Entertainment Music British rocker Spencer Davis dies at 81
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British rocker Spencer Davis dies at 81

Spencer Davis (centre) died in hospital with pneumonia. Photo: Reuters
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Spencer Davis, the veteran British rock musician renowned for hits that bore his name but he did not sing, has died in a hospital while being treated for pneumonia.

While the Spencer Davis Group performed for decades, its biggest hits – including frequently covered mid-1960s classics as Gimme Some Lovin’ and I’m a Man – were sung not by Davis but a teenaged Steve Winwood.

Like the Dave Clark 5 and J. Geils Band, the group was one of several from the era named after a band member who was not the singer or frontman.

The reason, bandmember Muff Winwood told Mojo in 1997, was because “Spencer was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews, so I pointed out that if we called it the Spencer Davis Group, the rest of us could stay in bed and let him do them”.

Born in Swansea, South Wales, in 1939, Davis began playing harmonica and accordion as a child.

He moved over to guitar and began playing in bands as a teen before settling in Birmingham in his early 20s.

Along the way he played in a band called the Saints with bassist Bill Perks – who changed his name to Bill Wyman when he joined the Rolling Stones – and dated and performed with singer-keyboardist Christine Perfect, who later took husband John McVie’s name and joined Fleetwood Mac.

Members of the Spencer Davis Group (from top left) Muff Winwood, Pete York, Steve Winwood and Spencer Davis. Photo: AP

In 1963, he saw brothers Steve and Muff Winwood performing in a Birmingham pub and convinced them to form a band with him, with Steve’s soaring voice and rousing keyboard playing at the centre.

Performing a steady repertoire of R&B covers, the Spencer Davis Group quickly developed a following, performed frequently in London and signed with Fontana Records.

There, they released a string of Top 10 British hits – beginning with Keep on Running in 1966 and continuing with Somebody Help Me, I’m A Man and Gimme Some Lovin’ in 1967.

They were all sung by Steve Winwood, whom many people naturally thought was Davis.

Davis continued the group until 1969, reforming it in 1973 after moving to California.

He also worked as an executive for Island Records.

-AAP