Getting their start in 1954 in their hometown of Detroit, The Spinners have been sharing their unique R&B and funk stylings for more than 70 years. The band’s classic five-man lineup consisted of Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobbie Smith and Philippé Wynne, who all spent nearly two decades in their hometown. Over the years they’ve been known as The Detroit Spinners, The Motown Spinners and simply as The Spinners.
They largely worked as an opening act in their earlier years, supporting icons such as Marvin Gaye or other Motown acts. Throughout their time with the iconic label, The Spinners focused on building up their audience and live act with precision and highly choreographed dance moves and matching outfits. This set the stage for long-term success that would allow them to continue touring long after their massive hits stopped coming.
The group had their first major headline performance at the Apollo Theater in 1964. Over the course of their 70-year tenure, the band consistently returned to the venue.
Aretha Franklin inspired the group’s move to Atlantic Records, which led to the group teaming up with producer, arranger and writer Thom Bell. Starting with 1972’s “I’ll Be Around,” The Spinners became hit-making machines with numerous Top 10 hits and even reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their Dionne Warwick collaboration, “Then Came You.” Bell helped pioneer the wondrous “Philadelphia Sound” and created their biggest hits, including the mid-70s standards “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love?,” “One Of A Kind (Love Affair),” “Games People Play” and “The Rubberband Man,” a radio staple for decades which surged in popularity in 2018 after the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord and Gamora sing the tune in the Marvel movie “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Before Thom, we didn’t have anyone to produce and write songs with us in mind,” Fambrough said in an interview with Tidal earlier this year. “Thom had a whole staff of writers who created music specifically for the way we sing and how the whole group works together. When they did that, our style finally came to light.”
Even after their most fruitful period came to an end, The Spinners never stopped. Instead, they turned their focus back to their live performances, playing their biggest hits as a legacy touring act. They joined cruise ship lineups and held residencies in Las Vegas, their members performing until the end of their lives.
Fambrough is the original group’s sole surviving member, though he retired from the group earlier this year. The Spinners have been nominated for the Rock Hall three other times, with Fambrough telling Tidal, “This is something that all of the other guys were dreaming about, too.”
Even without its original members, The Spinners still have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Fambrough stated earlier this year that, while the others are no longer around, he believes they’re still with the world whenever the music is played and performed.