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At Their Best, The Spinners Represented The Pinnacle Of The Philly Sound

The Spinners are an American rhythm and blues vocal group that formed in Ferndale, Michigan in 1954. They enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with producer Thom Bell. The group continues to tour, without any original members, after Henry Fambrough retired in 2023.

The group is also listed as the Detroit Spinners and the Motown Spinners, due to their 1960s recordings with the Motown label. These other names were used in the UK to avoid confusion with a British folk group also called the Spinners. On June 30, 1976, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Spinners were inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2023.

In 1954, Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C. P. Spencer, and James Edwards formed The Domingoes in Ferndale, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. The friends resided in Detroit’s Herman Gardens public housing project and came together to make music.

James Edwards remained with the group for a few weeks and was replaced by Bobby Smith, who sang lead on most of the Spinners’ early records and their biggest Atlantic Records hits. Spencer left the group shortly after Edwards, and later joined the Voice Masters and the Originals. George Dixon replaced Spencer, and the group renamed themselves the Spinners in 1961.

Stream The Very Best Of The Spinners

At their best, The Spinners represented the pinnacle of the Philly Sound. For “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and arranger Thom Bell borrowed the quietly pulsating drums of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and pillowed it with strokes of guitar, bells, and strings.

Unlike some of their masterful productions for The O’Jays and the Delfonics, Gamble and Huff never let The Spinners become overblown. Their songs translated the heart-pounding excitement of brand new love but made it sound like a private conversation in a corner booth.

Singer Phillippe Wynne led the group through a successful string of hits in the mid-Seventies, and though the group never again reached the heights of “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” Wynne’s feathery tenor was a perfect fit for sublime Gamble-Huff productions like “One of a Kind,” “Sadie,” and “They Just Can’t Stop It.”

The group ended their golden run with “The Rubberband Man” in late 1976. Thom Bell wrote the song as a way to cheer up his teenage son about his obesity, and it was the last Spinners hit to feature Wynne on lead vocals. The song is a lighthearted signpost for R&B’s transition towards disco, and it marks an end of era for both The Spinners and the gilded Philly sound they represented.

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