The Spinners (American R&B group)

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The Spinners
The Spinners (1965).png
The Spinners in 1965. From left to right: Billy Henderson, Edgar Edwards, Bobby Smith, Henry Fambrough, and Pervis Jackson.
Background information
Also known as Detroit Spinners
Motown Spinners
Origin Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres R&B, smooth soul
Years active 1954–present
Labels Tri-Phi, Motown, V.I.P. (Motown), Atlantic,
Associated acts Harvey Fuqua, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick
Members Henry Fambrough
Charlton Washington
Marvin Taylor
Jessie Robert Peck
Ronnie Moss
Past members Pervis Jackson
Billy Henderson
C. P. Spencer
James Edwards
Bobby Smith
George Dixon
Edgar "Chico" Edwards
G. C. Cameron
Philippé Wynne
John Edwards
Frank Washington
Harold "Spike" Bonhart

The Spinners are an American rhythm and blues vocal group that formed in 1954 and are still active. They enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums during the 1960s and 1970s. Formed in Detroit, Michigan, the group still tours regularly as of 2015, although Henry Fambrough is the only remaining original member.

The group is also listed as the Detroit Spinners and the Motown Spinners (for their 1960s recordings with the Detroit label). These other names were used in the UK to avoid confusion with a British folk group also called the Spinners.[1] In 2015, they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[2]


In 1954, a group of friends who grew up together in Ferndale, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, came together to make music. For a time, several of the band members resided in Detroit's Herman Gardens public housing project. Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C. P. Spencer, and James Edwards[3] called themselves The Domingoes. But James Edwards remained with the group 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 become a member of the Voice Masters and the Originals. He was replaced by George Dixon. The group renamed themselves the Spinners in 1961.[4]

Early recording years: 1961–71[edit]

The Spinners first hit the charts in August 1961 on Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records with "That's What Girls Are Made For," peaking at number 27.[3] Bobby Smith sang lead vocal on this track, coached by Fuqua.[5] The group's follow-up, "Love (I'm So Glad) I Found You", also featured lead vocals by Smith with Fuqua's coaching. This track reached number 91 that November, but none of the group's other Tri-Phi singles charted.

Sources debate the extent to which Fuqua became a member of the group during its stay at Tri-Phi. Fuqua apparently sang lead on at least some of the releases and at minimum considered himself a Spinner, as made explicit by the credits on Tri-Phi 1010 and 1024 — the artist credited on both these 1962 singles reads "Harvey (Formerly of the Moonglows and the Spinners)". However, most sources, although respecting Fuqua's contributions, do not list him as an official member.

James Edwards's brother, Edgar "Chico" Edwards, replaced Dixon in the group in 1963, at which time Tri-Phi and its entire artist roster was bought out by Fuqua's brother-in-law, Berry Gordy of Motown Records. The Spinners were then assigned to the Motown label.

In 1964, the Spinners made their debut at the Apollo Theater and won instant acclaim, a rare feat at the time. But with the exception of "I'll Always Love You" (led by Smith), which hit number 35 in 1965,[3] success mostly eluded them during the 1960s. After "I'll Always Love You", they released one single a year from 1966 to 1969 inclusive, but none charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and only their 1966 song "Truly Yours" (led by Smith) hit the Billboard R&B chart, peaking at number 16.[3]

With commercial success virtually non-existent, during much of the decade the Spinners were used by Motown as road managers, chaperones, and chauffeurs for other groups; even as shipping clerks. G. C. Cameron replaced Edgar "Chico" Edwards in 1967, and in 1969, the group switched to the Motown-owned V.I.P. imprint.

In 1970, after a five-year absence, they hit number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 with writer-producer Stevie Wonder's composition, (the Cameron-led) "It's a Shame" (co-written by Syreeta Wright) and again charted the following year with another Wonder song the composer also produced, "We'll Have It Made" (led by Cameron), from their new album, 2nd Time Around. However, these were their last two singles for V.I.P.

Shortly after the release of 2nd Time Around,[6] Atlantic Records recording artist Aretha Franklin suggested the group finish out their Motown contract and sign with Atlantic. The group made the switch but contractual obligations prevented Cameron from leaving Motown, so he stayed on there as a solo artist and urged his cousin, singer Philippé Wynne, to join the Spinners in his place as one of the group's lead singers, with Henry Fambrough, and actual main & original lead Bobby Smith.

The hit years with Philippé Wynne[edit]

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, (the Wynne & Fambrough-led) "How Could I Let You Get Away".[7] 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.[8] It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on October 30, 1972.[9]

The 1973 follow-up singles "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (led by Smith and Wynne), which was another million-seller,[9] "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" (led by Wynne), and "Ghetto Child" (led by Fambrough and 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" (led by Smith, originally co-led by Cameron) 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, Warwick, and Wynne), 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 and Jackson-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 Evette L. Benton[10] (though producer Bell disputed this in a UK-based interview, claiming Evette's line was actually group member Henry Fambrough – his voice sped up),[11] and led to a nickname of "12:45" for bass singer Jackson, after his signature vocal line on the song.

