For this week, we’ll enjoy fabulous music of some male groups of the 1960’s. Today’s group is The Spinners.
The Spinners are an American soul music vocal group, active for over 50 years, and with a long run of classic hits especially during the 1970s. The group, originating from Detroit, still tours regularly as of 2014 although Henry Fambrough is the only original member.
The group is also listed as the Detroit Spinners, and the Motown Spinners (for their 1960s recordings with the Detroit label). These group names were used in the UK to avoid confusion with a British folk group also called The Spinners.
In 1954, a group of friends who grew up together in Ferndale, Michigan, a northern suburb bordering Detroit, came together to make music. For a time, several of the band members resided in Detroit’s Herman Gardens public housing projects. Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C. P. Spencer, and James Edwards[disambiguation needed] called themselves The Domingoes. However James Edwards lasted only a few weeks. He was replaced by Bobby Smith, who sang lead on most of the Spinners’ early records (and many of their biggest Atlantic hits). C. P. Spencer left the group shortly afterwards, and later went on to be a member of the Voice Masters and The Originals. He was replaced by George Dixon. The group renamed themselves The Spinners in 1961. This name was chosen after looking at popular car hubcaps and noting how they spun around on a car’s wheel.
The hit years with Philippé Wynne
When The Spinners signed to Atlantic in 1972, they were a respected but commercially unremarkable singing group who had never had a top-ten pop hit — despite having been a recording act for over a decade. However, under the helm of producer and songwriter Thom Bell, The Spinners charted five top 100 singles (and two top tens) from their first post-Motown album, Spinners (1972), and went on to become one of the biggest soul groups of the 1970s.
The Bobby Smith-led “I’ll Be Around”, their first top ten hit, was actually the B-side of their first Atlantic single, “How Could I Let You Get Away”. Radio airplay for the B-side led Atlantic to flip the single over, with “I’ll Be Around” hitting #3 and “How Could I Let You Get Away” reaching #77. “I’ll Be Around” was also The Spinners’ first million-selling hit single.
The 1973 follow-up singles “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” (led by Smith), “One of a Kind (Love Affair)” (led by Wynne), and “Ghetto Child” (led by Wynne) cemented the group’s reputation, as well as further that of Bell, a noted Philly soul producer.
Following their Atlantic successes, Motown also issued a “Best of the Spinners” LP which featured selections from their Motown/V.I.P. recordings. They also remixed and reissued the 1970 B-side “Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music” as a 1973 A-side. In the midst of their Atlantic hits, it crawled to number #91 US.
The group’s 1974 follow-up album, Mighty Love, featured three Top 20 hits, “I’m Coming Home,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” and the title track. Their biggest hit of the year, however, was a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, “Then Came You” (led by Smith and Warwick), which hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming each act’s first chart-topping ‘Pop’ hit. The song also reached the Top 3 of Billboard’s R&B and Easy Listening charts.
The Spinners hit the Top 10 twice in the next two years with the Smith-led “They Just Can’t Stop It the (Games People Play)” (Billboard #5) and the Wynne-led “The Rubberband Man” (Billboard #2). “Games People Play” featured guest vocalist Barbara Ingram (though producer Bell disputed this in a UK based interview, claiming Barbara’s line was actually group member Henry Fambrough – his voice sped up) and led to a nickname of “12:45” for bass singer Jackson, after his signature vocal line on the song.