Spectropop remembers

McARTHUR MUNFORD (1943 - 2006)

McArthur J. Munford, bass singer with the Spellbinders, has died of cancer at the age of 63. He was born into a working class family in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1943. After attending the Jersey City school system he got into street corner singing and by 1960 had joined his first group, the Valitons.

Munford then teamed up with fellow New Jersey hopefuls James Wright, Bobby Shivers, Ben Grant and Elouise Pennington to form the Spellbinders, signing with Bill Downs' Doshawn management agency. In 1965 the group were signed to Columbia Records under the guidance of producer Van McCoy. 'For You' and 'Help Me (Get Myself Back Together Again)' both reached the Billboard Pop charts, while 'Chain Reaction' and 'Help Me' were hits in the UK. Their album, 'The Magic Of The Spellbinders', cut with Van McCoy, is considered one of the finest in the soul idiom, containing gems such as 'Self Defence' and 'Baby I Miss You', never released as singles. The group toured extensively with Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett.

By 1969 the Spellbinders had broken up. Munford then reunited with Ray Block of the Valitons to form Vintage, an a cappella group. When illness forced him to quit the music business he worked various jobs in the chemical industry and later for a supermarket chain. (The group Vintage, now called New Vintage and featuring Munford's first wife, Abby, still performs in the New York area.) In 2005 he was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. His last public appearance was at the Soultrip USA festival in New Jersey the following April, where he got to meet many of his British fans for the first time. He recollected that it was perhaps the happiest moment of his singing career. He died in his sleep six months later. Elouise Pennington of the Spellbinders led the singing at his funeral, while a photograph of the group lay by his coffin. He leaves five children from two marriages.

(From an obituary in Manifesto magazine, with additional information by Joe Somsky)

McArthur Munford, singer: born January 20th, 1943 - died September 5th, 2006