Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music





                                                     The Spinners   (Part 1)



 One of the most influential groups to migrate the sweet harmony essence of Detroit and cross-fertilize the sophisticated sounds of Philadelphia into a milestone of quintessential soul was none other than the Detroit Spinners. The group consisted of lead tenor Bobbie Smith, baritone Henry Fambrough,  bassist Pervis Jackson and tenors Billy Henderson and C. P. Spencer. All hailed from Royal Oak Township in Ferndale, Michigan northwest of Detroit.


 In 1955, Henderson and Spencer formed the Domingoes after viewing a local TV show called, ‘Saturday Evening Dance Party’.  They recruited friends Pervis, Bobbie and Henry and sang at neighborhood bars and storefront churches.   After winning a local talent show, they renamed themselves the Spinners, when DJ’s mispronounced their name as the Flamingos or  the Dominoes. The name change was inspired by Bobbie Smith’s big chrome

hub caps on his car.  The quintet was discovered on a talent show, ‘Make Way For Youth’, on WJR in Detroit, by Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows. He groomed and cultivated the group and later deemed them ‘the new  Moonglows’. Fuqua signed the Spinners on his Harvey / Tri-Phi labels and release their first single, ‘That’s How I Am Without You’ b/w ‘Little Ole Boy’ on Harvey.  The A side above is credited as Loe & Joe & The Spinners.

 Second tenor George Dixon replaced C. P. Spencer in 1960. Spencer later  resurfaced as a member of the Originals.


 Their breakthrough hit, ‘That’s What Girls Are Made For’ b/w ‘Heebie Jeebies’ zoomed to the No. 5 position, on Billboard’s R&B singles, in June 1961.  A few uncharted singles released on Tri-Phi including the underground classic ‘What Did She Use’ b/w ‘Itching For My Baby’ (March 1961) were not  properly promoted by the label, nor were the quintet were paid any royalties,  so bassist Pervis Jackson return to his old job at the car wash.


 Harvey Fuqua married Gwen Gordy, sister of Berry Gordy and merges his Harvey / Tri-Phi labels with Motown’s corporation in 1963. While serving as road managers and chaperones for Hitsville artists, the Spinners recruited new member   Edgar ‘Chico’ Edwards replacing George Dixon and released their first uncharted Motown single    ‘Sweet Thing’   b/w  ‘How Can I’  in Sept 1964.      


 Their next single ‘I'll Always Love You’ b/w ‘Tomorrow May Never Come’ charted (No. 8 on the R&B singles on July 10, 1965). The gorgeous, ‘Truly Yours’ b/w ‘Where Is The Girl’ hit (No. 16 R&B June 11, 1966).       



 Under the direction of musical director Maurice King and choreographer Cholly Atkins,  the quintet polished their stage show presentation and performed at such prestige places as the Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center in New York , as opening acts for the Supremes and Marvin Gaye.


  While 3 million viewers were entranced by the final episode of The Fugitive on Tuesday  August 29, 1967 ‘The Original Spinners’  LP was released, featuring most of the previous early Motown A and B singles,  including the classic ‘That’s What Girls Are Made For’ and the uncharted  single,   ‘ I Cross My Heart’  b/w  ‘ For All We Know’.   G. C.  (George Curtis)  Cameron replaced tenor Chico Edwards in Sept 1967  and contribute as lead singer on most of their Motown singles, including  ‘Bad Bad Weather’ b/w ‘I Just Can't Help But Feel The Pain’ (Oct 1968).


  The Spinners would again fade back into obscurity and resume their jobs at Motown, including a position at the company’s shipping  department, taking inventory  to make ends meet.  Motown released a 1955 Moonglows classic, ‘In My Diary’  b/w   ‘At  Sundown’ on

 Motown’s subsidiary label, V.I.P.   in October 1969.



  Stevie Wonder, a long admirer of the Spinners, gave the group its  long awaited gem  ‘It’s A Shame’. Composed by Stevie, childhood friend, Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright (Stevie’s wife at the time), had all the ingredients in a recipe of soul.  With its classic jingly intro by the late guitarist Robert White,  Stevie played majority of the   instruments on the track.  Recorded in 1969, the song was in the can for a nearly a year.  ‘It’s A Shame’ b/w ‘Together We Can Make  Sweet Music’ hit (No. 4 R&B Sept 19, 1970). One must take note on the magnificent lead vocals performed by G. C. Cameron . The  song was revived and sampled by female rapper Monie Love in 1990.


 The group’s sophomore LP on V.I.P.  ‘2nd Time Around’ was issued in late 1970. ‘We'll Have It Made’ (Stevie & Syreeta’s composition) b/w   ‘My Whole World Ended’   the quintet’s second and last release on Motown / V.I.P.    charted  (No. 20 R&B Feb 27, 1971). 


