Long before the Spinners amassed a stack of gold albums and singles with producer Thom Bell at Atlantic Records in the 70s, they spent eight years working hard at Motown. For the first four of those years, the period covered by this CD, the group recorded some very tasty tracks but had only four singles released.
It was good luck that brought the Spinners together in the first place. “I was watching a local television show called Saturday Evening Dance Party with C.P. Spencer,” founder member Billy Henderson told Black Stars magazine back in 1975. “The amateur vocal groups always won. So I said if those guys can sing, so can I. I asked C.P. if he knew anybody that could sing bass and baritone because I could sing tenor. That’s how Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson and I got together. Pervis tried to give us a hard time, since he was one of the few baritones around and popular in school, but we pulled him anyhow.”
“Bobby Smith had the car so we had to get him with us,” recalled Pervis. “Henry lived down the street from me and I would see him carrying a guitar back and forth to church, so I figured there goes our guitar player. We asked him to be in the group, figuring he could give us some backup music. We found out that he was carrying the guitar for his minister at church. Henry couldn’t play a note, but he could sing bass, so we kept him.”
It was bad luck that kept them standing in the shadows at Motown. Billy: “We literally sat around and watched the other acts become superstars: the Supremes – we worked with them in the early days of their success; the Temptations; the Four Tops; Marvin Gaye – who played drums for us a couple of times; and Tammi Terrell – who we loved dearly.” The great UK Tamla Motown re-issue programme of the late 60s and early 70s, which ought to have made the Spinners household names, bypassed the group entirely.
Good fortune teamed the Spinners with some of Motown’s finest writers and producers. Sterling work with Harvey Fuqua, Ivy Jo Hunter, Mickey Stevenson and Johnny Bristol make the tracks on this collection so special.
Their 1967 album “The Original Spinners” – including the singles ‘Sweet Thing’, ‘I’ll Always Love You’, ‘Truly Yours’ and ‘For All We Know’ – appears here on CD for the first time. Other gems from the LP include Smokey Robinson’s ‘Like A Good Man Should’ and fan favourite ‘I Cross My Heart’, composed by Stevie Wonder with Ivy Jo Hunter.
Of the 14 contemporaneous bonus titles here, 10 are previously unissued, all freshly transferred from the Motown master tapes. These include ballads such as ‘Darling’ and ’12 O’clock’, which display the group’s doo wop roots, and a handful of top-of-the-range stompers in the classic Motown style.
Motown never sounded better than when in the hands of master stylists such as the Spinners. This set, featuring an essay by Motown expert Keith Hughes based on a new interview with lead singer Bobby Smith, means we have, at last, paid the Spinners their due.
By Eric Charge