Indianapolis, Indiana, who relocated to Ferndale, Michigan, and co-founded
The Domingoes with his high-school chums, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson,
and Bobbie Smith. They first performed
at the Idlewild Resort on a double bill with a
successful local group known as The Four Aims, who would go on to become
The Four Tops.
The Domingoes, named after the members’ favourite groups, The Dominoes and The Flamingos, would
go on to become The Spinners in 1961.
They immediately scored a hit on Tri-Phi Records with
“That’s What Girls Are Made For”, which cracked the top
thirty on the pop chart.
Tri-Phi was gobbled up by Motown impresario Berry Gordy and The Spinners
toiled in obscurity for about seven years. They did manage a top-forty hit in
1965 with “I’ll Always Love You”, but it wasn’t
until 1970 that they would enter the top twenty with “It’s A Shame”,
co-penned and co-produced by Stevie Wonder.
In spite of
its success, Motown wasted little energy in promoting the group, and they
gravitated to Atlantic, at the behest of Aretha Franklin. Here they hooked up with producer
Thom Bell who helped to give them a distinctive sound by playing to their
strengths, namely their tight harmonies, and offering equally tight
arrangements, fusing horns, strings, and unique rhythms.
it Be I’m Falling in Love” hit the top five, “I’ll
Be Around” went to #3, “The Rubberband
Man” stretched to #2, and “Then Came You”, with Dionne
Warwick, became the first #1 record for Dionne or The Spinners. “The Rubberband
Man” became Billy’s nickname, because of his on-stage
Spinners’ hits dried up until 1980, when they made a comeback of
sorts with Michael Zager, who produced a pair of
medleys, “Cupid/I’ve Loved You for a Long Time” and
“Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl”. The latter topped the charts in the
U.K. and peaked at #2 in the U.S.
“Cupid” reached top-five status in Great Britain.
short-lived return to chart success, The Spinners picked up their toys and
hit the road to join the burgeoning oldies circuit. Billy continued to perform with the
group through the beginning of the new millennium, then
filed a lawsuit against their business manager, resulting in his
matters worse, he was diagnosed with diabetes, which claimed both of his
legs and eventually killed him, on 2nd February 2007. At the time of his death, plans were
in the works to start up The Spinners Part Too, Inc. His funeral was held at Volusia
Memorial Park and Funeral Home on 10th February and he was
interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Florida.
ample opportunities to see and hear Billy performing with The Spinners, on
videos such as The Spinners: In Concert and CDs such as The Chrome Collection and One of a Kind Love Affair: The Anthology.
The Spinners recordings
Disco Ride (Jolyon
Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me,
Girl (Sandy Linzer/Denny