The Spencer Davis Group was a mid-1960s British beat group from Birmingham, England. In its heyday the group consisted of Spencer Davis, Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood and Pete York; Jimmy Miller was their producer. The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums states “This big selling Birmingham band scored two number ones in the UK Singles Chart penned by the reggae artist, Jackie Edwards. Teenager Winwood left in 1967, to form Traffic before joining Blind Faith, then forging a career as a soloist”.
Spencer Davis (born 17 July 1939, Swansea, Wales) moved to Birmingham from London in 1960 to study. In 1963, he recruited the Winwood brothers and started the Spencer Davis Group. The band performed regularly in the city. They signed their first recording contract after Chris Blackwell of Island Records saw them at an appearance in a local club; Blackwell also became their producer.
The group’s first professional recording was a cover version of “Dimples”, but they came to success at the end of 1965 with “Keep On Running”, the group’s first number one single. In 1966, they followed this with “Somebody Help Me” and “When I Come Home”. For the German market the group released “Det war in Schoneberg, im Monat Mai” and “Madel ruck ruck ruck an meine grune Seite” (the first is from a 1913 Berlin operetta, the second is a Swabian traditional) as a tribute single for that audience, Davis having studied in West Berlin in the early 1960s.
By the end of 1966 and the beginning of 1967, the group released two more hits, “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”. These tracks proved to be their two best-known successes, especially in the U.S.
In 1967, Winwood left to form Traffic; his brother Muff moved into the music industry as A&R man at Island Records. In a joint venture, the soundtrack to the film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush featured both the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic.
Despite the Winwoods’ departure, the Spencer Davis Group continued performing and released more singles, though not repeating earlier successes. These included “Time Seller” in July 1967; the b-side, “Don’t Want You No More,” also received radio airplay.
This was followed by “Mr. Second-Class” in late 1967, which received heavy airplay on Radio Caroline (at that time one of the two remaining pirate radio ships off the British coast) and the group’s last minor hit, “After Tea”, in 1968. The latter song was released at the same time by the German band The Rattles, providing competition that led finally to a temporary stop to all activities of the band. Davis continued working, however, producing some jazz-oriented albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Although short-lived, the Spencer Davis Group – particularly its incarnation with Steve Winwood – proved to be influential, with many of the band’s songs covered by other artists over the years. Notable among these are Chicago’s 1969 version of “I’m a Man,” The Allman Brothers Band’s 1969 take of Davis’ instrumental “Don’t Want You No More,” Three Dog Night’s 1970 recording of “Can’t Get Enough of It,” and The Blues Brothers’ 1980 recording of “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The Grateful Dead also covered Spencer Davis Group material in live performance on occasion; in particular, Spencer Davis himself performed “I’m a Man” with the Dead at a 1989 performance at Los Angeles’ Great Western Forum.
The band reformed in 2006, although only Davis and Hardin remained from the 1960s group line-ups.
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