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The Spiders were a 1960s garage rock band, featuring Vincent Furnier (later known as Alice Cooper) on lead vocals. They consisted of Furnier, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, John Tatum, John Speer and Michael Bruce. Formed by Furnier and Dunaway, both high school friends at Cortez High School in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964, they would later evolve into the band Alice Cooper, which, in turn, Vincent Furnier would eventually take to be his stage name.
In 1964, 16-year-old Furnier was eager to participate in the local annual Letterman's talent show, so he gathered four fellow cross-country teammates to form a group for the show: Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, John Tatum and John Speer. They named themselves The Earwigs. They dressed up in costumes and wigs to resemble the Beatles, and performed several parodies of Beatles songs, with the lyrics modified to refer to the track team: in their rendition of "Please Please Me", for example, the line "Last night I said these words to my girl" was replaced with "Last night I ran four laps for my coach". Of the group, only Buxton and Tatum knew how to play an instrument--the guitar--so Buxton and Tatum played guitars while the rest mimed on their instruments. The group got an overwhelming response from the audience and won the talent show. As a result of their positive experience, the group decided to try to turn into a real band. They acquired musical instruments from a local pawn shop, and proceeded to learn how to play them, with Buxton doing most of the teaching, as well as much of the early songwriting. They soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals, Buxton on lead guitar, Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dunaway on bass guitar, and Speer on drums. Musically, the group was inspired by artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Doors, and the Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider's web as their backdrop, the group's first stage prop.
In 1965, the Spiders recorded their first single, "Why Don't You Love Me" (originally performed by the Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for the song. The single's B-side track was the Marvin Gaye Tamla Records hit, "Hitch Hike". The single was released by local record label, Mascot Records, owned by Jack Curtis, a concert promoter who also owned the Stage 7 teen club which later became the VIP Club where the Spiders were the house band.
In 1966, the Spiders graduated from high school and after North High School footballer Michael Bruce replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band released their second single, "Don't Blow Your Mind", an original composition which became a local #1 hit, backed by "No Price Tag". The single was recorded at Copper State Recording Studio and issued by local micro-imprint, Santa Cruz Records.
By 1967, the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles to play shows. They soon renamed themselves Nazz and released the single "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now", backed with future Alice Cooper track "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye". At around this time, drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith. By the end of the year, the band had relocated to Los Angeles.
In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name. Furnier also believed that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage. The legend is that the name "Alice Cooper" came from a session with a Ouija board, largely chosen because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's image and music. However, in an interview with Mark Radcliffe on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC Radio 2 on 30 November 2009 Alice described the incident with the ouija board as an urban legend. He said "We literally got that whole story about the witch thing the way you guys got it. It was like just pure urban legend. I heard about the witch thing probably the same day you did, but it was a great story. "Alice Cooper" was a character on Mayberry R.F.D. (played by Alice Ghostley) at the time, probably coincidentally. Eventually Furnier adopted this stage name as his own. He later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves. The classic Alice Cooper group line-up consisted of Furnier, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith - all former members of the Spiders. This lineup would stay intact well into the 1970s.