Stevie Winwood’s soul-drenched vocals powered The Spencer Davis Group through three major US hits during the band’s brief lifespan as one of the most convincing R&B combos of the British Invasion.
Guitarist and former schoolteacher Spencer Davis formed the band in Birmingham (UK) with Winwood on organ, his brother Muff (real name Mervyn) Winwood on bass and Peter York on drums.
The quartet had their first hit with Keep On Running. After topping the British charts in 1965, the song struggled into the US Top 100.
Their two hottest sellers were self-penned numbers, Gimme Some Lovin, and I’m A Man, both searing showcases for Winwood’s gritty vocals and blazing keyboards, and the band’s pounding rhythms.
Although the band burned up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967, they never capitalised on their fame with an American tour. At the height of their power, Winwood left to form Traffic, leaving Spencer Davis without his dynamic frontman.
After a number of additional personnel changes, the band finally split. Spencer Davis went to America, where he worked in A&R for a number of record companies. The line-up of Davis/York/Hardin and Fenwick reformed in 1973 with Charlie McCracken on bass and made two more albums. Catch Me On The Rebop was a minor hit single.
The bandleader focused on producing other acts, including a Canadian ensemble called The Downchild Blues Band, during the early ’80s.
Spencer Davis passed away on 19 October 2020 while being treated in hospital for pneumonia. He was 81.
Guitar, vocals, harmonica
Guitar, keyboards, vocals
Mervyn ‘Muff’ Winwood