Spencer Davis Group
Someone, way back when, who thought they were in the know, once claimed that "calling itself the Spencer Davis Group was like calling The Beatles the Ringo Starr Quartet." It was close but not entirely fair. Davis did have a hand in writing his group's biggest hits. It's just that Davis was totally overshadowed by Steve Winwood. At fifteen Steve joined the group, along with his bass playing brother Muff (a nickname acquired from a TV puppet). Steve Winwood was a masterful R&B influenced pianist/organist. He could also play guitar and write songs. But it was Winwood's voice that really stood out. Despite his age, he had a vintage Ray Charles sound. It was passionate, driving and exciting.
Chris Blackwell, Island Records founder, traveled to Birmingham to see Carl Wayne & the Vikings, he also caught the Spencer Davis Group and signed them immediately. No one ever recorded what Carl, much less the Vikings, thought of that.
With its loping bass line (thanks Muff) and Steve's vocals "Keep On Running" was the group's first UK hit. It replaced The Beatles "Daytripper/We Can Work It Out" at the top of the pop charts. Their second release was a worldwide smash and among the best Rock 'n' Roll songs recorded. "Gimme Some Lovin'," was a powerhouse production featuring Muff's forceful bass line along with Steve's intense organ playing and riveting vocals. It was a major coming out for Steve. They followed with "I'm A Man." It was another brilliant Winwood performance. Chicago covered it a few years later.
The Spencer Davis Group also featured Steve Winwood on album tracks like "Goodbye Stevie" (Winwood's first name until he began shaving) which was a piano Rocker. The inspiration for the title came when Steve fell off a piano stool during a show and disappeared behind the stage.
Muff Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group and become an A&R guy for Island Records. Steve Winwood, after giving notice (how polite), departed to form Traffic, then moved on to Blind Faith, back to Traffic, and finally, a solo career.
Davis spent the remainder of the '60s plugging on with people who would eventually play with Elton John and Eric Burdon & The Animals, among others. His group became a feeder for bigger acts.
Even though it was called the Spencer Davis Group, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Steve Winwood was the key member. His charged vocals and organ work drive "Gimme Some Lovin'," "Keep On Runnin'" and "I'm A Man." "Spencer Davis' Greatest Hits" is the way to go. It also features several album tracks, mostly featuring Winwood. Winwood left the group in '67 and anything after that isn't worth going after. The group bit the dust in '69.