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Interview With The Spinners Breakin' The Barriers

Interview With The Spinners Breakin' The Barriers image
Parent Issue
Day
8
Month
October
Year
1976
OCR Text

Ever since the beginnings of radio broadcasting in this country, the programming policies of most of the large white-owned stations have made it difficult, if not impossible, for black artists to be heard and accepted by the general public. In the last 20 years, however, the sheer power of the music has torced most of the white stations to loosen their racial restrictions, at least somewhat. The pioneers of rock n ' rol in the 50 's, the irresistible Motown Sound of the 60 's, and the "crossover" music of the 7O's has repeatedly demonstrated the primary role of the black artist in the field of popular music. The most popular black performers right now are generalij associated with the "Philly Sound" of the Philadelphia-based writer producer arrangers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell. The "Mighty Three," as they cali themselves, have been responsible for such crossover artists as the O']ays, The Stylistics, Harold Meivin and the Blue Notes, MFSB, Billy Paul, and the Spinners. Presently at a peak in their career due to a string of hit I ords produced by Thom Bell, the Spinners are Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith, Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, and Filipe "Soul" Wynne. All except Wynne are residents of this area, and they are known internationally as the "Detroit Spinners. " The Sun was in Lansing last week to catch the Spinners' show at the Lansing Civic Center, and we somehow managed to get an interview with four of them just bef ore they went on stage bef ore a frenzied crowd of approximately 8,000 young people. Most of the audience, by the way, was white. Sun: Let's talk about some of the old days. I understand that 4 of the members of the group carne from Ferndale, Michigan? Bobby Smith: Right, yeah. It was Pervis, Henry, myself and Billy. We all went to Lincoln High, that's an elementary, junior high now. Ferndale High has sorta replaced that. Sun: Was G.C. Cameron singing then with the group when it original ly got together? Maybe you should teil usabout your early days. Henry Fambrough: We got together in the mid-50's or the latter 50's. Of course, it wasn't until '61 that we made our first record. I think we got started around '56 or '57, and as I said earlier, in '61 our first record carne out. "That's What Girls Are Made For" was the name of t. Sun: On Motown. Henry Fambrough: No, that wasn't Motown, that was Tri-Fi Records, which was owned by Harvey Fuqua, our producer at the time. Three years later, in 1964, we ended up joining the Motown complex. Sun: Motown bought Tri-Fi? Pervis Jackson: Yes. In the process, Motown decided that they would keep the most promising of the Tri-Fi artists- Junior Walker and the All Stars was one of the groups, Johnny Bristol was another one of the artists. Shorty Long was another. Sun: You were called the Spinners from the git? Pervis Jackson: No. Our first name wa:. the Damingos. We ended up changing that because Damingos was too close to Flamingos, a popular singing group which still existed at that time. So we decided we had to change the name because people were calling us the Flamingos or the Dóminos. What really made us decide to change it was the time we played the Gold Coast Theatre a big extravaganza put on by one of the disc jockeys- I think it was Frantic Ernie Durham. As we were making our entry on the stage, one of the guys tripped over the microphone cords and feil. We didn't figure we were going on, but then we just went on and did the show and left. I was listening to the radio afterwards and the guy came on and said that "tonite's winners were the Damingos." I said, "Hey man, that's us!" So we go back down to piek up our money, man. Some other dude had walked up and said, "Yeah, we're the Damingos." Took the money and he split. Then we really decided to change our name. Sun: So that's how you ed the name of the group. Who wasbehind Tri-Fi? PerviJackson: Thatwasowned by the lead singer of the Moonglows, Harvey Fuqua. He came n and took over the company. As a matter of fact, t was a brand new company, a brand new group (which was us at the time) and a brand new record. Harvey also wrote and produced that particular record, "That's What Girls Are Made For." And we had several other records during the time we were with them, including "Love l'm So Glad I Found It." Sun: Who was singing lead? Henry Fambrough: Bobby was doing all of it. Then later on, when we joined Motown, say for a few years after being there, n '66 or '67- somewhere around there- G.C. Cameron came in as lead singer. He was the lead vocalist on "It's A Shame," which was written and produced for us by Stevie Wonder. The last record we recorded there, as a matter of fact-"We'll Have It Made," which was a follow-up to "It's A Shame"- G.C. did vocals on that. And then shortly after that he left. Fil came through about then. That was in '71 or '72the latter part of '71 . Sun: And at the same time you switched from Motown to Atlantic Records? Henry Fambrough: Well, at that time we had already made the move- we'd just signed. We . ured it was time for a change. Sun: It seemed like they didn't give you the attention at Motown they gave a lot of others. Henry Fambrough: It seemed like that to me, too. Sun: You went to Atlantic. . . Bobby Smith: Thom Bell came just after. We went to Atlantic. We did one session and they were supposed to get the record out, but t was a little wishy-washy. They said "this one sounds like a hit," but they was a little leery, I think. And then they called us and said, "Hey, Thom Bell wants to do a session on you guys. Do you want us to go with what you have or do you want to wait and do a session with Thom?" We'd rather have a session with Thom!! Well, the first few things that we did with Thom were 'Til Be Around," "How Could I Let You Get Away," "Could It Be l'm Falling in Love," and "Just You and Me Baby." Pervis Jackson: The first one was "How Could I Let You Get Away," "Could It Be l'm Falling in Love," 'Vil Be Around," and "One Of A Kind." Then we came back and did an album. Sun: What was the title of the album- The Spinners! Pervis Jackson: The Spinners. And then we came back with Mighty Love and Piek of the Litter, and then we did a live album. Then the one we have out now, Happiness, which also includes our latest hit, "Rubberband Man." Sun: Linda Creed, did she write the lyrics? Pervis Jackson: She has written a lot of our lyrics, and she did them all for the Stylistics when Thom was producing them. I think she did the lyrics för "Rubberband." Charles Simmons, Bruce Hall and joe Jefferson- they also have written a lot of our tunes. Sun: Fil, when the other guys were coming up in Detroit, you were raised in Ohio? FilipeWynne: Yeah, Cincinnati. I remember "That's What Girls Are Made For." Sun: What was your experience there when you started in show business? FilipeWynne: My family- we all sang together from the time we were very small. Later on I started singing with bands in different places- at one time I was on tour with Aretha Franklin's sister, Erma. I carne to Detroit and sang around local I y and, after my mom passed, I went to New Vork to have a change of scène. My sister was living there and I started singing with groups, did clubs, and sang with an African group called the Afro Kings that toured all over Europe. I came back to Detroit to visit my younger brother who was sick- he was living here. G.C. Cameron's brother was was in the same hospital as my own brother, and I had become friends with the Cameron family. They persuaded me to sing again, and they said that they liked what I did. Eventually I took G.C. 's place in the Spinners. Actually, everything worked out just like the Lord told me it would. And I thank the Lord for all my success . . . Bobby Smith: Hey man, they're playing the overture. Let's get up there ... o