The Spencers – Part II
This month we conclude our look at one of southern gospel’s most beloved family groups – the Spencers. Based in Ohio, they entered a full-time music ministry in 1983, and immediately became known for their traditional ‘Appalachian’ styling. Especially in an era when many artists were beginning to experiment with new sounds (country, contemporary, inspirational, etc.), the Spencers held true to their roots; their recordings featured rather simple instrumentation – guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, steel guitar, etc. Not country, neither bluegrass – the Spencers certainly had their own unique sound.
To recap, the Spencers: J.B. and Barbara Spencer, their sons, Kevin and Wade, and daughter Geniece (although Geniece had retired from touring by 1987).
We continue our story in the year 1992. The Spencers had achieved two number-one songs on the Singing News Charts: “Coming Soon” and “Let’s Meet By The River”. They had a number of top-ten songs to their credit, and had just returned from the British Virgin Islands, where they cut a very popular live album and video, Live In Tortola.
But, as you might suspect, some changes were on the way. In June of 1992, the announcement came that Kevin Spencer was launching his own ministry: The Kevin Spencer Family. Kevin would tour with his wife, Tammy, and brother-in-law Michael, presenting music similar in style to the Spencers, what they billed as ‘southern country gospel’ music. Their debut release to radio, a song entitled “Some Dawning”, reached #7 on the national Singing News Charts.
Thus, the Spencers continued as a trio of J.B., Barbara, and Wade. In 1992, the group released their 20th Anniversary recording, which produced two more top-ten songs: “We Shall Meet” and “Hallelujah Morning”. Likewise, the Kevin Spencer Family was enjoying chart success with songs like “I Heard About A Stone”, “Twelve Gates To The City”, and their very first number-one song, “The Blood Is Still There”.
The Spencers continued through the nineties with hit songs such as “We Will Win”, “Where Are The Children”, “Endless Supply”, “He Still Rolls The Stone Away”, “God Moves Mountains”, and “Chances Are”.
Then, in 1997 came the announcement that shocked many, including Wade Spencer. The Spencers were retiring, effective January 31, 1998. The decision came from J.B. and Barbara (keep in mind the group began performing around 1972). With his parents now enjoying retirement, Wade began a successful solo career. Meanwhile, the Kevin Spencer Family continued, later rebranded as Kevin Spencer & Friends.
In 1996, Singing News Magazine interviewed the Spencers, and asked Barbara how they would like for the Spencers to be remembered. Here’s her response:
“There are two big desires of the group – to be of service to God and to carry the Gospel message. Even though music is the means by which we do those things, it doesn’t come first in our lives. We want to help people, we want to pray with people for whatever their needs may be. We always want to reach out with compassion to those people who are hurting. It’s an overused term, but we want our lives to be good examples for others to follow.”
And thus, we conclude our look at the Spencers. Keep in mind that Wade Spencer occasionally visits Mountain Grove Church in Fulks Run each April, continuing the legacy of the Spencers. Also, unlike many other southern gospel groups, you can find virtually all of the Spencers recordings on your favorite streaming platforms, and many can still be purchased directly from the Spencers.
Next month, something a bit different… You may recall that last year this month, WBTX was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Well, next month, I’d like to share with you a look into WBTX’s former sister station – WLTK – remembered by many as ‘Light 96 FM’.