices shine more.  It’s also about one of my favourite things – coffee!  The Ink Spots’ harmonies are tight and flawless, not a lot of pitch issues here.  And what a great line – waiter waiter, percolator! 


There’s something I just love about this song. It’s pleasant, and happy, and calm, but not bland. I think that’s tough to do. The vocals are awesome, and the harmonies are interesting and really well done. And, FINALLY, a song that has a well thought-out ending! I was going to say that they totally ripped off the ending of String of Pearls by Glen Miller, but this song came out two years before String of Pearls! So…..maybe Glen Miller stole from the Ink Spots? 

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 9.5/10

Kelly: 9/10

*A mark of 8/10 or higher means this is definitely worth buying!

Other notable versions of this song (include youtube links when possible)

The other famous version of the song as sung by Manhattan Transfer

Listen with us!

Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

Link to the Best of the Best 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

Published by Kelly

What I like: Music, travel, coffee, beer, makeup and photography! My gear: Canon EOS 60D and 18-200mm lens. Where call home: Vancouver, BC, Canada Photography Experience: Very amateurish.

One thought on “Song 20 – Java Jive

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