 Unhappy with their unfair treatment at Hitsville, the Spinners decided not to renew their contract.  G. C. Cameron announced his departure with the group because he signed a separate contract that was not up. Cameron inked a deal with Mowest Records (Motown’s subsidiary label) in 1971 and release 3 singles,  including the hit ‘Act Like A Shotgun’

 b/w ‘Girl I Really Love You’ (No. 50 R&B Oct 30, 1971). The late songwriter /producer, Freddie Perren and Christine Yarian composed a heart wrenching ballad entitled,  It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday’ for the 1975 classic film and soundtrack,  ‘Cooley High’.  Gwen Gordy  (G. C’s wife) arranged to have G. C.  record the song where he received first billing towards the end of the movie.  This masterpiece recording charted  (No. 38 R&B Oct 1975). Boys II Men would achieve international stardom with their acappella rendition of the song  featured in their 1991 multi-platinum LP  ‘Cooleyhighharmony’.


With connections through a longtime friend Aretha Franklin,  The Spinners signed with Atlantic Records in early 1972.  The quintet had a new member  Jimmy Cheers as a new lead but G. C recommended his friend Philip Walker  (nee’ Philippe’ Wynne) to audition and was hired after the first rehearsal. Wynne was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He was a part of a group called the Pacesetters with members including Bootsy and Catfish Collins. When they left to become James Brown’s  JB’s in 1969,  Philippe’ went to stay with his sister in Europe.  While in Switzerland, he joined a Liberian group called the Afro-Kings.  Wynne returned to the U.S. and failed an audition with the Contours which led to his meeting with G. C Cameron.


Atlantic Records teamed the Spinners with Jimmy Roach who was a former songwriter/ producer at Motown.  Jimmy cut 4 sides with the quintet  including   ‘(Oh Lord)  I Wish I Could Sleep’ in January 72’.  The session didn't fair to well with the promotion department and was terminated. Vice-president Henry Allen called songwriter /producer Thom Bell and

offered him a choice of any artist on Atlantic’s roster sheet to work with.  Bell saw on the bottom of the list the word  ‘spinn’ and asked Allen if it  was the Spinners  (Thom’s favorite group).  Henry confirmed it was them  and Bell agreed to produce them.


 On June 12, 1972  Thom cut 4 tunes with the Spinners at Sigma Studios in Philadelphia.  The first was a beautiful haunting dreamy ballad compose  by Yvette Davis entilted,   ‘How Could I Let You Get Away’.  The second  was a unfinished song compose by Bell where lyrics were needed. Linda Creed,  Thom’s writing partner was getting married and was busy making preparations for her wedding and Thom was in desperate need of material.  So with Linda’s blessing,  he found a songwriter named Phil Hurtt who was occupying Bunny Sigler’s room at Sigma.  Bell asked Phil if he could provide him with the melody, could he come up with some lyrics.  The next day,  Hurtt came in with the title ‘ I'll Be Around’  and the song completed. 


‘I'll Be Around’  b/w   ‘ How Could I Let You Get Away’ charted  (No. 1 R&B Oct 14, 1972).  Originally, Atlantic promoted  ‘How Could I Let You Get Away’ as the A side and ‘ I'll Be Around’as the B side. Radio jocks disagreed and flipped the single and made  ‘I'll Be Around’  as the A side, where it became a doubled  sided masterpiece hit and sell a million copies. The third was a song Bell heard on tape sent by two brothers, Mervin and Melvin

Steals titled,  ‘Could It Be I'm Falling In Love’.  After reconstructingthe lyrics, Thom Bell designed a switch-off lead formula for Bobbie and Philippe’ and combine the voices of the group to match those of the background singers.  The songwriting credits on the 45 single

 in parenthesis read  ‘Mystro and Lyric’.  They were pen names used by Mervin and Melvin Steals.      


‘Could It Be I'm Falling In Love’  b/w  ‘Just You And Me Baby’ another classic Yvette Davis composition and the 4th tune recorded,   became the Spinners second (No. 1 single on

the R&B charts Feb 10, 1973). A gold single was presented to the  the Spinners by Henry Allen, at the famous  20 Grand ballroom in Detroit.  Their fifth follow up was written by a native Virginia  songwriter,  Joseph  B. Jefferson.   Joseph was on tour with the Manhattans when he met Tony Bell, who introduced him to his  brother Thom.  The meeting took place between the two men where Bell gave Jefferson a office and a piano to write. 


