The fourth time is the charm for the Spinners in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The R&B vocal group — best known for its 1970s Atlantic Records hits such as “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “The Rubberband Man,” “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick — was nominated in the performer category in 2012, 2015 and 2016 without getting the nod. This year it did, however, and will be one of seven performer acts inducted at the 38th annual ceremony on Nov. 3 in Brooklyn.
“It feels great. I really does,” Henry Fambrough, the sole surviving founding member of the group, tells Billboard from his home in Virginia. “I just wish all the other guys were here to see it. It really is a great honor.”
Fambrough, 84, recently announced his retirement from the Spinners, which released its latest album, ‘Round the Block and Back Again, in 2021. The baritone will be inducted along with fellow founding members Pervis Jackson, who died in 2008, Billy Henderson (2007), Bobbie Smith (2013) and Philippé Wynne, the group’s lead tenor from 1972-77 (1984).
Fambrough acknowledged that he’s been “a little disappointed” that the Spinners failed to be inducted on its other nominations. “But you have to carry on, you have to keep going,” he says. “If you’re nominated, at least you know someone is thinking about you.”
The group formed in Detroit during 1954, known at varying times as the Detroit Spinners and the Motown Spinners. It recorded first for former manager and group member Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi Records, then became part of Motown when Fuqua sold his label to Berry Gordy Jr., his brother-in-law. The group’s success at Motown was limited: two top 10s on the chart now known as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The group members supplemented their income by working in Motown’s record packaging plant, tour managing other acts or, in Fambrough’s case, serving as chauffeur for Gordy’s mother, who he says was “a great lady.”
After the Stevie Wonder-produced “It’s a Shame” in 1970, the Spinners took Aretha Franklin’s suggestion to sign with Atlantic, where producer Thom Bell took the group to new heights – seven top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (including the chart-topping “Then Came You” collab with Dionne Warwick) in eight years, six of them No. 1 hits on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, along with six consecutive gold albums. “When we signed (Bell) told us, ‘A year from now, you’re gonna be the No. 1 group in the country,'” Fambrough recalls. “And we were like, ‘Yeah. Right. Thank you.’ But it was true.”
The Rock Hall induction is not the Spinners’ first career honor. The group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976 and was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. And Fambrough is confident that the current lineup will maintain the group’s pedigree, bolstered by its new Rock Hall props.
“Those guys have the groove down. They’re special,” Fambrough says. “Y’know, we made a pact with each other, back in the beginning; ‘We’re gonna make it or we’re not gonna make it, but whatever we do we’re gonna do it together.’ And when one of the guys would pass away, we would get somebody else to come in who was thinking like we thought and had the idea of the future that we wanted and just keep it going.”