Bobby Smith on Soul Train

Bobbie Smith on Soul Train

One of my favorite songs from the Motown/Jobete catalog is 1966’s ‘Truly Yours’ by The Spinners.

That year 1966 began with the Temptations’ ‘Get Ready,’ and ended with the Tempts ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You.’ In between there were hits like The Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out’, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ The Supreme’s ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ and others that eclipsed nearly everything on the R&B and Pop charts. With the exception of ‘I’ll Always Love You,’ the Spinners – with front man Bobbie (or Bobby) Smith – were overshadowed and did not get another hit until 1970’s ‘It’s A Shame’ co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder (I love Marvin Marshall’s guitar intro to that song).

Listen to the Spinners’ “Truly Yours“:

It’s hard to imagine that a great song like ‘Truly Yours’ written by Ivy Joe Hunter and William ‘Mickey’ Stevenson could get lost in the shuffle, but that’s how powerful the Motown machine was producing hits upon hits, upon hits! The Spinners eventually moved on to Atlantic Records and recorded a breakthrough hit, ‘I’ll Be Around.’ The rest is history. In appreciation, following is a review I wrote while watching their 2008 performance onstage in Alhambra, California.

Following that is a link to The Detroit News coverage of Bobbie Smith’s funeral (3/25/13) by Susan Whitall.

the spinners


By Larry Buford

In Alhambra, a city just east of Los Angeles made up of about 86,000 people – the city where producer Phil Spector resided prior to being imprisoned for murder – Motown’s legendary Spinners performed at the 2008 Summer Jubilee (7/19/08).

The sun had already set on this outdoor venue as the Spinners took to the stage, and the minute they walked on, the audience knew something very special was about to take place. Dressed in immaculate lavender suits, their cool presence was like having an ice cream cone on a warm summer night.

They opened with “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” with the effervescent Bobbie Smith on lead vocals. The group’s every step and hand gesture was synchronized to near perfection with the exception of the bass singer Pervis Jackson who, for health reasons was seated on stage as he sang his parts (man does he have a deep voice!). Followed by “It’s A Shame,” then a rendition of the Willie Nelson tune “Funny” that offered first tenor Spike Bonhart a chance to showcase his vocal range at the end of the song (that last note threatened to shatter glass!).

The Spinners who have had six Grammy nominations sang all their hits including “I’ll Be Around” and “Working My Way Back To You,” and the crowd of mostly Asian and Latino descent sang and danced right along to them all. Second tenor Charlton Washington gave a moving performance of “Sadie” and “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” but his amazing grasp of the ad-lib on “Mighty Love” was so convincingly and naturally performed it was like former member Phillipe Wynne (deceased) had been resurrected!!

Backed by a five man ensemble that was as tight as the cap on a Tylenol bottle, and locked in the dynamic beat of drummer David Brandon, the Spinners delivered a whole package that kept the audience moving higher and higher. A former conductor for the Supremes, Marvin Marshall who was in the audience said, “ anytime you come out to see one of these Motown acts, you will get your money’s worth, and you will be thoroughly entertained.” Marshall was also the guitarist playing that famous intro on the Spinners recording of “It’s A Shame.” Fans were thrilled to know Marshall along with another Motown veteran, former bandleader for the Temptations, Cornelius Grant, were in the audience.

Due to some minor technical difficulties, band member Willie Wooten (keyboard) wondered after the show if the band came across alright. Well that question would be answered best by fans Vickie Arroyo and Bo Ballentine who were on their feet dancing and singing through most of the show who said, “It was great…awesome!” The Spinners did the Motown tradition proud!

Mourners give Spinners’ Bobbie Smith a songful farewell