Ennis was born in Salisbury, North Carolina and met Hal Kemp while attending the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. He joined Kemp's orchestra as a drummer and vocalist in the late 1920s, playing with him through 1937 including one tour of Europe in 1930. Following this Ennis put together his own band, which became a popular ensemble in Hollywood films. "Got a Date With an Angel" was his theme song. During this time Gil Evans was one of his arrangers. He also began performing comedy routines, and in 1938 he landed a job on Bob Hope's radio program, appearing as a regular until he entered the Army in 1943, where he conducted his own service band during World War II. He returned to Hollywood bandleading at the war's end and joined the Abbott and Costello radio program during the 1946-47 season.
Toward the end of the 1950s Ennis's career had faded, and he worked mostly in hotels in the Los Angeles area. He choked to death on a bone while eating dinner at a restaurant in Beverly Hills in 1963.
- Eugene Chadbourne, Skinnay Ennis at Allmusic
- Bob Conrad, Hal Kemp historian
- Certificate of Birth, from the "Office of Register of Deeds", Salisbury, N.C.