The Spinners

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Long-running U.K. folk group credited for introducing many fans to folk music.
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No, these Spinners are not Philippe Wynne and company out of Philadelphia, but a Liverpool-based folk quartet formed by Mick Groves, Hugh Jones, Cliff Hall, and Tony Davis in the basement of a restaurant during the early '60s. Playing acoustic guitars and tin whistle, they specialized in traditional folk and folk revival material, and fit in perfectly with the spirit of the times -- when folk music was all the rage on college campuses and in cabaret. The fact that they were a multiracial group, Cliff Hall being a black man from Jamaica, made them somewhat unusual amid the dozens of clean-scrubbed white collegiate types who were doing this kind of music; additionally, their willingness to rearrange folk material for their four voices put them closer in sound and spirit to the Brothers Four than to the Young Tradition, and their genial presentation took care of the rest.

The group's reputation grew in Liverpool and expanded through the north of England, and this led to their getting important television exposure, which, in turn, resulted in a steady stream of concerts and cabaret engagements in England and on the European continent. Recordings for the British Pickwick label followed throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, juxtaposing folk revival material and the occasional contemporary song with the proper sensibilities, such as Earl Robinson's "Black and White." They were still going strong until the late '80s, and were lucky in another key respect as well -- the Liverpool-spawned Spinners were such a purely British phenomenon, with no presence whatever within the United States (where they would have had to bill themselves as something like "the Liverpool Spinners"), that they managed to avoid a legal showdown with the Philadelphia soul outfit over the use of the name "the Spinners." (One could just picture one potential result of a lawsuit, a "mega-Spinners" tour with the Liverpool bunch doing their version of "Rubberband Man," complete with tin whistle, and John Edwards and company trying their hand on "A-Soalin'" or "The Leaving of Liverpool.")