The post-Wynne years[edit]

Philippé Wynne left the group in January 1977 and was replaced by John Edwards, who had recorded a number of R&B hits as a solo singer. Though this version of the group had minor hits from 1977–79, they failed to hit the pop Top 40 for three years and parted ways with Thom Bell. Though they contributed two songs to Bell's The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and appeared in the film as a band.Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). despite the fact that Fambrough has received little credit for the many Spinners songs on which he sang or shared lead vocals; including "I Don't Want To Lose You," "Ghetto Child," "Living A Little, Laughing A Little," "Ain't No Price On Happiness," "Smile We Have Each Other," "Just As Long As We Have Love," (a second Spinners duet with Dionne Warwick) and "Now That We're Together".

The Spinners today[edit]

The Spinners in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, on March 18, 2006.

After their chart career ended, the Spinners continued touring for decades. They are big draws on the oldies and nostalgia concert circuits, playing the music that made them famous.

In their boxed set, The Chrome Collection, the Spinners were lauded by David Bowie and Elvis Costello. The Spinners were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. On July 27, 2006, the Spinners performed on the Late Show with David Letterman.

G.C. Cameron, rejoined the group as lead vocalist from 2000 to 2002 (replacing John Edwards, who left due to a stroke that left him wheelchair-bound), but he left them in 2003 to join The Temptations. Frank Washington, formerly of The Futures and The Delfonics, joined for a few years, before being replaced by Charlton Washington (no relation).

In 2004, original member Billy Henderson was dismissed from the group after suing the group's corporation and business manager to obtain financial records. He was replaced by Harold "Spike" Bonhart. Henderson died due to complications from diabetes on February 2, 2007 at the age of 67. Another early member, C.P. Spencer had already died from a heart attack on October 20, 2004;[12][13] and another, George Dixon, died in 1994.[14]

Original member Pervis Jackson, who was still touring as a member of the group, died of cancer on August 18, 2008.[15] The group continued for a short time as a quartet before Jessie Robert Peck (born in Queens, New York, December 17, 1968) was recruited as the group's new bass vocalist in February 2009. In 2009, Bonhart left the Spinners and was replaced by vocalist Marvin Taylor. The group lost another member from their early days, when Edgar "Chico" Edwards died on December 3, 2011.[16]

The Spinners were put into the limelight again in 2003 when an Elton John track was re-issued featuring them on backing vocals. In 1977, the Spinners had recorded two versions of "Are You Ready for Love" at the Philadelphia studios. One had all of the Spinners, the other with only lead singer Phillipe Wynne on backing vocals. Elton John was not happy with the mixes and sat on the tapes for a year before asking for them to be remixed to give them an easier on the ear sound. Finally in 1979, the Wynne version was released as a single but it only made it to number 42 in the UK. The track was then remixed by Ashley Beedle from Xpress-2 in 2003 after becoming a fixture in the Balearic nightclubs and being used by Sky Sports for an advertisement. It then went to number 1 in the singles chart after being released on DJ Fatboy Slim's Southern Fried record label.

In September 2011, 57 years after forming in Detroit and 50 years after "That's What Girls Are Made For", the group was announced as one of 15 final nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, their first nomination.

Lead singer Bobby Smith died on March 16, 2013.[17] The group, which still tours actively, consists of Henry Fambrough (the only surviving original member), Charlton Washington, Jessie Peck, Marvin Taylor and Ronnie Moss.



Top forty singles[edit]

The following singles reached the top forty on the US or UK charts:

Year Song title US Billboard Hot 100 US R&B Chart UK Singles Chart[18]
1961 "That's What Girls Are Made For" 27 5
1965 "I'll Always Love You" 35 8
1970 "It's A Shame" 14 4 20
1972 "I'll Be Around" 3 1
"Could It Be I'm Falling In Love?" 4 1 11
1973 "One Of A Kind (Love Affair)" 11 1
"Ghetto Child" 29 4 7
1974 "Mighty Love" 53 29 33
"I'm Coming Home" 18 3
"Then Came You" 1 2 29
"Love Don't Love Nobody" 15 4
1975 "Living A Little, Laughing A Little" 37 7
"Games People Play" 5 1
"Love Or Leave" 36 8
1976 "Wake Up Susan" 56 11 29
"The Rubberband Man" 2 1 16
1979 "Body Language" 103 35 40
"Working My Way Back To You" / "Forgive Me, Girl" (medley) 2 6 1
1980 "Cupid" / "I've Loved For A Long Time" (medley) 4 5 4
1995 "I'll Be Around" (Rappin' 4-Tay featuring The Spinners) 39 37 30


  1. ^ "The Spinners Biography". Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  2. ^ France, Lisa Respers (8 October 2015). "Janet Jackson, N.W.A, Los Lobos among Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees". CNN. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-08. Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  4. ^ "Page Title". Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  5. ^ "Bobby Smith, lead singer of The Spinners, dies". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference Fambrough_interview was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ "How Could I Let You Get Away / The Spinners". YouTube. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  8. ^ John A. Jackson (2004). A House On Fire: The Rise And Fall Of Philadelphia Soul. Oxford University Press. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 311. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  10. ^ "Sweethearts of Sigma | SoulTracks - Soul Music Biographies, News and Reviews". Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  12. ^ "The Originals". Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  13. ^ "C. P. Spencer - Obituaries". The Independent. December 10, 2004. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Detroit Spinners Page". Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  15. ^ Associated Press, "Original member of The Spinners dies in Detroit", USA Today, August 18, 2008.
  16. ^ Doc Rock. "2011 July To December". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  17. ^ Brian McCollum (March 19, 2013). "Bobby Smith, lead singer of the Spinners, dies". USA Today. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 152. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]