Legendary group still alive 60 years later
At the recently televised Grammy Awards on CBS, the show’s producers mistakenly misidentified two members of The Spinners during the portion of the show that commemorates musician-industry types who died throughout the previous year.
In this case, Robert “Bobbie” Smith, who died in March 2013, was misidentified in a photo during the special dedication at the show’s 56th annual event.
Instead of using Smith’s photo, the Grammy Recording Academy inadvertently displayed a photo of longtime Spinners lead singer Jonathan Edwards, who still makes special appearances with the group.
To date, it’s not clear whether Grammy producers and their research department are even aware of the mistake. In my internet research, I could not find any mention of the error.
Smith was a founding member of the group when it formed in 1954 at suburban Detroit’s Ferndale High School. He also led the group’s first hit, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” recorded in 1961 on Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi label. Fuqua is also credited with discovering Washington, D.C. native Marvin Gaye.
Meanwhile, Edwards, who hails from St. Louis, joined the group in the late 1970s when the late Philippe’ “Soul” Wynne left the group and opted for a solo career — joining forces with Parliament-Funkadelic founder/innovator George Clinton and his P-Funk Army.
Smith recorded some of The Spinners’ biggest hits in the early 1970s including “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Games People Play” and he co-led “Then Came You” with legendary songstress Dionne Warwick.
After Edwards joined the Spinners in 1977, he provided a different flavor to the group over his lead-singing predecessors G.C. Cameron, Bobbie Smith and Soul Wynne. Edwards’ smooth, gospel-like soulful approach was often compared to Chicago legend Sam Cooke, but Edwards’ varying ranges and ability to reach incredibly-high notes, distinguished him from the rest.
His biggest hit with The Spinners was the groups’ medley cover of Cooke’s “Cupid/I’ve Loved You For a Long Time” and the Four Seasons’ hit “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl,” both recorded circa 1979-1980. Edwards’ finest work is displayed in the groups’ 1982 cover of Willie Nelson’s “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away.”
Soul Wynne is forever recalled for his impromptu onstage antics, exemplified on 1975’s Spinners Live! (Atlantic Records) double-LP release. He had the innate ability to “go to church,” so aptly reflected on the hit single “Sadie” – one of the groups’ all-time classic recordings.
In addition to Bobbie Smith and Soul Wynne, other deceased members of The Spinners are C.P. Spencer, Billy Henderson, and bass singer Pervis “12:45” Jackson.
Henry Fambrough is the only remaining original member of The Spinners, although Edwards still performs on a limited basis after reportedly suffering from a debilitating stroke in 2002.
Through it all, the group actively tours nationally and internationally — 60 years after it all started in Motor City, Michigan.