Formed in 1954 at Ferndale High School, near Detroit, Michigan, USA, and originally known as the Domingoes, Henry Fambrough (b. 10 May 1935, Detroit, Michigan, USA, some sources cite 1938), Robert ‘Bobby’ Smith (b. 10 April 1937, Detroit, Michigan, USA), Billy Henderson (b. 9 August 1939, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, d. 2 February 2007, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA), Pervis Jackson (b. 17 May 1938, USA) and George Dixon (b. USA) became the Spinners upon signing with the Tri-Phi label in 1961 (the prefix ‘Motown’ and/or ‘Detroit’ was added in the UK to avoid confusion with the Spinners folk group). Producer and songwriter Harvey Fuqua signed the group to his Tri-Phi Records label, with debut single ‘That’s What Girls Are Made For’ reaching number 5 in the US R&B chart and broaching the pop Top 30. Edgar ‘Chico’ Edwards (b. USA) then replaced Dixon, but although Fuqua took the quintet to Motown Records in 1963, they were overshadowed by other signings and struggled to gain a commercial ascendancy. ‘I’ll Always Love You’ was a minor US hit in 1965, but the group spent the rest of the decade working behind the scenes at Motown.
In 1967, G.C. Cameron (b. George Curtis Cameron, Jackson, Mississippi, USA) replaced George Dixon but it was not until three years later that the Spinners achieved a major success when the Stevie Wonder composition ‘It’s A Shame’ (with lead vocals by Cameron) reached the Top 20 in both the USA and the UK. The following year the group moved from the Motown imprint V.I.P. to Atlantic Records on the suggestion of Aretha Franklin. However, Cameron opted to remain at Motown and thus new singer Philippe Wynne (b. Philip Walker, 3 April 1941, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 14 July 1984, Oakland, California, USA) was added to the line-up. His expressive falsetto lent an air of distinctiveness to an already crafted harmony sound and, united with producer Thom Bell, the Spinners completed a series of exemplary singles that set a benchmark for sophisticated 70s soul. ‘I’ll Be Around’, ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ (both 1972), ‘One Of A Kind (Love Affair)’ (1973) and ‘Mighty Love Part 1’ (1974) were each R&B chart-toppers, while ‘Then Came You’, a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, topped the US pop chart. ‘Ghetto Child’ (1973) and ‘The Rubberband Man’ (1976) provided international success as the quintet deftly pursued a sweet, orchestrated sound that nonetheless avoided the sterile trappings of several contemporaries.
The early Atlantic singles featured the smooth-voiced Smith as lead, but later singles featured the baroque stylings of Wynne. New lead Johnathan Edwards (b. 25 December 1944, USA) replaced Wynne when the latter left for Funkadelic in 1977, but the Spinners continued to enjoy hits, notably with ‘Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl’, which reached number 1 in the UK and number 2 in the USA. A medley of ‘Cupid’ and ‘I’ve Loved You For A Long Time’ reached both countries’ respective Top 10s in 1980, but an ensuing unstable line-up undermined the group’s subsequent career. They remain a popular live act and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 1999. The Spinners’ exemplary output between 1971 and 1973 represented a peak of sweet Philadelphia soul.