The Spencer Davis Group

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The Spencer Davis Group
The Spencer Davis Group rehearsing before a performance in Amsterdam in 1966. L-R: Muff Winwood, Spencer Davis, Pete York, and Steve Winwood
The Spencer Davis Group rehearsing before a performance in Amsterdam in 1966. L-R: Muff Winwood, Spencer Davis, Pete York, and Steve Winwood
Background information
OriginBirmingham, England
Years active
  • 1963–1969
  • 1973–1974
  • 2006–2020
Past members

The Spencer Davis Group were a British band formed in Birmingham in 1963 by Spencer Davis (guitar), brothers Steve Winwood (vocals, keyboards) and Muff Winwood (bass guitar), and Pete York (drums). Their best known songs include the UK No. 1 hits "Keep on Running" and "Somebody Help Me" and the UK and US Top 10 hits "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man".[1]

Steve Winwood left in 1967 to form rock band Traffic.[2] After releasing a few more singles, the band ceased to be active in 1969. Davis revived the group on two more occasions, without the involvement of the Winwood brothers, first in 1973–1974 for two more albums, and again from 2006, since when they had primarily been a touring act. Davis died on 19 October 2020, effectively ending the band.



The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 in Birmingham after the Welsh guitarist Spencer Davis encountered vocalist and organist Steve Winwood (then aged 14 and still at school),[3] and his bass playing brother Muff Winwood performing at a pub, the Golden Eagle, as the Muff Woody Jazz Band. He recruited them and Pete York on drums[4] to form the Rhythm and Blues Quartette, which performed regularly in the city.[5] In 1964, they signed their first recording contract after Chris Blackwell of Island Records saw them at an appearance in a local club; Blackwell also became their producer.[6] (Island was then a small independent label with UK Fontana contracted for distribution.) Muff Winwood came up with the band's name, reasoning, "Spencer was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews, so I pointed out that if we called it the Spencer Davis Group, the rest of us could stay in bed and let him do them."[7]

Breakthrough success[edit]

The group's first professional recording was a cover version of "Dimples", released as a single in 1964. In late 1965, they gained their first No. 1 single with "Keep On Running", written by reggae musician Jackie Edwards.[8] In 1966, they followed this with another Jackie Edwards-written No. 1 hit "Somebody Help Me" and the Top 20 hit "When I Come Home", this song a collaboration between Edwards and Steve Winwood.[8] "Keep On Running" and "Somebody Help Me" were issued as singles in the US on Atco during 1966, but due to lack of promotion, niether of them gained airplay or entered the American charts.

For the German market, the group released a medley of "Det war in Schöneberg, im Monat Mai" and "Mädel ruck ruck ruck an meine grüne Seite" (the first is from a 1913 Berlin operetta, the second is a Swabian traditional) as a tribute single for that audience, Davis having studied in West Berlin in the early 1960s.

During late 1966 and early 1967, the group achieved two more hits with "Gimme Some Lovin'", which went Top 5, and "I'm a Man", which went Top 10.[8] Both of them sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold record status. "Gimme Some Lovin'" was written by Davis and the Winwood brothers, while "I'm a Man" was written by Steve Winwood and the group's producer Jimmy Miller.[9] These tracks proved to be their breakthrough in the US, where they were now signed to United Artists Records, both going Top 10 there.

In 1966, the group starred in The Ghost Goes Gear,[8] a British musical comedy film, directed by Hugh Gladwish, and also featuring Sheila White and Nicholas Parsons.[10] The plot involved the group in a stay at the childhood home of their manager, a haunted manor house in the English countryside. Steve Winwood later said he considered the decision for the group to star in the film to be a mistake.[11]


The Spencer Davis Group in 1974

Steve Winwood left the group in April 1967 to form Traffic; his brother, Muff, moved into the music industry working in artists and repertoire (A&R) at Island Records.[8] In the same period, both the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic featured on the soundtrack of the film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush released in that year.[8] After the Winwoods' departures, the Spencer Davis Group continued with the addition of guitarist Phil Sawyer (ex-Les Fleur de Lys) and keyboardist/vocalist Eddie Hardin (ex-A Wild Uncertainty).[8] This line-up recorded several tunes for Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush and released the psychedelia-sounding "Time Seller" single in July 1967;[8] the b-side, "Don't Want You No More", also received radio airplay.[citation needed]

