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Profile: The Spinners

By

The (Detroit) Spinners

The (Detroit) Spinners

source: kser.org

Formed:

1961 (Detroit, MI)

Genres:

Philly Soul, Soul, R&B, Pop-Soul, Dance, Disco

Principal Members:

Philippe Soul Wynne (b. April 3, 1941, Detroit, MI; d. July 14, 1984, Oakland, CA): vocals (falsetto)
Billy Henderson (b. August 9, 1949, Indianapolis, IN; d. February 2, 2007, Daytona Beach, FL): vocals (tenor)
Pervis Jackson (b. May 17, 1938, New Orleans, LA): vocals (bass)
Henry Fambrough (b. May 10, 1935, Detroit, MI): vocals (baritone)
Robert "Bobbie" Smith (b. April 10, 1937, Detroit, MI): vocals (tenor)

Contributions to music:

  • The most successful of the "Philly Soul" groups, despite the fact that they were from Detroit
  • Lead singer Phillipe Wynne is considered one of the great falsetto/tenors in all of Seventies soul
  • Wynne's ability to "vamp" over repetitive choruses inspired a generation of soul singers
  • One of the longest-lived vocal groups in history, remaining popular from the doo-wop era through a Motown stint and well into the Eighties
  • Successfully crossed over into disco when Philly Soul fell out of favor

Early years:

Often called the Detroit Spinners or the Motown Spinners in the UK (so as to distinguish the group from a Liverpool folk group with the same name), the quintet began way back in 1955 as a high-school doo-wop group called the Domingoes. By 1961, they were the Spinners, and Harvey Fuqua (former Moonglow, later of Motown) signed them to his local Tri-Phi Records. Their first release, "That's What Girls Are For," hit the R&B Top Ten that year, but a string of follow-ups flopped, and by 1965 they were struggling; when Berry Gordy's Motown label bought out Tri-Phi, the group moved along with Fuqua.

Success:

Hits were still hard to come by, however, and the Spinners began to feel lost in the shuffle of more important Motown artists. Finally, in 1970, Stevie Wonder gave the group his song "It's A Shame," which again cracked the R&B Top Ten and made inroads on the pop chart as well. The follow-ups again stalled, however, and in 1972, the group signed with Atlantic and recruited new lead tenor Phillipe Wynn. Working with producer Thom Bell, they were recreated as a Philly Soul group and began an astonishing run of R&B and pop hits for most of the decade -- this coming twelve years after their professional debut.

Later years:

Disco didn't damage the careers of the Spinners nearly as much as it did many soul groups -- but Wynne's departure for a solo career in 1977 did derail them somewhat. Hooking up with disco producer Michael Zager, they scored two comebacks in 1980 by pairing up oldies like "Cupid" and "Working My Way Back To You" in medleys with Zager compositions. Wynne died of a heart attack in 1984 and Henderson (who'd sued the band in 2004 over financial disputes) passed on from diabetes complications in 2007; the last three original members (Jackson, Fambrough and Smith) now tour with former Delfonic Frank Washington on lead.

Other facts:

  • Bobbie Smith sang lead on "That's What Girls Are For" and "I'll Be Around," while G.C. Cameron takes the lead on "It's A Shame" and John Edwards sings on their "Cupid" and "Working My Way" medleys
  • Other members have included C.P. Spencer, James Edwards, George Dixon, and Edgar "Chico" Edwards
  • The group's name came from spinning tire rims popular in Detroit at the time
  • Aretha Franklin was responsible for getting the group from Motown to Atlantic
  • Dionne Warwick had to be convinced her collaboration on "Then Came You" would be a hit
  • Jackson got the nickname "12:45" after singing the phrase on "Games People Play"

Awards/Honors:

  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Hollywood Walk Of Fame (6723 Hollywood Blvd.)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick (1974)
#1 hits:
R&B:
  • "I'll Be Around" (1972)
  • "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" (1973)
  • "(One Of A Kind) Love Affair" (1973)
  • "Mighty Love - Pt. 1" (1974)
  • "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" (1975)
  • "The Rubberband Man" (1976)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "I'll Be Around" (1972)
  • "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" (1973)
  • "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" (1975)
  • "The Rubberband Man" (1976)
  • "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" (1980)
  • "Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl" (1980)
R&B:
  • "That's What Girls Are Made For" (1961)
  • "I'll Always Love You" (1965)
  • "It's A Shame" (1970)
  • "Ghetto Child" (1973)
  • "I'm Coming Home" (1974)
  • "Love Don't Love Nobody - Pt. I" (1974)
  • "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick (1974)
  • "Living A Little, Laughing A Little" (1975)
  • "Sadie" (1975)
  • "Love Or Leave" (1976)
  • "You're Throwing A Good Love Away" (1977)
  • "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" (1980)
  • "Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl" (1980)
#1 albums:
R&B:
  • Spinners (1973)
  • Mighty Love (1974)
  • New And Improved (1975)
  • Pick Of The Litter (1975)
Top 10 albums:
Pop:
  • New And Improved (1975)
  • Pick Of The Litter (1975)
Top 10 albums:
R&B:
  • Pick Of The Litter (1975)
  • Happiness Is Being With The Spinners (1976)
  • Spinners Live! (1976)
Other important recordings: "Truly Yours," "We'll Have It Made," "How Could I Let You Get Away," "Wake Up Susan," "Heaven On Earth (So Fine)," "Me and My Music," "Easy Come, Easy Go," "If You Wanna Do A Dance," "Are You Ready For Love," "Body Language," "I Just Want To Fall In Love," "Now That You're Mine Again," "Long Live Soul Music," "Yesterday Once More/Nothing Remains The Same," "Magic In The Moonlight," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I Could Never (Repay Your Love)," "Since I Been Gone," "I've Got To Make It On My Own," "I Don't Want To Lose You," "What More Could A Boy Ask For?" "Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music," "(Oh Lord) I Wish I Could Sleep," "Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind," "Just You And Me Baby," "We Belong Together," "Love Has Gone Away," "There's No One Like You," "Sitting On Top Of The World," "You Made A Promise To Me," "Toni My Love," "Now That We're Together," "Painted Magic," "Back In The Arms Of Love," "(Love Is) One Step Away," "(A) Plain and Simple Love Song," "You Go Your Way (I'll Go Mine)," "Never Thought I'd Fall In Love," "Right Or Wrong," "Memories Of Allison"
Covered by: John Hiatt, David Grant and Jaki Graham, What Is This?, Donny Osmond, Joan Osborne, Otis Gayle, Worlds Apart
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