Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963, front man Spencer Davis (vocal and guitar) was a scholar and his band became the thinking man’s pop group of the 60s. After leaving a good teaching job he began his music career in Birmingham with drummer, Pete York and brothers, Steve (aged 15 vocals guitar and keyboard) and Muff Winwood (base guitar). The Spencer Davis Group was signed to the Fontana label. In 1964 the band released a cover version of bluesman John Lee Hooker's "Dimples," which confirmed them as club favourites.
The group was dominated musically by the amazing keyboard player, Steve Winwood, who sang like Ray Charles. The bands preference for blues brought them little commercial success but when they recorded their next single in 1965, and then chart success was guaranteed. “Keep on running” featured gritty vocals with a distinctive fuzz guitar intro which was unmistakably Spender Davis Group.
Now the Mod band from Birmingham were based in London and taking on all others: including the Stones, The Who and The Yardbirds, and with the exception of the Who, they were writing their own material. Hits followed in 1966 and the beginning of 1967 with “Somebody help me” and Gimme some lovin.”
Stevie’s ferocious soul-drenched vocals belied his tender teenage years but without doubt provided the real momentum which spurred the group’s early success. Winwood would have a future long after the demise of the embryonic band. By the time "I'm A Man" had jumped into Britain's Top 10 (1967); Steve Winwood was already planning a new phase in his career, the creation of a new band called Traffic.
The band was a successful group that followed its own individual course through the rock music scene of the late '60s and early '70s. In the psychedelic year of 1967, the band was influenced by the Beatles but by the end of the same year had developed an individual pop-rock hybrid tied to unusual instrumentation. Traffic emphasized Winwood’s keyboard skills; and Chris Wood’s flute playing and Dave Mason’s writing and alternate folk-pop sound. The band was completed with Jim Capaldi. Traffic still played rock’n’roll with improvisation in a jazz-like style.
More hits followed with a Dave Mason composition “Hole in my shoe” and “Here we go round the mulberry bush,” which was the title track of a UK film about young people and their relationships.
Dave Mason left the band in 1968 (there were artistic differences) and Traffic started to perform in the US as a live act. The group had problems minus Dave Mason and eventually he rejoined them in time for their second album release. The breakup of Traffic came in 1969. Capaldi, Wood and Mason joined Wynder K. Frog in a band called Wooden Frog which was never heard of again and Stevie Winwood teamed with former Cream supremo Eric Clapton and his percussionist, Ginger Baker, along came former Family member Ric Grech and super group Blind Faith was formed.
The band made one album and played one American tour before breaking up. In 1970 Winwood was about to embark upon a much anticipated solo career when he brought his old mates into the studio and Capaldi and Wood and Winwood were back in business as Traffic. ”John Barleycorn Must Die” saw them back together again and they continued to tour and record with several lineup changes until 1977 when Winwood made his solo bow.
The outstanding singer, Steve Winwood has continued to record and had many hots in the 80s and 90s.
Jim Capaldi (1944 – 2005)also enjoyed a successful solo career with several chart hits in various countries including "That's Love", "Shoe Shine", and "Love Hurts".
Worth a listen:
Spencer Davis Group
Paper Sun Traffic (1967)
Every Little Bit Hurts (1965)
Keep on running (1965)
I’m a man (1967)
Paper Sun (1967)
Feelin' Alright (1968)