Monday, 17 June 2024

CyberSoulMan: The Spinners Stimulus Package, part two

Spinners members, from left, Jessie Peck, Charleton Washington, Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambrough. Photo by David Stearn.



Immediately after the Spinners exemplary show last Saturday May 16, photographer David Stearn and I sought out Spinners Road Manager Tunis Wilson and he led us back to the dressing room where the group held forth.

Original Spinners Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambaugh did most of the talking while the newer members just kinda sat around and soaked it up. Though they, too (Charleton Washington, Spike Delong and Jessie Peck), were very knowledgeable about the group’s history.

The late great Phillipe Soul Wynne, one of the most popular singers that ever sang with the Spinners, was the first subject of discussion. Wynne died in July of 1984 just a couple of months after another great balladeer, Mr. Marvin Gaye. I asked about Jonathan Edwards, who replaced Wynne, and was told that he has retired from performing due to health reasons.

The group formed in 1955 while attending Ferndale High near Detroit, Mich. They were originally called the Domingoes, but because of the similarity and confusion with two other vocal groups of the day, the Flamingos and the Dominos, they elected early on to become the Spinners, more specifically the Detroit Spinners, so as not to be confused with a folk group out of UK with the same name.

Around 1960, the group signed with Harvey Fuqua of Harvey & The Moonglows. Fuqua had a record label called Tri-Phi Records upon whose imprint their first hit, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” was recorded in 1961.

Your CyberSoulMan had to make an honest confession to the group as I had always, in my mind, attributed that song to another Doo-Wop group, Shep & The Limelights. Bobbie Smith and Henry Fambaugh got a kick out of my faux pas.

Though “That’s What Girls Are Made For” was a big hit for Tri-Phi the label couldn’t keep afloat. Fuqua was married to Gwen Gordy, Berry Gordy’s sister, and Tri-Phi was subsequently swallowed by Motown in 1964.

Smith and Fambaugh both stated that while at Motown they recorded a fair amount of music, it was frequently shelved by Berry Gordy.

Gordy’s power extended to the radio stations the two original Spinners stated. When they asked the DJs why their records weren’t being played, they were told that Gordy told them to play Marvin Gaye.

The Spinners went more than five years without a significant hit. In 1970 Gordy finally released a Spinners cut entitled “It’s A Shame,” which was co-written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright. Smith and Fambaugh assert that even with Wonder’s awesome talent the song sat on the shelf for over a year before Gordy deemed it marketable.

In1972 after touring with Lady Soul Aretha Franklin and becoming increasing frustrated with Motown’s tactics, the Spinners jumped to Atlantic Records at Franklin’s prompting. When the Spinners signed with Atlantic, they lost one of their members, G. C. Cameron, who decided to remain with Motown as a solo artist. He was replaced by Phillipe Wynne.




From left, Charleton Washington, Bobbie Smith, Henry Fambrough and Spike Deleon. Photo by David Stearn.



Under the production helm of the renowned Thom Bell, the Spinners started to chart regularly and became one of the most successful Soul groups of the 70s.

The group is still immensely popular in Europe, particularly in England, where the audiophiles have discovered even unreleased material from the Tri-Phi years. Their whole recorded output is highly valued in England. Smith said that a UK-based writer told him that Berry Gordy was crazy for not releasing the bulk of Spinners material that he had control over.

The Spinners 2003 career retrospective release, “The Chrome Collection,” continues to sell and garner airplay both at home and abroad. In turn they continue to work all over the world as well, taking the Spinners Stimulus package to venues all over the globe.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Kool & The Gang perform at Cache Creek Casino on Sunday, May 24, at 8 p.m. Cache Creek is located at 14455 Highway 16 in Brooks, telephone 888-77-CACHE.

The Manhattan Transfer is appearing at Cache Creek on Saturday, May 30, at 8 p.m.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

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