Bobby Smith, Oral History


Bobby Smith, Oral History


Bobby Smith of the Spinners (b. April 10, 1936, Detroit, Michigan, d. March 16, 2013) principal lead singer and spokesperson for the group. Bobby and the group were in Birmingham as part of a southern tour, which also included Charlie Thomas’ Drifters. Here, he and Bob Friedman (Bobby D at the time) reminisce about the current group members and their early history in the late 1950’s as student singers at Ferndale High School near Detroit.


Bobby Smith
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


July 14, 1989


Mark Usry
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


Bobby Smith


Transcript of audio snippet:

Bob Friedman: But it was the same group, huh?

Bobby Smith: Yeah, same group that was at Tri-Phi. Went to, uh, Motown.

BF: Right. How did the group get together?

BS: Well, basically we all went to high school together.

BF: Oh, where?

BS: In Ferndale, Michigan.

BF: Oh, alright.

BS: We grew up in the same neighborhood and you know, back at that time groups of our caliber was very popular.

BF: Right

BS: And so that was really just a past time thing to do. Every street corner you found a group of guys harmonizing on the corner.

BF: Did you know other groups from Ferndale?

BS: Uh, we had two or three little groups. Yeah.

BF: I know that there was an SRC label up out of Ferndale. Uh, that produced The DeeJays. A group called The DeeJays.

BS: Uh huh

BF: Um, which was the State Recording Company. But it was not the one that was...not the States label from Chicago.

BS: Mhm

BF: But there was a State Recording Company out of Ferndale, Michigan that had a group on it.

BS: Oh

BF: It's hard to find, of course.

BS: Oh, wow. I wasn’t familiar with that myself.

BF: Yeah. From about 1953-54. When did you guys start singing together in high school?

BS: Well...we was just playin' around on the corner.

BF: Mhm

BS: I guess about in the late 50s.

BF: Mhm

BS: And we...

BF: You have any specific....

BS: and Harvey Fuqua and Gwen Gordy about ’59…

BF: Right

BS: And that's when they formed Tri Phi records.

BF: Right

BS: And..."That's What Girls Are Made For" was the first record released on that label in 1961.

BF: Right. Right.

BS: So ...from there...we stay on the Tri-Phi label until '64. Tri-Phi label like, could never really get off the ground.

BF: Right

BS: After "That's What Girls Are Made For" we had some mediocre stuff.

BF: Right

BS: But after that, the company merged with Motown.

BF: Okay. Just like Harvey merged with Gwen, huh?

BS: Yeah, right. So.

BF: (laughs)

BS: That's how we got to Motown.


Full interview: 12 minutes
Audio snippet: 2 minutes


The_Spinners_(1965) - Bobby Smith center.jpg
Bobby Smith 2min.mp3
Bobby Smith.pdf


Bobby Smith and Bob Friedman, “Bobby Smith, Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed May 27, 2024,

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