The Spotnicks are an instrumental group from Sweden that has sold over 20 million records worldwide, making them the third most successful Swedish group internationally, after ABBA and Roxette. This year they celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The Spotnicks originated from Rock-Teddy and the Blue Caps, a group formed in 1957 in Gothenburg by guitarist Bo Winberg (born 27 March, 1939), the undisputed leader of the group. Bo Starander on rhythm guitar (who later called himself Bob Lander) and Björn Thelin on bass guitar were the other two original members. In 1958 they added Ove Johansson as their drummer, changed their name to the Frazers and began playing regularly in local clubs. In 1961 they signed a recording contract with the Swedish Karussel label and changed their name again, this time to the Spotnicks, a play on the Russian satellite Sputnik, suggested by their manager, Roland Ferneborg. Their first single was "Ghost Riders In the Sky"/"The Old Spinning Wheel" (Karussel 340), but it was their second release, a high-speed guitar version of the bluegrass classic "Orange Blossom Special" that set the ball rolling. The single was an international success, especially in Australia where it topped the charts. In the UK, it peaked at # 29 in mid-1962 (Oriole CB 1724) and was the first of a long series of UK releases, all on the Oriole label. The next single, "Rocket Man" (# 38 UK) was the inspiration for a new stage outfit : space suits with big helmets. It was the idea of a Swedish TV producer and no fun at all, according to Bo Winberg, but he toed the line. The year 1962 was a good one for the Spotnicks : they toured Germany, France and Spain and recorded their first album in London. Two more British hits would follow : "Hava Nagila" (# 13) and "Just Listen To My Heart" (# 36), both in 1963. In that year they had their biggest Swedish hit : "Amapola", which topped the Swedish charts for eight weeks. It also made the Top 10 in Germany, Holland, Belgium and perhaps a few other countries. Also in 1963, Ove Johansson left the group and was replaced by Derek Skinner from the UK and later (1965-1967) by Jimmy Nicol, who had toured briefly with the Beatles in 1964 when Ringo Starr was ill.

Musical tastes changed quickly the 1960s and by the second half of the decade, their guitar sound was already past its sell-by date. But like the Ventures, the Spotnicks found reliable audiences in Germany and especially in Japan, where they scored several number ones. In 1969, the group disbanded, but Winberg continued to record, using the name the Spotnicks, until the group reunited in 1972 at the request of a Japanese record company. If the Spotnicks had started out as a rock and roll group, in the 1970s they turned more and more into an easy listening act. While the line-up in the sixties had been pretty stable, members started drifting in and out in the next decade, with Winberg as the constant factor. By the 1980s they had become a curiosity even in their native Sweden, but still kept their popularity in Japan and Germany. Winberg has continued to lead versions of the Spotnicks, occasionally including Lander and / or Thelin, on tour and in the studio. The group has recorded over 700 different songs, has released 42 albums (per 2008) and the estimate is that there have been at least a hundred different members of the Spotnicks through the decades. The current line-up is : Bo Winberg (lead guitar), Bob Lander (rhythm guitar), Stephan Möller, (drums), Kentha Brännlund (guitar) and Göran Sanfridsson (bass)

Acknowledgements : Wikipedia, All Music Guide, Spotnicks website at (in Swedish and English).
"Orange Blossom Special" on YouTube:


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