The Blueprint for Philly Soul: The Spinners

The doo-wop vets who brought Philly Soul into focus

The (Detroit) Spinners
The (Detroit) Spinners.

Who were the Spinners? 

Sometimes called the (Detroit) Spinners in the UK to differentiate them from a native folk group, the Spinners were nevertheless the prime architects of Philly Soul, turning lush soul into pop classics that dominated early '70s AM radio. 

The Spinners' best-known songs:

  • "I'll Be Around"
  • "One of a Kind (Love Affair)"
  • "The Rubberband Man"
  • "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love"
  • "It's a Shame"
  • "Then Came You" (with Dionne Warwick)
  • "Working My Way Back to You / Forgive Me, Girl"
  • "(They Just Can't Stop It The) Games People Play"
  • "Mighty Love"
  • "Cupid / I've Loved You for a Long Time"

Where you might have heard them Their footprint in '70s R&B is probably never gonna fade, but you may have also come across "It's a Shame" in an episode of "Everybody Hates Chris," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" on "True Blood," or "The Rubberband Man" in Bill Murray's classic comedy Stripes and not one but two episodes of "That '70s Show"

Formed 1961 (Detroit, MI)

Styles Philly Soul, Soul, R&B, Pop-Soul, Dance, Disco

The classic (Detroit) Spinners lineup:

Philippe Soul Wynne (b. April 3, 1941, Detroit, MI; d. July 14, 1984, Oakland, CA): vocals (falsetto); Billy Henderson (b. August 9, 1949, Indianapolis, IN; d. February 2, 2007, Daytona Beach, FL): vocals (tenor); Pervis Jackson (b. May 17, 1938, New Orleans, LA; d. August 18, 2008, Detroit, MI): vocals (bass); Henry Fambrough (b. May 10, 1935, Detroit, MI): vocals (baritone); Robert "Bobbie" Smith (b. April 10, 1937, Detroit, MI; d. March 16, 2013, Orlando, FL): vocals (tenor)

Claims to fame:

  • The most successful of the "Philly Soul" groups, despite the fact that they were from Detroit
  • Lead singer Phillipe Wynne was considered one of the great falsetto/tenors in all of Seventies soul
  • Wynne's ability to "vamp" over repetitive choruses inspired a generation of soul singers
  • One of the longest-lived vocal groups in history, remaining popular from the doo-wop era through a Motown stint and well into the Eighties
  • Successfully crossed over into disco when Philly Soul fell out of favor

(Detroit) Spinners History

Early years

Often called the Detroit Spinners or the Motown Spinners in the UK (so as to distinguish the group from a Liverpool folk group with the same name), the quintet began way back in 1955 as a high-school doo-wop group called the Domingoes. By 1961, they were the Spinners, and Harvey Fuqua (former Moonglow, later of Motown) signed them to his local Tri-Phi Records. Their first release, "That's What Girls Are For," hit the R&B Top Ten that year, but a string of follow-ups flopped, and by 1965 they were struggling; when Berry Gordy's Motown label bought out Tri-Phi, the group moved along with Fuqua.


Hits were still hard to come by, however, and the Spinners began to feel lost in the shuffle of more  --important Motown artists. Finally, in 1970, Stevie Wonder gave the group his song "It's A Shame," which again cracked the R&B Top Ten and made inroads on the pop chart as well. The follow-ups again stalled, however, and in 1972, the group signed with Atlantic and recruited new lead tenor Phillipe Wynn. Working with producer Thom Bell, they were recreated as a Philly Soul group and began an astonishing run of R&B and pop hits for most of the decade -- this coming twelve years after their professional debut.

Later years

Disco didn't damage the careers of the Spinners nearly as much as it did many soul groups -- but Wynne's departure for a solo career in 1977 did derail them somewhat. Hooking up with disco producer Michael Zager, they scored two comebacks in 1980 by pairing up oldies like "Cupid" and "Working My Way Back to You" in medleys with Zager compositions. Wynne died of a heart attack in 1984 and Henderson (who'd sued the band in 2004 over financial disputes) passed on from diabetes complications in 2007; the last original member, Fambrough, now tours with former Delfonic Frank Washington on lead.

More About the (Detroit) Spinners

Other Spinners facts and trivia:

  • Bobbie Smith sang lead on "That's What Girls Are For" and "I'll Be Around," while G.C. Cameron takes the lead on "It's a Shame" and John Edwards sings on their "Cupid" and "Working My Way" medleys
  • Other members have included C.P. Spencer, James Edwards, George Dixon, and Edgar "Chico" Edwards
  • The group's name came from spinning tire rims popular in Detroit at the time
  • Aretha Franklin was responsible for getting the group from Motown to Atlantic
  • Dionne Warwick had to be convinced her collaboration on "Then Came You" would be a hit
  • Jackson got the nickname "12:45" after singing the phrase on "Games People Play"

Spinners Awards and Honors Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999), Hollywood Walk Of Fame (6723 Hollywood Blvd.)

Hit Spinners Songs and Albums

#1 hits
Pop "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick (1974), 

#1 hits
R&B "I'll Be Around" (1972), "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (1973), "(One Of a Kind) Love Affair"(1973), "Mighty Love - Pt. 1" (1974), "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" (1975), "The Rubberband Man" (1976)

Top 10 hits
Pop "I'll Be Around" (1972), "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (1973), "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)" (1975), "The Rubberband Man" (1976), "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" (1980), "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl" (1980)

R&B "That's What Girls Are Made For" (1961), "I'll Always Love You" (1965), "It's a Shame" (1970), "Ghetto Child" (1973), "I'm Coming Home" (1974), "Love Don't Love Nobody - Pt. I" (1974), "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick (1974), "Living a Little, Laughing a Little" (1975), "Sadie" (1975), "Love Or Leave" (1976), "You're Throwing a Good Love Away" (1977), "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" (1980), "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl" (1980)

#1 albums
R&B Spinners (1973), Mighty Love (1974), New and Improved (1975), Pick Of The Litter (1975)

Top 10 albums
Pop New And Improved (1975), Pick of the Litter (1975)

Top 10 albums
R&B Pick Of The Litter (1975), Happiness Is Being With The Spinners (1976), Spinners Live! (1976)

Notable covers Two members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a minor '80s hit with a rock-inflected version of "I'll Be Around," released under the name What Is This?; "It's a Shame" was sampled by UK rapper Monie Love for her 1990 hit "It's a Shame (My Sister)"

Movies and TV The group got their TV break in the most unlikely of places, debuting in 1963 on the musical variety show "Hullabaloo"; the entire group appeared as a gospel choir in the notorious 1975 basketball comedy flop The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh