Print Shortlink

Spinners, The (The Detroit Spinners)

R&B outfit that grew out of the ashes of The Domingoes, a doo-wop quintet from suburban Detroit that started out in the 1950s.  In 1961, they changed their name to The Spinners.  At this time, their line-up comprised George Dixon, Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, and Bobbie Smith.  They were named after the spinning motion of a hubcap on an automobile tire, appropriate for the Michigan-based five-some.

Harvey Fuqua inked them to a deal with Tri-Phi Records and they quickly scored a hit with their recording of “That’s What Girls Are Made For”.  The song went to the top ten on the R&B charts and reached #27 on the pop chart.  Its follow-up did not fare so well:  “Love (I’m So Glad) I Found You” barely cracked the Billboard Top 100.  Subsequent recordings failed to chart altogether.

In 1963, George Dixon was supplanted by Edgar “Chico” Edwards and Tri-Phi was bought out by Motown big-shot, Berry Gordy.  They did their first show at the esteemed Apollo Theater in 1964, and it was a smashing success.  In 1964, they reached the top forty with their rendition of “I’ll Always Love You”.  From 1966 through 1969, they issued singles at the snail’s pace of one per year, but only one of these, “Truly Yours”, enjoyed success, lighting up the R&B chart in 1966.

Motown was not kind to The Spinners, frequently employing its individual members as chaperones, chauffeurs, road managers, and shipping clerks.  In 1969, it shipped them to its fallaciously titled V.I.P. imprint, which was at the bottom of the Motown feeding chain.  The Spinners manage to elude obscurity in 1970 when they reached the top twenty with “It’s A Shame”, co-written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright.  In spite of its international success, Motown wasted little effort in promoting the group and let their contract expire a couple years later.

Aretha Franklin apparently encouraged them to switch to Atlantic Records.  The move turned out to be lucrative for everyone involved.  At Atlantic, they were paired with Thom Bell, a producer who was credited with helping to shape “The Philly Sound”, a blend of Motown harmonies with the trappings of ‘40s and ’50s big-band music.

The collaboration reaped rewards immediately.  Their self-titled album, released in 1972, yielded four top-ten hits plus one more top-100 hit, for good measure.  Songs like “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love” and “I’ll Be Around” helped define The Spinners’ sound.  They followed this up with Mighty Love, which boasted three songs in the top twenty, including the title track, “Love Don’t Love Nobody”, and “I’m Coming Home”.  Their first and only #1 would come in the form of a duet with Dionne Warwick entitled “Then Came You”.  They flirted with the top of the charts over the next couple of years with “The RubberbandMan” (#2) and “They Just Can’t Stop it the (Games People Play)” (#5).  Then the hits dried up and Thom Bell and The Spinners went separate ways.

In 1979, The Spinners found themselves hit-less and producer-less.  That all changed when they teamed up with a producer named Michael Zager who put them back on the charts with “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl”.  It topped the charts in the U.K. and reached #2 in the States.  The formula worked again with “Cupid/I’ve Loved You for a Long Time”, which went to #4 in both countries.  Their final foray into the top 100 was a curious one:  In 1983, they scored a modest #67 with a cover of “Funny How Time Slips Away”, which was penned by Willie Nelson.  They did manage to hit the R&B chart one more time with “Right or Wrong” in 1984.

Once their reign on the charts was over, The Spinners took their show on the road.  In the late ‘80s, a wave of nostalgia overcame the country, and the demand for oldies had lured a lot of artists and groups out of retirement.  The Spinners, who had no intention of retiring, were ripe for the oldies circuit.  Their second career has been, in a way, as successful as the second act of their run as one of the longest-running bands in history.  They continue to perform to this day.

In 1999, they were enshrined in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  As recently as 27th July 2006, they appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.  More personnel changes took place in 2009:  Jessie Robert Peck joined the group in February and Marvin Taylor replaced Harold Bonhart months later.

The Spinners have a dozen gold records to their credit, their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Award.

Harold “Spike” Bonhart
C. Cameron
George Dixon
Edgar “Chico” Edwards
John Edwards
Henry Fambrough
Billy Henderson
Pervis Jackson
Jessie Robert Peck
Bobbie Smith
P. Spencer
Marvin Taylor
Charlton Washington
Frank Washington
Philippé Wynne

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)