THE SPINNERS: G. C. CAMERON
The lead singer of the Spinners until 1971.
On September 21, 1945, was born G. C. Cameron; vocalist and once lead singer of the Spinners; whose voice is best known from the Spinners' hit, penned by Stevie Wonder, "It's a Shame."
Soul singer G.C. Cameron is a veteran of more than 30 years in the music business and is still ticking. In 2000, he returned to the group he left in 1971 for a solo career, the Spinners, to fill in for an ill John Edwards. Cameron is famous for his high-energy lead on the Spinners' "It's a Shame."
He was born in a small township in Franklin Country, MS, but his family moved to Detroit in 1955 when he was young. The Camerons were a large brood; Cameron had nine siblings, but there was always room for more, as Philippe Wynne (Cameron' s cousin) grew up in the household (he being a little older than Cameron). The two ran Detroit's mean streets together but never formed a singing group. After a Marine stint, which included servitude in Vietnam, Cameron was chosen by the Spinners to replace Edgar "Chico" Edwards, adding a new lead voice to the group. (Chico was strictly a background singer.) With Cameron in the fold, Motown's producers found the Spinners more interesting and heavyweights like Stevie Wonder started writing and producing for them. A remake of the standard "In My Diary" (1969), made popular to R&B fans by the Moonglows, was their first with Cameron. The flip side was "(She's Gonna Love Me) At Sundown," which features Bobby Smith. What should have been a two-sided smash wasn't due to Motown's lackadaisical attitude toward the Spinners. When Harvey Fuqua and Gwen Gordy sold their Tri-Phi setup to Motown, the Spinners became basement dwellers.Stevie Wonder cut "It's a Shame," only to have it put on ice by Motown for a whole year after it was recorded. A remake of the Temptations' popular album cut "Message to the Blackman" (1970) was their second single featuring Cameron. the Spinners' version was good, albeit shorter, but it stiffed from lack of support.
Motown finally released "It's a Shame" on June 6, 1970, and watched it scale the charts to number 14 pop and become the Spinners' biggest hit to date. But the group was fed up with Motown's treatment; the frustrations came to a head when the follow-up, "We Got It Made," didn't come close to duplicating its predecessor. It was apparent Motown wasn't ever going to take them seriously and they made plans to leave. Cameron, however, had become romantically involved with Gwen Gordy (Berry Gordy's sister) and stayed with Motown; but he didn't leave the Spinners in a lurch. His cousin, Philippe Wynne, who had been rehearsing with the group, was brought in to take his place. The master improviser had previously worked with the Pacesetters, a band that included Bootsy and Catfish Collins, in the Cincinnati area. Philippe "Soul" Wynne stayed five years and was as responsible as producer/arranger/writer Thom Bell for the group's chart-busting success on Atlantic Records, which was second only to the mighty O'Jays '70s explosion.
But Cameron wasn't concerned; Motown was going to make him a star, or so he thought. The company placed him on its Mowest label for a series of singles that went nowhere: "Act Like a Shotgun" (1971); a tentative follow-up, "I'm Gonna Get You Parts 1 & 2," was scheduled for release but pulled in the 12th hour -- instead, Mowest dropped "What It Is, What It Is" (1972) with scarcely any promotion. Going for broke, they tried a duet with Willie Hutch, entitled "Come Get This Thing," but shelved it in favor of Cameron's interesting "Don't Wanna Play Pajama Games," written and produced by Smokey Robinson, in which Cameron mimics Robinson to a T.
Uneasiness reared: the Spinners with Wynne were making an unprecedented run with Top Ten hits and good-selling albums, yet Cameron couldn't make the charts. He was switched to the Motown label for his other recordings, including "No Matter Where" (1973) and "Let Me Down Easy" (1973), neither of which sold well. His first solo LP, Love Songs and Other Tragedies (1974), followed; a second LP, the self-titled G.C. Cameron (1976), was preceded by "If You're Ever Gonna Love Me" (1975). The next single, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," (1975) was perfect, but for Boyz II Men, not Cameron. "Dream Lady" (1976) and "You're What's Missing In My Life" (1977), which was also the title of his third album, issued in 1977 and which followed the same dismal road as previous efforts.
Motown issued Rich Love, Poor Love by G.C. & Syreeta in 1977 and put out one single from the album, "Let's Make a Deal." Two years later, Syreeta scored with Billy Preston on "With You I'm Born Again." Cameron left the company after the pair with Syreeta failed and his romance with Gwen Gordy soured. When "I've Got My Second Wind," a duet with Tata Vega off her Givin' All My Love album (1981), came out, Cameron was long gone.
The talented, multi-voice singer (every producer who worked with him found a different sound) recorded off and on for a bunch of little labels from 1977 on; his most significant recording was Give Me Your Love (1983) for Malaco Records in Jackson, MS (sort of a homecoming for Cameron). It's a great album with many riveting tracks, including the heart-wrenching "A Night Like This in Georgia."
