By Ms. Osupa Nia
Posted November 12th 2018
MXO: Good Afternoon Mr. Fambrough..did I pronounce you last name correctly?
FAMBROUGH: Right, Henry Fambrough
MXO: Thank you for this interview Mr. Fambrough.
FAMBROUGH: It’s a pleasure, thank you.
MXO: Is it true you are one of the founding members of The Spinners formerly known as the ‘Domingoes’?
FAMBROUGH: Yes, it’s true.
MXO: Let’s see there was Billy Henderson, Edgar Chico Edwards
FAMBROUGH: Pervis Jackson and myself.
MXO: George Dixon.
FAMBROUGH: George Dixon, right.
MXO: And of course, Philippe Wynne came in later on.
FAMBROUGH: Yes, Philippe came in around ’68.
MXO: Sadly, you are the sole original survivor of the legendary Spinners?
FAMBROUGH: Yes, I am, Yes, I am.
MXO: Well you have lived a long life.
FAMBROUGH: I say thank the Lord for that you know.
MXO: Yes, and you’re still carrying the name on with a whole new troop. Are the young men that are currently performing with you from Detroit also?
FAMBROUGH: Yes, Flint Michigan most of them.
MXO: How was it working with Motown Records?
FAMBROUGH: Motown was great for us and for a lot of artist there. We signed with them after we left Tri-Phi records in ’61 and we signed with Motown because I was drafted in the service in ’61. I spent two years in the army. When I cam out we merged with Motown in ’63. We stayed with Motown until 1968-69. That’s when we signed with Atlantic Records going into the seventies.
MXO: In 1961 Motown was pretty much taking off itself?
FAMBROUGH: Yeh Motown was just beginning to spread it’s wings you know. They had Smokey
Robinson and The Miracles and a couple more acts. But they really took off in ’63-’65 when The Temptations, The Four Tops…all the big artist…Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and all of them. So, you know we signed to Motown at that time but we got kind of lost in the shuffle there. We had a big contract and it ran out in 1969. That’s when we met our producer at the time and he did all the big hits that we recorded at Atlantic Records.
MXO: Now Stevie Wonder wrote ‘It’s A Shame?
FAMBROUGH: Yes, ‘It’s A Shame’ was written by Stevie Wonder and performed by The Spinners. Stevie and I are still good friends. He told us back in the late ‘60’s…He said ‘man I gotta a hell of a song for you guys’ Okay good, and we recorded ‘It’s A Shame’ and they wanted to do an album, but our contract ran out. So, when our contract ran out, we didn’t want to sign back with Motown. We got lost in the shuffle…we’d been hanging around there for ten years. So, we didn’t want to do that anymore. But Stevie producing ‘It’s A Shame’; it was like number one across the country.
MXO: Oh my God, I remember in Cleveland it was THE hand dance song.
FAMBROUGH: So, we were fortunate to leave Motown with a hit record. And at that time, we were touring with Aretha Franklin. She was a good friend of ours. She was the one that recommended Atlantic Records to us. She told us, she said ‘Look ya’ll should think about Atlantic Records, they have been very good to me and they’ll be good to you guys.’ So, we took her advice and we talked to Atlantic Records and signed with them. As they say the rest is history.
MXO: So, you would say then that Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin had a major impact on The Spinners career?
FAMBROUGH: Right, Right…yes.
MXO: The switch to Atlantic Records and the addition of Philippe Wynne, did you know the The Spinners would take off like a rocket?
FAMBROUGH: No, we didn’t. We really didn’t (laughter). When it did happen, we were like my God. And everyone around the country was saying you guys got a different sound. Tom Bell is the one that gave us that sound because we never had anyone other that Stevie to concentrate on The Spinners voices you know what I mean. At Motown everybody that was producing at that time, they wanted their song to be sang by the hit people there…The Temptations, Four Top, you know. They didn’t want their song to be recorded by somebody that wasn’t out there you know what I’m saying. So that ‘s how that came by.
MXO: You know too that Philippe Wynne came from the Bootsy Collins Band which was really up and coming with the whole funk thing. He added that different flavor.
FAMBROUGH: Right and on top of that he had a unique sound and that’s what helped us a lot.
MXO: He did and I guess between you and Philippe and..
FAMBROUGH: Tom Bell
MXO: I mean you sang some lead vocals too.
FAMBROUGH: Oh, I did most of the ballads.
MXO: Bobby Smith also.
FAMBROUGH: Bobby was our main lead singer.
MXO: That’s right…but that’s good, you guys had like three powerful lead vocals!
FAMBROUGH: Oh yeh, and you know you listen to The Spinners and most people don’t realize that it was three different voices out there that was pushing it.
MXO: Indeed, The Temptations had David Ruffin. Eddie Kendricks was there sometimes. Dennis Edwards.
FAMBROUGH: Uh huh Dennis Edward came after David Ruffin.
MXO: Exactly and he was the lead. I guess a lot of the acts back then had that one specific lead but your guys were just rocking it.
FAMBROUGH: Well we have Tom Bell to thank for that because Tom concentrated on us. When Tom signed with Atlantic Records, they gave him the list of all their artist and he said The Spinners name was the last one at the bottom and it had been penciled in (laughter). It wasn’t typed it was penciled. They said well here’s the list and they asked him who did he want to produce? He said he looked at the bottom and he said ‘I want The Spinners!’ They went who (laughter)? Are you sure? ‘Ah huh…The Spinners.’ You see what happened before then Tom Bell was the keyboard player for the band at Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia for all the artist that came through there. He said he remembered The Spinners coming through there. He said the reason he liked The Spinners’ was because our harmony was set up different than anybody that’s playing out there. He said “I loved you guys’ after he came to Detroit to introduce himself to us. We remembered him you know. He said ‘I remembered you guys because I liked the way your harmony was set up because no one else had that type of sound that ya’ll have.’ That’s why I want to produce ya’ll.’
MXO: I See, and I just want to go off on a little tangent. It’s interesting now you don’t have R&B groups; male or female singing groups. It’s more the white people now (laughter). That’s a sad day when you have to listen for R&B on the pop stations.
FAMRBROUGH: You know!!! You know that‘s real bad! Laughter.
MXO: Well I’m not going to hold you up. 1972 was the year I graduated from high school. ‘I’lk Be Around, ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ made it one memorable year. Again, thank you so much for this interview Mr. Fambrough.
FAMBROUGH: I thank you for asking for this interview and you take care.
MXO: Have a nice one.
FAMBROUGH: And you too…have a good day!
The Urban League of Greater Cleveland is proud to present a benefit concert where The Spinners will grace the main stage at The Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park this Thursday, November 15th at 7:30pm.
More information available here.