The Spinners: DFP Article 1995 Oct 31, 2006 20:42:44 GMT -5
Post by Emerald City on Oct 31, 2006 20:42:44 GMT -5
Spinners are soul mates in music and life
October 15, 1995
BY BRIAN MCCOLLUM
Free Press Pop Music Writer
They aren't the Temptations. They aren't the Four Tops. Lord knows they're not the Supremes.
But somehow the Spinners, big-name factor aside, claimed a place as one of the most stable and enduring of Motown's old- school acts.
Yes, it's true that the bulk of the quintet's classic material -- "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," "The Rubberband Man," "Ghetto Child" -- was recorded for Atlantic Records. And, yes, the group's best and most familiar work was snipped straight from the cloth of Philly soul that blanketed airwaves during the early '70s.
But the men in the Spinners -- old Ferndale buddies from way back when -- are Detroit devotees through and through. And these days, they say, they're musically and emotionally tighter than ever.
"Maybe it's because we were friends first," says rugged- voiced Pervis Jackson, who supplies the group's low-end vocal grooves. "When you're talking about the Spinners, you're talking about four guys who grew up together: Billy Henderson, Bobbie Smith, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson."
(Most of the Spinners' lead vocal work now is handled by John Edwards, a Spinner since the 1977 departure of original member Philippe Wynne, who later died onstage at a solo show in California. Edwards had sporadically filled in for Wynne since 1973.)
"Even if we'd never been together as a group," Jackson says, "we'd still see each other every day."
They've certainly done plenty of that. The Spinners' members have been buckled to this music thing -- first as the Domingos, later as the Detroit Spinners -- for more than four decades now.
That's 34 years of performing "That's What Girls Are Made For," the band's first single. That's 23 years of performing "I'll Be Around," its first Top 10 hit. That's 15 years of performing "Cupid/I've Loved You For a Long Time," its last venture into the Top 40.
That's a lot of performing. That's a lot of the same material -- over and over and over. And that's OK, Jackson says.
"We don't get tired of (the hit songs), because our audiences don't get tired of them," he says. "These are songs that we must do every time we go on stage. Sometimes we'll play with them, change them around some, but they're still the must songs."
Jackson and the Spinners will roll out all those fine must songs, and maybe a few other goodies, during Friday's Legends of Motown concert at the Fox Theatre.
Proceeds from the show, which also features Detroit peers Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, the Temptations and the Four Tops, will be pumped into the loan fund of the Think Twice Foundation, which assists housing and neighborhood revitalization projects.
All four acts will be backed by the instrumentalists who have logged miles with the Tempts and Tops on the ongoing Legends of Motown tour, which made a summer stop at Pine Knob Music Theatre.
Group manager Buddy Allen of New York has been on board just as long, overseeing the relentless touring schedule that keeps the guys on the road nearly 300 days a year.
Sure, Allen has reason to be a little biased, but you've got to believe him when he says this group of fiftysomethings is one of the most durable acts he's ever known.
"I've been in show business a long time. I'm not a young man. I can tell you: These are the most dedicated professionals you could ever meet," he says, pointing to the rigorous itinerary that takes the Spinners to an seemingly endless succession of state fairs, private parties and reunion shows like next weekend's Fox Theatre gathering.
"They are very busy. They work all the time. As we're talking, they're out of town to do five dates in a row."
This year's version of the breakneck schedule has propelled the band onto the sets of "The Jon Stewart Show" and "Today," through two Detroit dates, and even onstage with Rappin' 4- Tay, a California hip-hopper who stormed charts in April with a reworked version of "I'll Be Around," featuring vocals from the Spinners' 1972 cut.
Oldies stations might be the Spinners' primary radio venue these days, but it's hard to avoid the group's sound in other places. "I'll Be Around" recently landed a spot on the hot "Dead Presidents" soundtrack. With R&B vocal groups back in vogue, it's easy to spy the Spinners' fluid gospel style in upbeat songs by Boyz II Men and other popular acts.
And while artists like James Ingram and Regina Belle take to the airwaves with full-fledged remakes of Spinners songs, snippets of old tracks continue to pop up on a host of hip-hop tunes.
It's enough to make Pervis Jackson chuckle, though he does it while keeping his ears peeled for any breaches of the Spinners' feel-good ethic. "It's a compliment -- as long as it's done in good taste," he says of the sampling, in which producers take bits and pieces of existing recordings and weave them into new songs. "We like to think that back in the years that (Spinners material) was recorded and introduced to the public, it was done in good taste. We want it to remain that way."
So while other acts have fun recycling old Spinners' sounds, the group itself is busy writing and recording for an album it hopes to release by early 1996.
"Even to this day we have our dreams," says Jackson. "This has been very lucrative for us, but there are still a lot of things we want to accomplish."
Like scoring just one more smash single? One more song to tack onto the collection of 16 Top 40 hits? Jackson laughs.
"Yeah, man," he says. "That's it."