October 1, 2023

Motown Magic at Cherry Festival

Thanks to Aretha Franklin, we'll see The Spinners take the Cherry Fest stage with the Four Tops
By Ross Boissoneau | June 22, 2019

“Bring over some of your old Motown records,” sang Rod Stewart in “The Motown Song.” The National Cherry Festival is going one better, with a July 4 show featuring the Four Tops and The Spinners.
The Four Tops have been Motown royalty since the 1960s, racking up hit singles like “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” In the decades since, the group has continued performing across the world as one of the classic purveyors of the Motown sound.
Though often thought of alongside the Tops and the Temptations, The Spinners, a.k.a. the Mighty Spinners, were only on Motown Records for about 10 years, and their success there was limited.

In fact, according to current bass vocalist Jessie Peck, while other acts were seeing success, members of The Spinners were initially shuttled to non-music positions at the label. In a call with Northern Express from his home in Detroit, Peck said that his bass vocalist predecessor, Pervis Jackson, worked in shipping and receiving at the record company, while singer Bobby Smith was a driver.

“They [the label] sat on ‘It’s A Shame’ for a couple years. Stevie Wonder wrote it, and he complained,” said Peck.
After Wonder’s protestations, the song was finally released in 1970 and rose to No. 14 on the charts, followed the next yearby another Wonder composition, “We'll Have It Made.”
That’s when another fellow Detroiter reached out: “The Spinners got a call from Aretha Franklin at Atlantic [Records]. She said, ‘Come on over here.’”
The group did, and began working with producer Thom Bell, one of the progenitors of the Philly sound. That’s when the Spinners began making music magic: “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “One of A Kind Love Affair” were all million sellers. “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick hit the top of the charts.
Peck languishes praise on the music. Though he didn’t become a member of the group until just over a decade ago, following the death of Jackson, he said the group had always been one of his favorites. “I grew up being a fan,” he said. “The first concert I saw was The Spinners.”
How it came about: His parents had taken the family to the fair. After enjoying the rides and games, they went to see the evening’s musical act. “We had to do something for my parents,” he said with a laugh.
He soon realized this group was responsible for songs he had heard and loved on the radio. “We were hearing song after song. My brother and sister were grooving to the jams. I looked at my parents and said, ‘Mom and Dad, I want to do what they’re doing when I grow up.’”
It took a while. Peck worked in radio and other jobs while still grooving to those jams. Following Jackson’s death in 2008, Peck auditioned for the role. He said he felt an instant connection with founding member Henry Fambrough, who was conducting the audition. Yet it took three months before he got the call that he was in.

“He said it would be a couple weeks. It turned into three months. I waited and waited and waited,” said Peck.
“I tried not to call too many times. It started to affect my sleep. I finally got the call and collapsed in front of my family. I was so happy. I believe all things come to us in the proper time. It had to be right physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s been over a decade, and it still feels new.”
The group has six Grammy nominations and has performed twice during the Grammy awards ceremony. Inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, The Spinners has also been awarded the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Award for its contribution to the genre. The group has performed for presidents, received a star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame,” and has appeared in numerous network and cable television specials paying tribute to the music of the 70’s.
The group still performs across the country and the world, recreating the Motown/Philly magic. “We maintain The Spinners standard,” said Peck. He made it clear that he’s just a part of a musical tradition, paying homage to Jackson throughout the interview. “We are a group, a family, a legacy. It’s not about me, it’s about the music,” he said.
For tickets for the Four Tops and The Spinners or more information, go to www.CherryFestival.org.


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