From left to right: Mick Groves, Tony Davis, Cliff Hall, Hughie Jones
|Genres||Folk music, Skiffle|
|Labels||Philips Records, EMI Records|
The band began as a skiffle group with a mainly American repertoire, until they were prompted by Redd Sullivan, a seaman, to include sea shanties and English folk songs. They started out as the Gin Mill Skiffle Group, which included guitarist Tony Davis and washboard player Mick Groves. The group played the Cavern Club, Liverpool for the first time on Friday 18 January 1957, with the Muskrat Jazz Band and the Liverpool University Jazz Band. They played there on a number of occasions on Friday 24 May; Sunday 26 May; Wednesday 5 June; Wednesday 3 July and Friday 16 August 1957. In September 1958 they became the Spinners. They founded a folk club in Liverpool, the 'Triton Club', but soon were performing in London at places such as (the iconic 1950's-founded London coffee house) The Troubadour. Their first album, Songs Spun in Liverpool, was recorded by Bill Leader from live performances. In 1962 Peter Kennedy of the English Folk Dance & Song Society recorded an album with them called Quayside Songs Old & New. In 1963 Philips Records signed them, and they recorded eight more albums over the next eight years. They signed for EMI Records in the early 1970s.
They became popular by reviving some of the greatest folk music and singing new songs in the same vein. Although sounding like traditional English folk songs, some of their material was in fact composed by Jones, such as The Ellan Vannin Tragedy and The Marco Polo. One of their best known songs, particularly in their native Liverpool, was in My Liverpool Home, written by Peter McGovern in 1962. Cliff Hall also introduced traditional Jamaican songs to their repertoire. One of their albums was called Not Quite Folk.
They produced over forty albums, and made numerous concerts and TV appearances. In 1970, they were given their own television show on BBC One that ran for seven years. They also had their own show on BBC Radio 2. They retired in 1988, after thirty years together, although they led the community singing at the 1989 FA Cup Final and played some Christmas shows in the early 1990s. Mick and Hughie still occasionally perform, although Cliff retired to Australia, where he died in 2008, and Tony died in 2017.
Their version of the Ewan MacColl song, "Dirty Old Town", was included in the Terence Davies' 2008 memoir/documentary of Liverpool, Of Time and the City. A biography of the group 'Fried Bread and Brandy-O' (the title of their signature tune) was written by Liverpool journalist David Stuckey (with a foreword by Pete Seeger and an introduction from Deryck Guyler) to coincide with their 25th anniversary. It was published by Robson Books.