JCC Gala to Rekindle ‘60s and ‘70s Motown Memories with Performance by The Spinners

A Throwback Thursday Gala returns to the JCC promising a “magical night of musical memories,” that according to Gala Co-chair Carol Luper, will appeal to every generation on the Throwback Thursday night of March 12.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, including wine, beer, and vodka tastings with Bliss in a Bottle, World of Beer, and OYO, the music of the Edelstein Family Band, and of course, the Spinners, the Gala is designed to bring families together to reconnect and reminisce over the music of a band with Motown roots that still, 50 years later, spends 75% of its year touring and performing its beloved classic R&B and soul music, borne of the friendships formed during the members’ years in their high school glee club and the church choir.

“For us, the Spinners were perfect for that Throwback Thursday concept,” explained Gala Co-chair Ben Zacks. “We want to get people to remember and appreciate using a turntable and hearing the crackling sounds, to relive and remember their old 45s.”

The evening promises to bring back memories, and is especially resonant for Carol Luper, who grew up listening to The Spinners. “The whole retro aspect is so much fun for me. I’m a child of the Fifties and I can sing every song and identify every group with my eyes closed. The Fifties and Sixties music just brings me back to my teen years. The Throwback Thursday theme is all about the idea of revisiting days in our memory through music,” she said.

Truly, The Spinners music is timeless. As one of the few recording groups to receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a nominee for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their storied history in the early days of Motown through the 1970s and beyond was no fluke. With classic hits like “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick, and the Stevie Wonder-composed “It’s a Shame,” “There’s no secret to the success,” said Henry Fambrough, the only remaining member of the original band.

The lasting power of The Spinners’ music is due to its universal themes, Fambrough added. “Our music spans over different generations because the lyrics are about love and happiness, growing up, being a teeny-bopper, and puppy love. The music itself goes around in a circle, as generations come along. But our music—it’s genuine and lasting,” Fambrough explained of the music that never feels dated.

Fambrough grew up listening to the music of the 1940s, especially that of Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. “That music will never die,” he said. But his biggest musical influence was a gospel group, the Dixie Hummingbirds. “I was raised in the church. I first started singing in the choir. It’s in my blood. When we started singing, we were still in school. This was our dream. We just made a commitment to each other to stick with it ‘til we made it.”

Today, Fambrough looks forward to entertaining audiences like those at the Gala this March. Every time he walks on stage is a chance for him to bring joy to others, bring back memories, and help new fans make memories of their own. “We have people that will come up to us and say, ‘You guys helped us through college, and now we’re bringing our grandkids to see you.’ It’s a great feeling, a satisfying feeling. It puts a smile on your face,” he said.

The Spinners is a great introduction to music that “people’s parents may have enjoyed,” Luper said. “It may be a whole new genre for the younger generation, too. It’s a musical tribute to the past that we can all enjoy because we all relate to music. Even people who may not think they know the music of The Spinners will know them from commercials that they’ve done. They’ll recognize them.”

Zacks added, “‘Working My Way Back to You, Babe,’ and songs like that, the melody lines people are very familiar with, but they may not know them as ‘The Spinners.’ So when they hear the song, they say, ‘Ohhh, yeah.’ You get that a-ha moment.”

Spinners original vocalist Fambrough hopes to give audiences a-ha moments and more. “When you walk on stage and you know that the audience that’s out there came to see you, and everybody’s got a smile on their face, that’s the bottom line,” Fambrough said. Performing brings back memories for him, as well, of the early days of Motown, beginning with The Spinners signing a record deal in 1963, through 1970 when they signed with Atlantic Records.

“We had a great time at Motown. We learned a lot there. Motown was like a college for us. We developed our talents, and we opened for the bigger acts—the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations. We were all friends back then. Back in the ‘70s, in the summertime, if you pull up in front of Motown, you might see The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Spinners, everybody standing out there talking, having fun together. It was a big family,” he explained.

Fambrough and The Spinners will bring a family-friendly experience to the JCC family on March 12, too. The Gala is so important because it enables the JCC to continue supporting families all across central Ohio.

As a long-time supporter of the JCC with roots, like those of The Spinners, going back 50 years, Co-chair Carol Luper, for one, is thrilled to again be planning the JCC’s biggest event of the year. She brings many years experience planning Galas, beginning in the 1980s when she co-chaired what was then known as the “Passport” celebration with Co-chair Ina Sue Rosenthal.

“The Center provides so many things to so many age groups; every age group across the board is served by the Center. Whether you talk about early childhood education or senior citizens, it serves everyone in so many ways,” said Luper. The gala is a multigenerational, multifaceted experience designed for the whole community in order to reflect the diversity of the population the JCC serves, Luper noted.

“It is a continuum of loving service. It’s really a shining light of the community, and not just for Jewish families. The Center is so open and such a model of diversity in this community. Its doors and arms are open.” Co-chair Ben Zacks also encouraged the community to support the JCC by submitting “Throwback Thursday” photos of themselves from the 1960s and 1970s, or any era that brings back memories for them, in order to share with Gala patrons at the event.

“Old photos, memorabilia, anything that hearkens back to that era. They can also offer up any memorabilia they have for the silent auction. An easy bake oven is a great example—those things have become very valuable. You can make that donation to the JCC; that’s not trash, that’s treasure for our Throwback Thursday silent auction,” Zacks pointed out.

To learn more about how to sponsor, support the JCC by donating items, or purchase tickets to the annual black-tie affair returning to the JCC’s College Avenue venue for the first time in two years, contact Sheila Cline at scline@columbusjcc.org or call 614-559-6225.