The Spencer Davis Group are a mid-1960s British beat group from Birmingham, England, formed by Spencer Davis with Steve Winwood and his brother Muff Winwood.
Their best known songs include "Somebody Help Me", the UK number one
"Keep on Running" (both of which were written by reggae musician Jackie
Edwards), "I'm a Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin'", which peaked at #2 in the
UK and #7 in the United States. Steve Winwood left in 1967 to form
Traffic before joining Blind Faith and then forging a career as a solo
artist. After releasing a few more singles, the band ceased activity in
1968. They briefly reunited from 1973 to 1974 and Davis has since
restarted a new group in 2006.
The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 in Birmingham when Welsh
guitarist Spencer Davis recruited vocalist and organist Steve Winwood
and his bass playing brother Muff Winwood. The group was completed with
Pete York on drums. Originally called the Rhythm and Blues Quartette,
the band performed regularly in the city. In 1964 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. Muff Winwood came up with the band's name, reasoning "Spencer
was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews, so I pointed out that if
we called it the Spencer Davis Group, the rest of us could stay in bed
and let him do them."
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". They had one single
issued in the US on Fontana, as well as "Keep On Running" and "Somebody
Help Me" on Atco, but due to lack of promotion, none of these 3 singles
got airplay or charted.
For the German market the group released "Det war in Schöneberg, im
Monat Mai" and "Mädel ruck ruck ruck an meine grüne 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". Both of them sold over
one million copies, and were awarded gold record status. These tracks
proved to be their two best-known successes, especially in the U.S.
(where they had signed to United Artists). Jimmy Miller was their
In 1966 the group starred in The Ghost Goes Gear, a British musical
comedy film, directed by Hugh Gladwish, and also starring Sheila White
and Nicholas Parsons. The plot involved the group in a stay at the
childhood home of their manager, a haunted manor house in the English
countryside. The film would later be considered a mistake by Winwood.
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. After the Winwoods' departure, the
Spencer Davis Group regrouped with the addition of guitarist Phil
Sawyer (ex-Les Fleur de Lys) and keyboardist/vocalist Eddie Hardin (ex-A
Wild Uncertainty). This line-up recorded several tunes for Here We Go
Round The Mulberry Bush and released the "Time Seller" single 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 album "With Their New
Face On" in 1968. At that time Ray Fenwick had replaced Phil Sawyer.The
group's last minor hit, "After Tea", 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. The song was originally
recorded by the Dutch group After Tea, which included guitarist/singer
After one further single ("Short Change"), at that time Eddie Hardin and
Pete York had left to form the duo Hardin & York. They were
replaced by future Elton John Band member Dee Murray on bass and Dave
Hynes on drums. This line-up, with Nigel Olsson replacing Dave Hynes,
produced the album "Funky" in 1969 (only released in the USA on DATE, a
sub-label of CBS) before splintering.
The group reunited in 1973 with Davis, Fenwick, Hardin and York, and
newcomer Charlie McCracken on bass. The group released the albums Gluggo
(1973) and Living in a Back Street (1974) before once again disbanding.
Davis continued working, however, producing some jazz-oriented albums
in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The band re-formed in 2006, although only Davis and Hardin remained from
the 1960s group line-ups. As of 2015, Pete York has rejoined. As of
2010, The Spencer Davis Group still extensively tours the USA and
Europe, but with two differing line-ups, only Spencer Davis himself is
present in both formations of the band.