 Inspired by a heartbroken relationship with a former girlfriend, Joseph came home from road trip to find that she had left him,  leaving a startling message on the kitchen wall,  ‘I'm in love with you,  I can't stay with you’.  Thom called Jefferson and asked  did he come up with anything.  He said yes and called the song  ‘One Of A Kind (Love Affair)’.  The 1-2-3  boom rhythm kick pattern was devised from the roots of down home gospel, designed especially for Bobbie and Philippe’s lead vocals.


‘One Of A Kind (Love Affair)’  backed by the jazzy  ‘Don't Let  The Green Grass Fool You’  hit (No. 1 R&B June 9, 1973) for 4 weeks.   ‘The Spinners’   self-titled LP  released in the spring

 of 1973,  zoomed straight to the No. 1 position on the R&B  LP charts for 3 weeks , earning them their first gold album.  ' Ghetto Child’  the quintet’s fifth single release,  charted (No. 4 R&B Aug  1973).


Two new songwriters,  Charles Simmons  and  Bruce Hawes would  join songwriting forces with Joseph B. Jefferson and compose tunes  that tell the deep tales of true love affairs.  Their first collaboration  together  was  ‘Mighty Love’.   Issued as a two parted single, on

Dec 20, 1973, the song earned the Spinners their 4th number one  R&B single,  the week ending  Sat March 2, 1974.  The  ‘Mighty  Love’  LP was released in January 3, 1974 and issued two classic  singles,  the feel good churchly  ‘I'm Coming Home’  b/w  ‘ He'll  Never Love You Like I Do’  (No. 3 R&B May 1974) and the song that described the coldhearted facts of about love,  ‘Love Don't  Love Nobody’  b/w  ‘(Part 2)’  (Sept 1974). The self-tilted LP  became the quintet second gold album.  The decorative front  cover illustration was designed by artist Stanislaw Zagorski and liner notes written by Louise Williams, describing each members astronomical sign, with Billy Henderson’s  Leo the Lion sign  interestingly being displayed on the bottom of the  front cover,  since being the founding member of the group.


Dionne Warwick would enjoy a comeback success with her duet with the Spinners.  Adding the ‘e’ to her last name as a sign of good luck,  she signed with Warner Bros. and released a  single titled,  ‘(I'm) Just Being Myself’  (No. 62 R&B July 1973).   With no hits to her avail, Dionne continued to be a draw in concerts  all over the world. She began a five week tour in

Las Vegas with the Spinners as an opening act.  Dionne asked the quintet if producer Thom Bell would be interested in doing something with her.  Thom was reluctant at first but said that he would cut two singles with her and the group.


‘Then Came You’  was first and  ‘Just As Long As We Have Love’ was the second.  In Leo Sacks interview with Thom Bell,  Bell quoted ‘that Dionne made a face after the session and didn't care for the songs very much.  So, Thom ripped a dollar in two and signed each half and exchanged them.  Bell told her that if the song doesn't go to number one,  I'll send you my half.   ‘Then Came You’  b/w  ‘Just As Long As We Have Love shot straight to number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 list and No. 2 R&B (Kool & the Gang’s  ‘Higher Plane’ prevented it from the number one spot) making this Dionne’s first No. 1 in four years and the Spinners first and only No. 1 pop hit in October 1974. Dionne sent back the half torn dollar bill toThom Bell with an apology.     


  The Spinners next project was  yet another masterpiece. The  ‘New And Improved’  LP was issued in November 1974.  Atlantic vice-president Henry Allen collected a collage of baby photographs from each member and displayed it on the front cover on the album, designed as a guessing  game for adoring music fans to identify each member. 


 ‘Living A Little, Laughing A Little’  b/w  ‘Smile, We Have Each Other’   was the first single issued in February 1975, charted  (No. 7 R&B).   ‘Sadie’  b/w  ‘Lazy Susan’  was a tribute to

 mothers from all walks of life.  Sadie was the name of co- writer Charles Simmons’ mother.  Released in May of 75’ the song hit (No. 7 R&B) became a radio favorite every

Mother’s  Day.   ‘Then Came You’  was added as the 3rd track on side A.  ‘New And Improved’ became the Spinners 3rd gold album.



The hits just kept on coming and everything the Detroit quintet  touched seem to turn to gold instantly. No longer were they on  the bottom of the hitless totem pole.  But success didn’t come without problems……………………


                                                     (End of Part 1)   Continued Part II



                                                     Soulfully Yours,

                                                        Mike Boone

                                                 (Chancellor of Soul)



                                                       (Sept 2008)



                  Materials should not be used or altered without expressed permission

                  of the author,  Mike Boone  (Chancellor of Soul)



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