Charles Spurling was born in Cincinnati in April 1936. Spurling had a really tough upbringing with his father leaving his mother when he was young. His mother was blind from diabetes and eventually had her legs amputated through the disease. As a teenager Charles was part of a gang and their main rivals were the Isley Brothers. The name of the game for these gangs was singing – not shooting. Both gangs would stand on a street corner taking turns to sing and that was how many started back then.
He met a singer by the name of Junior McCants and loved his voice so much that he wanted to write a song for him – McCants was with the influential King record label so writing a song for the singer would be a way in for Spurling. He got to cut his own records including the featured track “She cried just a minute” which had a bit of a Motown feel to it. This record was to become a huge rare record on the northern soul scene in England.
Charles Spurling was a tough guy – he was well known as a character you did not mess with. He was involved in various incidents – one such occasion involved the James Brown group the Famous Flames. The altercation involved one of Spurling’s songs that the Flames were going to buy, after meeting in a hotel the Flames had no intention of handing over money for the song and tried to throw Spurling out of the 5th floor window. Spurling thwarted their attempt wit the help of his guitar – smacking group members around the head. A later meeting with James Brown himself ended in fisticuffs! Brown is well known as a former boxer but he did not know Spurling was also a boxer. Brown tried to punch Spurling but Charles knocked Brown to the ground with a barrage of punches. After this, James Brown respected Spurling and worked with him for over four years.
Throughout the years, Spurling worked with many well known artists including Bootsy Collins, Randy Crawford, Marvin Whitney and the Untouchables who later morphed into the Ohio Players.
Later in life Charles Spurling went through open heart surgery and Spurling admits this gave him a new perspective on life and now he was looking back to the person he was and saying that he may be broke but I am happy not to be a millionaire if it takes doing anything to achieve it – a clear reference to James Brown and his business acumen as well hinting Brown surrounded himself with minders who would do anything on the orders of James Brown.
Sadly, Charles Spurling died in December 2014 – his story is of a man that did the right things in life, inspired by his mother and his belief in God. He could handle himself and made that known when threatened but he is one of soul music good guys – the record featured is a class uptempo dancer and one to keep the name Charles Spurling known for years to come.