A year later, Ian Levine included Cameron in his Motorcity project as a singer, writer, and producer. The association with Levine may have been creatively lucrative, but not financially, as Cameron claims he has yet to receive a loyalty check from any recording company he was ever involved with. And that includes the single he cut with the Tams, entitled "Walking Dr. Bill," in the late '90s. The "shag" hit did secure him some dates on the Carolinas' beach music set with the Tams and his own group, the G.C. Cameron Band.
The Motorcity recordings, which included a duet with Martha Reeves, were compiled on Right or Wrong (Motorcity 1991) and later The Very Best of G.C. Cameron (1996) on Hot Productions. He now has a production/recording company, Daggerjacc, and is writing a tell-all book detailing his tumultuous experiences. He cut ties with most of his music biz cronies and relocated to Meadville, MS (near his birthplace), remarried, and is raising a second family; a son by a previous union is well past 30.
The Spinners were the greatest soul group of the early '70s, creating a body of work that defined the lush, seductive sound of Philly soul. Ironically, the band's roots lay in Detroit, where they formed as a doo wop group during the late '50s. Throughout the '60s, the Spinners tried to land a hit by adapting to the shifting fashions of R&B and pop. By the mid-'60s, they had signed with Motown Records, but the label never gave the group much consideration. "It's a Shame" became a hit in 1970, but the label continued to ignore the group, and dropped the band two years later. Unsigned and featuring new lead singer Phillipe Wynne, the Spinners seemed destined to never break into the big leagues, but they managed to sign with Atlantic Records, where they began working with producer Thom Bell. With his assistance, the Spinners developed a distinctive sound, one that relied on Wynne's breathtaking falsetto and the group's intricate vocal harmonies. Bell provided the group with an appropriately detailed production, creating a detailed web of horns, strings, backing vocals, and lightly funky rhythms. Between 1972 and 1977, the Spinners and Bell recorded a number of soul classics, including "I'll Be Around," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," "Mighty Love," "Ghetto Child," "Then Came You," "Games People Play," and "The Rubberband Man." Wynne left in 1977 and the Spinners had hits for a few years after his departure, but the group will always be remembered for its classic mid-'70s work.
Originally, called the Domingoes, the Spinners formed when the quintet members were high school students in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale in 1957. At the time, the group featured Bobbie Smith, Pervis Jackson, George W. Dixon, Billy Henderson, and Henry Fambrough. Four years later, they came to the attention of producer Harvey Fuqua, who began recording the group -- who were now called the Spinners -- for his Tri-Phi Records. The band's first single, "That's What Girls Are Made For," became a Top Ten R&B hit upon its 1961 release and featured Smith on vocals. Following its release, Dixon was replaced by Edgar "Chico" Edwards. Over the next few years, the group released a series of failed singles, and when Tri-Phi was bought out by Motown in the mid-'60s, the Spinners became part of the larger company's roster. By that time, Edwards had been replaced by G.C. Cameron.
Though the Spinners had some R&B hits at Motown during the late '60s, including "I'll Always Love You" and "Truly Yours," they didn't have a genuine crossover success until 1970, when Stevie Wonder gave the group "It's a Shame." Motown never concentrated on the Spinners, and they let the group go in 1972. Before the band signed with Atlantic Records, Phillipe Wynne replaced Cameron as the group's lead vocalist. Wynne had previously sung with Catfish and Bootsy Collins.
At Atlantic Records, the Spinners worked with producer Thom Bell, who gave the group a lush, seductive sound, complete with sighing strings, a tight rhythm section, sultry horns, and a slight funk underpinning. Wynne quickly emerged as a first-rate soul singer, and the combination of the group's harmonies, Wynne's soaring leads, and Bell's meticulous production made the Spinners the most popular soul group of the '70s. Once the group signed with Atlantic, they became a veritable hit machine, topping the R&B and pop charts with songs like "I'll Be Around," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," "One of a Kind (Love Affair)," "Ghetto Child," "Rubberband Man," and "You're Throwing a Good Love Away." Not only were their singles hits, but their albums constantly went gold and charted in the Top 20.
Wynne left the band to pursue a solo career in 1977; he was replaced by John Edwards. Though none of Wynne's solo records were big hits, his tours with Parliament-Funkadelic were well received, as were his solo concerts. In October 1984, he died of a heart attack during a concert in Oakland, California. the Spinners, meanwhile, had a number of minor hits in the late '70s, highlighted by their disco covers of "Working My Way Back to You" and the medley "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time." During the early '80s, they had several minor hits before fading away from the charts and entering the oldies circuit, reprising their earlier material for 1999's new studio effort At Their Best. Bobbie Smith, who sang lead on several of the Spinners' '70s hits including "I'll Be Around" and "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," died from complications of pneumonia and influenza in March 2013.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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