This was followed by "Mr. Second-Class" in late 1967,[8] which received heavy airplay on Radio Caroline (a pirate radio ship off the British coast), and the album With Their New Face On in 1968. At that time Ray Fenwick had replaced Phil Sawyer. The group's last minor hit, "After Tea", was released at the same time by the German band The Rattles, providing competition that led finally to a temporary stop to all activities of the band. The song was originally recorded by the Dutch group After Tea, which included guitarist/singer Fenwick among its members.

After one further single ("Short Change"), Eddie Hardin and Pete York left to form the duo Hardin & York. They were replaced by future Elton John band member Dee Murray on bass and Dave Hynes on drums.[8] Nigel Olsson, another future Elton John band member, replaced Hynes, and this line-up produced the album Funky in 1969 (only released in the USA on Date Records, a subsidiary of CBS, in 1970) before splintering.[8] Fenwick wrote all the songs and his 1971 solo album Keep America Beautiful, Get a Haircut also featured Murray and Olsson.

The group broke up on 19 July 1969.[12]

Solo work and reunions[edit]

The group reunited in 1973 with Davis, Fenwick, Hardin and York, and newcomer Charlie McCracken on bass. The group released the albums Gluggo (1973) and Living in a Back Street (1974) before once again disbanding.[8]

Davis continued working, however, producing some jazz-oriented albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[8]

The band re-formed in 2006, although only Davis and Hardin remained from the 1960s group line-ups.[13][14] The Spencer Davis Group continued to tour the US and Europe, but with two differing line-ups; only Spencer Davis himself was present in both formations of the band.[13][14] Hardin remained with the UK version of the band until his death in 2015.[15]

Davis died in California on 19 October 2020, at the age of 81, while being treated for pneumonia.[16]

Cover versions of songs[edit]

The Spencer Davis Group – particularly its incarnation with Steve Winwood – proved to be influential, with many of the band's songs being recorded by other artists over the years. Among these are Chicago's cover of "I'm a Man"; The Allman Brothers Band's version of Davis and Hardin's "Don't Want You No More" (both 1969); Three Dog Night's recording of "Can't Get Enough of It" (1970); and The Blues Brothers' "Gimme Some Lovin'" (1980). The Grateful Dead also covered Spencer Davis Group material in live performance on occasion, and Spencer Davis himself performed "I'm a Man" with the Grateful Dead in a 1989 performance at Los Angeles' Great Western Forum.

Band members[edit]

Final members



  • Ed Tree
  • Taras Prodaniuk
  • Jim Blazer
  • Tom Fillman

Former members




  1. ^ "allmusic ((( The Spencer Davis Group > Overview )))". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 143. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ "It's 'About Time' for Steve Winwood". BBC. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  4. ^ "allmusic ((( The Spencer Davis Group > Overview )))". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Spencer Davis Group". Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  6. ^ Clayson, Alan (1988). Back in the High Life. Sidgewick and Jackson. ISBN 0-283-99640-4.
  7. ^ Black, Johnny (May 1997). Feature: Steve Winwood Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Mojo.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Larkin, Colin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 348. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  9. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 203 & 219. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  10. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | The GHOST GOES GEAR (1966)". 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  11. ^ ""Steve Winwood: English Soul", BBC4, broadcast 25 February 2011". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  12. ^ Dick Clark's Rock, Roll & Remember, 19 July 2003.
  13. ^ a b "The Spencer Davis Group UK". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  14. ^ a b "The Spencer Davis Group U.S". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Former Spencer Davis Group and Axis Point Member Eddie Hardin Dies at 66". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  16. ^ Savage, Mark. "Spencer Davis, one of rock's elder statesmen, dies aged 81". BBC News. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  17. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Funky - The Spencer Davis Group". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Funky - The Spencer Davis Group - Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 January 2020.

External links[edit]