Friday, May 20, 2011
They were called The Motown Spinners, and after leaving Motown The Detroit Spinners. This was in the U.K. of course, as a way of distinguishing them from a British skiffle band called The Spinners. In the good old U.S.A. all we needed was simply The Spinners.
Growing up in Royal Oak Township,Michigan, just outside of Detroit, longtime friends decided to form a vocal group in 1954. They would be Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C.P. Spencer and James Edwards, calling themselves The Domingoes. Edwards lasted a whole week, being replaced by Bobbie Smith. Spencer was the next to leave, replaced by George Dixon. by 1961 they had changed their name to the Spinners, inspired by the spinning hubcaps on a moving car (yes,in those days the car had to be moving).
On Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records, the group first hit the charts with "That's What Girls Are Made For" with Smith on lead vocals, peaking at #27. Smith would go on to take the lead on most of the group's early records and many of their hits on Atlantic Records. Fuqua made so many contributions vocally and otherwise that he was known as an "unofficial" Spinner having never formally been a member of the group. James Edwards' brother, Edgar "Chico" Edwards replaced George Dixon in 1963, at which time Tri-Phi was bought out by Fuqua's brother -in-law Berry Gordy.The group was then assigned to Motown Records.
In 1964 the group made it's debut at the famed Apollo Theater and earned instant acclaim, a rare feat at the time, but with the exception of "I'll Always Love You" and "Truly Yours" had no hits from 1965 to 1969. Given their dearth of commercial success, The group members were relegated to being road managers, chaperones and chauffeurs for other groups. G.C. Cameron replaced "Chico" Edwards in 1969 and the group were switched to the Motown-owned V.I.P. label. Finally in 1970 the group released the Stevie Wonder-Syreeta Wright composition "It's A Shame" which hit #14. They charted again with "We'll Have It Made",their final Motown recording.
Reportedly at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin, The Spinners finished out their contract with Motown and signed with Atlantic Records in 1972 , with the exception of Cameron who remained with Motown as a solo artist. Phillipe Wynn was brought in to replace Cameron. Despite being a recording act for about a decade, the group had not one top ten hit...that is, until producer-songwriter Thom Bell took the helm.
The Bobby Smith-led "I'll Be Around" was their first top ten hit, going to #3 and becoming their first million-seller. In 1973, follow-up singles "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love"(led by Smith) and "One Of A Kind Love Affair"(led by Wynne) set them well on the way as hit-makers and furthered Thom Bell's reputation as a top Philly Soul producer. With Bell the group would notch five top 100 singles with two in the top 10.
Wynne left the group in 1977 to be replaced by John Edwards . they had a few minor hits but failed to reach the top 100 for the next two years. At that point the group parted ways with Bell. Afterwards in 1980 they managed to hit the top 10 #2with remakes of "Working My Way Back To You"(#2) and "Cupid" (#4) . They would release a pair of albums in 1980, but neither were successful.
After some years performing with Parliament-Funkadelic, Phillipe Wynne suffered a fatal heart attack while onstage in Oakland,California July 14,1984.
Former singer G.C. Cameron rejoined the group replacing John Edwards, who left due to illness from 2000 to 2002.
Founding member Billy Henderson died of complications due to diabetes February 2, 2007
Founding Member Pervis Jackson died of cancer August 18, 2008
The group's surviving members Fambrough and Smith are still actively touring with additional members Charlton Washington, Jesse Peck and Marvin Taylor.