The year was 1983, and a relatively new group based out of Dahlonega, GA was making waves on the southern gospel music scene with a song that many considered to be their ‘breakthrough’ – “In My Robe Of White”. That group was the Gold City Quartet. That song rose to #3 on the national Singing News Chart, and caused many to take note of the song’s writer – Geniece Spencer Ingold.
At the time, Geniece was traveling part-time with her family, the Spencer Family of Shiloh, OH. The group consisted of Geniece, her parents, J.B. and Barbara, and her two brothers, Wade and Kevin. They released their first recording in 1972, and had recently completed an album for Trail Records entitled When I Crossed That River, which included the song “In My Robe Of White”.
Those that heard the Spencer Family’s recording of the song began to notice their style, which was rather unique for the time. While many groups were beginning to incorporate contemporary or progressive overtones into their music, the Spencer Family conveyed a rather ‘traditional’ style. It was not entirely bluegrass, though not entirely country. Perhaps the best description would be ‘Appalachian’ – a typical recording would be permeated with acoustic guitars, mandolins, steel guitars, harmonica, and drums. Coupled with the close harmonies the family had developed, the Spencer Family certainly had something different to offer. Many took note, so much so that the family took a ‘leap of faith’ and went full-time in 1983.
That same year, the Spencer Family signed with a national recording label – MorningStar Records. One of the premier ‘development’ companies in the industry, MorningStar, headed by Eddie Crook, would launch the careers of many prominent southern gospel artists, including the McKameys, the Perrys, and the Bishops.
By 1985, the Spencer Family had become ‘The Spencers’, and had a number of hit songs to their credit, including “God’s On Our Side”, “Gonna Run On Home Now”, “When They Tell You I’m Gone”, “Then We’ll Be Glad”, and, most notably “Praying”. Also the title of their 1985 album, this particular song, written by Hazel Houser, rose to #13 on the charts in January of 1987. A concept, or music, video of the song was produced as well (it’s available online for viewing).
By 1987, sister Geniece had departed to devote more time with her family, although she would continue to write songs for the group. It should also be noted that many of the songs the Spencers recorded were often times written by members of the group.
Also around this time, the Spencers had organized their own recording and publishing company – Peaceful Stream Music. This ultimately gave them complete control over their songs and albums. Their 1987 recording, I’d Like To Go Home Again, was the first to be released on Peaceful Stream. This was followed by a Christmas album, Home And Christmas, and then, in 1989, Coming Soon.
The title cut of their 1989 release, “Coming Soon”, would become a game-changer for the Spencers. Written by Val and Gene Johnson, the song rose to #1 on the Singing News Chart and held that position for three months in a row. Not only would “Coming Soon” become the ‘signature’ song for the Spencers, it would take them to perhaps the most unusual of places, especially for a southern gospel group: the British Virgin Islands.
It all began when Kevin Spencer received a phone call from radio station WGOD in St. Thomas. The DJ there informed him that “Coming Soon” was number-one on their station. A friendship developed, and soon the decision was made to visit the islands for a concert tour. The Spencers also decided to record a live album and video. Of the three islands visited on the tour, Tortola was chosen to record the live project. And thus, in 1991, fans could purchase The Spencers – Live In Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
The Spencers were enjoying tremendous success, especially with another #1 song to their credit – “Let’s Meet By The River”. But, as you might suspect, some changes were in store as 1992 approached. We’ll continue our look at the Spencers next month!