Five Reasons the Spinners Should Be in the Hall of Fame
The Spinners helped create the sound of an era with a parade of soul and pop hits beginning in 1973. Their music has lived on thanks to its sly sophistication, love-struck lyrics and timeless hooks.
The lineup whittled down over the years to stalwart Henry Fambrough and a group of newer collaborators, but the songs – and memories of the camaraderie – remain: "The other guys are gone, but they're still with us any time we sing," Fambrough told Billboard. "This group's bigger than any one of us."
After a slow start at Motown, the Spinners switched to Atlantic Records at Aretha Franklin's suggestion – then started piling up hits. They've had 17 Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and a trio of R&B No. 1 albums. "Then Came You" went to No. 1 on the pop chart, while "The Rubberband Man" and "Working My Way Back to You" both reached No. 2.
The band's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled back in 1976, and they were admitted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. They've been eligible for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 1987 and were first nominated in 2012, the first of four nominations, yet somehow still haven't joined contemporaries like the Isley Brothers, Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone and Smokey Robinson. Here are five reasons why the Spinners should be honored, too.
They Worked Their Way Up, Literally, From the Bottom
The Spinners got off to a respectable start with 1961's "That's What Girls Are Made For," a No. 5 R&B smash that also reached the pop Top 30. That eventually led to a deal with Motown. But the Spinners ended up releasing nine non-charting singles over the rest of the '60s – including a stunning five in a row. Desperate to recoup something from their investment, the label reassigned the Spinners to menial jobs around the office. They worked as drivers, roadies and even shipping clerks. Fast forward a few years, and the Spinners could be found on the big screen during The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and guesting on TV's Laverne and Shirley after reeling off five straight gold-selling Top 5 R&B hit albums.
They Got Bigger After a Huge Lineup Change
The Spinners' early tenure at Motown certainly wasn't celebrated, but they managed to score one bona fide hit with a 1970 cover of Steve Wonder's "It's a Shame" before leaving. The No. 14 pop single served as Wonder's first outside production project and featured early singer G.C. Cameron. But Cameron declined to follow the Spinners to a new label, so his cousin, Philippe Wynne, stepped in to share lead vocal duties with Bobby Smith. They caught fire, as the Thom Bell-produced Spinners LP kicked off an era that included seven Top 10 singles – including "I'll Be Around," "Then Came You" "The Rubberband Man" and "Working My Way Back to You."
They Helped Secure Thom Bell's Considerable Legend
Thom Bell is known today as an architect of the Philly R&B sound, and that's in large part due to his career-breaking association with the Spinners, for whom he'd eventually produce and write songs. He started, however, as a piano player in a group backing the then-unknown Spinners at a Philadelphia nightclub along the way. They eventually made their way to Atlantic Records, while Bell honed his considerable skills as a soul Svengali. Given a list of possible collaborators by label heads, Bell bypassed bigger names like Aretha Franklin to re-connect with the Spinners, who'd impressed him years before with "That's What Girls Are Made For." He oversaw all of their classic-era albums, winning a Grammy for producing 1974's Mighty Love.
They Know How to Make an Entrance
Bobby Smith was a car buff who had been around almost since the beginning. He originally suggested they call themselves the Spinners – after an old-school hubcap – because people kept misspelling their early name, the Domingoes. Cancer eventually slowed Smith, however, and he began to miss shows. Ronnie Moss took over and Smith's presence at events like the Soul Train Cruise in February 2013 was considered ceremonial. Then a miracle happened when they launched into "Then Came You." "Like something out of a movie," bandmate Jessie Peck told the Detroit Free Press, "Bobby shoots right out onstage and, showman that he is, grabs a mic and sings right on cue. The audience went bananas." Smith died that March at 76.
They've Never Lost a Connection With Their Legacy
Five friends from a Detroit-area housing project got together in 1954 to form the Domingoes – and Henry Fambrough was one of them. They changed their name, changed labels, and then saw fellow vocalists like G.C. Cameron, Bobby Smith and Philippe Wynne come and go. Only Fambrough remains as the last surviving member of the Spinners' original lineup – and cheerful guardian of the flame. "I'll keep going until I can't go no more!" Fambrough, now 84, told the Times-Bulletin. "I have no plans to retire. I mean, what would I do sitting down at home?" Key singer on "Ghetto Child" and "How Could I Let You Get Away," he can still be found showing fresh faces the group's silky smooth dance moves. Fambrough also led the Spinners back to the studio for the first time in decades, completing 2021's comeback Round the Block and Back Again.