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    Smith, Bobbie (10th April 1936–16th March 2013)

    Tenor from Detroit, Michigan, who joined The Domingoes in 1955, along with Henry Fambrough and Pervis Jackson.  The Domingoes were the brain child of Billy Henderson and C.P. Spencer and the name was a fusion of The Dominoes and The Flamingos.  It was a little too alike, however, and in 1961, they set themselves apart by renaming themselves The Spinners, after the hubcaps on Smith’s car. 


    They inked a deal with Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi records and scored an immediate hit with “That’s What Girls Were Made For” which reached #5 on the R&B chart in the summer of 1961.  A young Marvin Gaye played drums.  The Spinners would later open for him at the Apollo Theatre in New York.  In 1963, Tri-Phi was gobbled up by Motown impresario, Berry Gordy, and The Spinners toiled in relative anonymity for about seven years. 


    They were a hit as a live act, however, doing parodies of The Beatles, replete with drums, guitars, and wigs.  Another facet to their stage performances was their choreography, originally designed by Smith, but later fine-tuned by dance masters such as Charlie Atkins and Diane Blanche.  Their unified dancing and harmonies led to live dates at venues like New York’s Lincoln Center.  On the recording front, however, they were languishing under the big tent of Motown. 


    It wasn’t until Stevie Wonder took an interest in the group and offered them one of his songs, co-penned with Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright, that The Spinners would enjoy their first big Motown hit.  “It’s a Shame” gathered dust for about a year until Motown finally released it in 1970.  It went to #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.  In spite of this success, the group still wasn’t getting any respect.  Murray the K invited them onto his program only to tell them that he had wanted them to do their Beatles impersonation. 


    In 1972, at the behest of Aretha Franklin, they moved to Atlantic Records, and it turned out to be the best move of their career.  Teamed with producer Thom Bell, The Spinners became a hit-making machine, cranking out R&B #1s such as “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love”, “I’ll Be Around”, and “One of a Kind (Love Affair)”.  All three songs appear on their eponymous 1973 album, which rocketed to #1 on the R&B chart and stayed there for three weeks, going gold in the process. 


    “Ghetto Child” went to #4 on the R&B chart and the title track of Mighty Love went to #1.  “Then Came You”, with Dionne Warwick, gave them their first and only #1 on the pop chart.  “Living a Little, Laughing a Little” and “Sadie” both reached #7 on the R&B chart.  The Spinners showed off their gift for mimickry on their Live! album in 1975, lampooning artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley. 


    They continued releasing studio albums throughout the ‘70s, but the hits dried up until Michael Zager took them under his wing and co-wrote and produced a pair of medleys that temporarily returned them to the top of the charts.  “Cupid/I’ve Loved You For a Long Time” cracked the top five in the U.K. and “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl” topped the charts there and reached #2 in the States. 


    After this latest flurry, The Spinners more or less left the recordings behind and focused on their live performances, joining the ever popular oldies circuit.  With plenty of repertory in their arsenal, The Spinners enjoy semi-retirement, performing mainly on the weekends.  Amazingly, Henry Fambrough and Bobbie Smith continued to lead the group, nearly fifty years after its inception.


    In November 2012 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and in March 2013 Bobbie contracted influenza and pneumonia, passing away from complications of them in Orlando, Florida.  He was 76 years old.


    The Spinners recordings

    Disco Ride (Jolyon Skinner/Eltesa Weathersby/Michael Zager)

    Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl (Sandy Linzer/Denny Randell/Michael Zager)



    1. http://music.aol.com/artist/bobbie-smith/1153058
    2. http://www.answers.com/topic/bobby-smith-r-b-singer
    3. http://growingbolder.com/media/entertainment/music/the-spinners-bobbie-smith-238988.html
    4. http://chancellorofsoul.com/spinners.html
    5. http://www.classicbands.com/SpinnersInterview.html
    6. http://www.carlmagnuspalm.com/personal/stevie/songs70.html
    7. http://www.discogs.com/artist/Bobbie+Smith
    8. http://www.funkmysoul.gr/?p=824
    9. http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/artist/Bobbie%20Smith/a/Bobbie%20Smith.htm
    10. http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Bobbie%20Smith:1927153265:page=discography:b=7
    11. http://www.artistdirect.com/artist/bobbie-smith/549477
    12. http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1552477/spinners-singer-bobbie-smith-dies-at-76











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