from New Orleans, Louisiana, whose family moved to Michigan when he was
still a child and who grew up singing doo-wop with his friends on the
streets of Detroit. Along with high
school chums, Henry Fambrough and Billy
Henderson, he co-founded The Domingoes, who went
on to become The Spinners.
In 1961, they
scored their first top-thirty hit with “That’s What Girls Are
Made For” and followed it up with “Love (I’m So Glad) I
Found You” which reached a meager #91 on the charts. They made a smashing debut at the
Apollo Theatre in 1964 and it lead to other live dates in The Big
must have had an eye and ear for talent, as he predicted that The Jackson 5
would become big before they ever hit the Apollo stage, in spite of the
laughing incredulity of a couple of his music associates. Two months hence, the quintet hit #1
with “I Want You Back”.
meantime, The Spinners were just getting started. They laboured
in relative obscurity for seven years under the Motown umbrella until
Stevie Wonder produced and wrote a song for them entitled “It’s
a Shame”. It peaked at
#14 in 1970 and its follow-up, “We’ll Have it Made”, also
penned by Wonder, reached the Billboard Top
In 1972, after
years of being ignored by Motown and doing administrative chores for the
label, The Spinners signed with Atlantic Records, on the recommendation of
Aretha Franklin. (Aretha was
another one of those acts that nobody knew what to do with, and she had
found a home at Atlantic.) Here
The Spinners hooked up with producer Thom Bell who helped them create a
unique sound which permeated a string of hits. “They Just Can’t Stop It
(Games People Play)” went to #5 and featured Pervis’s
most famous bit of singing, the “12:45” part of the song that
earned him the nickname, “Mr. 12:45”. “Could it Be I’m Falling
in Love” fell in at #4, “I’ll Be Around” reached
#3, “Rubberband Man” stretched to #2,
and “Then Came You”, with Dionne Warwick, became their first
#1, and Dionne’s.
littered the record shelves with LPs in the 1970s, including Live!, Mighty Love, New and
Improved, and Pick of the Litter. They also made their share of
television appearances on programs such as Cher, Disco ’77,
Laverne & Shirley, and Saturday Night Live. In 1979, they released Dancin’ and Lovin’,
and it yielded two of their biggest hits, a pair of medleys co-written and
produced by Michael Zager: “Cupid/I’ve Loved You
for a Long Time” and “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me,
Girl”. The latter reached
#2 in the States and #1 in the U.K.
Among their last albums with Atlantic were Cross Fire and Labor of
then eschewed recording for live performances on the oldies circuit. Television specials like A ‘70s Celebration: The Beat is Back also whetted
the public’s appetite for nostalgia. In 1999, The Spinners were enshrined
in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Pervis made his last appearance with them
on 19th July 2008.
Unfortunately, his health was declining and two days after being
diagnosed with cancer of the brain and liver, he passed away at Sinai Grace
Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.
His funeral was held at the Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of
Christ and he was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
He left behind
a legacy of love and music, and did not leave this world until imparting to
his wife Claudreen his vision of an autism fund
to benefit children like his own son, Pervis
The Spinners recordings
Disco Ride (Jolyon Skinner/Eltesa Weathersby/Michael Zager)
Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me,
Girl (Sandy Linzer/Denny