Sign GOGR Music History Guestbook | View GOGR Music History Guestbook

GOGR Music History -
Speer Family

First, let me ask for your forgiveness for being tardy with this article. Other cares of this life have prevented me from keeping up in a timely manner and I thank Mr. Waller for being patient with me and I ask for your patience also.

The Speer Family went through several changes in the 1960s. However, they never disappointed their fans with the group they put on stage. For several years, Brock, Ben, and Faye Speer joined adopted Speers Ann Sanders and Charles Yates to carry on the Speer tradition. Often, Mom and Dad would join the group as their health would allow. Although many thought the Speers could never continue without Mom and Dad, the family tradition continued and the Speers never did a concert without giving their very best. Although the absence of Mom and Dad was felt, their audiences realized that the Speer Family would continue to provide them the best in gospel music whether their parents were there or not. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Dad Speer passed away September 7, 1966. One of their finest recordings was released shortly after Dad's death called "Dad Speer's Greatest Gospel Hits." It featured twelve songs either written or featuring G.T. Speer. This memorial album was one of the biggest sellers in the history of the family.

Charles Yates left the quartet shortly after Dad passed away. A great musician from West Virginia named Harold Lane joined the Speers, replacing Mr. Yates. Harold Lane was a band director in West Virginia and also had a great history in gospel music. He had previously sung with Connor Hall and the Homeland Harmony Quartet and was the manager of the Gospel Harmony Boys. Harold brought great talents to the Speer Family table and remained with the group for nearly two decades. He was a brilliant arranger and he brought many top hits to the table for the Speers. It's my desire to see Mr. Lane inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame, for he is quite deserving. Harold also wrote several top gospel hits including the award winning song, "Touring That City" among others.

Ann, Harold, Faye,
Ben, Mom, Brock - 1967

Mom Speer continued to appear with her children on a limited basis until her passing in 1967. Shortly before her death, the Speers recorded an album entitled "Rejoicing with Mom" which featured Mom Speer singing several gospel classics. The last recording she made with the Speers feature Mom singing "My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run . . . Oh come, Angel band . . . bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home!" What better way to announce the homecoming of this great woman of God.

Faye Speer had climbed aboard the Speer Family bus when Mom and Dad began to experience their health problems. She remained with the group until both Mom and Dad had gone to Glory. In addition to their singing, Faye and Brock also had parental responsibilities. Faye decided to "retire" from the road for a few years to be at home with their children Susan (Suzan) and Mark. In later years, both Suzan and Mark traveled with the Speers, continuing the "Family Affair" as one of their later albums would be titled.

Shortly after Mom's passing, the Speers hired North Carolinians Bob and Jeannie Johnson. They had developed a large following in gospel music with the Gethsemane Quartet from Greensboro, NC. Jeannie became one of the most beloved members of the Speer Family and was often cited as the favorite female vocalist in gospel music. Bob drove the bus for the group and was also featured on songs such as "Jesus is Coming Soon" and "Pity the Man." It was along about this time that I first heard the Speer Family, and I was enthralled by their singing. The first album that the Johnsons recorded with the Speers was entitled "Big Singing Day," and it remains one of their finest. It featured some of the most cutting edge harmonies that had ever been a part of gospel music at this time. This was the beginning of what I would call a time that the Speers were on the "cutting edge" of gospel music without becoming "edgy."

Jeanne, Linda, Ben, Bob,
Harold, Brock - 1969

The love bug bit Ann Sanders and she soon left the Speer Family She married Paul Downing and they were soon on the quartet circuit singing as the Downings.

Linda Robinson was working in the Speer Family office at the time of Ann's departure. She was a great pianist, a wonderful writer, and a great teacher of gospel music. It was only natural that she would join the group, filling the void left by Ann Sanders. What many people didn't realize was that in addition to her other talents, Linda was also a very gifted soprano vocalist. The Speers went on to attain even greater popularity with the aggregation of Brock, Ben, Jeannie, Bob, Harold, and Linda.

Brock, Jeanne, Bob, Linda,
Ben, Harold - 1970

The newly formed Gospel Music Association decided to honor the best of their industry with the Dove Awards. The Speer Family won the "Best Mixed Group" at the first Dove Awards ceremony. In true Speer fashion, this award went to the heart and not to the head. In keeping with this honor, the Speers and Imperials (Dove Award Winner as best Male Group) released a HeartWarming album entitled "Best of the Best".

Harold Lane continued to supply the Speers with great arrangements of older songs as well as newly discovered material. Bill Gaither constantly supplied the Speer Family with his latest compositions. One of my favorite albums of all time is "Especially Warm" by the Speers on the HeartWarming label. In addition to several Gaither compositions, it features one of the greatest pieces of "ear candy" I've ever heard with the acapella version of the Doris Akers composition "I Sure Do Love the Lord."

Not only did the Speers relish the concert stage, but they also joined the LeFevres on a television endeavor called the New Gospel Singing Caravan. Although the Speers didn't demonstrate it on stage very often, there were many great instrumentalists in the group. On their television show, the Speers often joined the LeFevres on some great instrumental numbers. That was one of the great, forgotten, television shows in gospel music history.

Susan, Sue, Bob, Jeanne, Ben, Harold, Brock - 1970

Linda left the Speer Family after a few years and several memorable recordings. After a short stint with the Downings, she and Wayne Hilliard formed "Higher Ground", a trio which is still ministering today. Linda was replaced in the Speers by her friend, Sue Chenault.

Sue was an original member of the Downings and a former contestant (and Miss Congeniality winner) in the Miss Arkansas beauty pageant. She brought her vivacious personality to the Speer Family. During this time, the Speers also brought a third generation of Speers to the group as Susan, Mark, and Stephen Speer joined their family. They were able to tap into the "Jesus Movement" with this group without straying too far from the roots that were planted by Mom and Dad Speer. This "youth movement" enabled the Speers to headline "Explo 72" . . . which became known as the Christian version of Woodstock.

During this time, the Speer Family recorded one of their biggest hits, the Gaither composition "The King is Coming." The youth movement of the Speers also helped the group increase their target audience without losing their ultraconservative Nazarene following.

The Speers continued to enthrall their audiences in the coming years. Next month, I will discuss the Speers as they continued to bless their audiences and readied themselves for retirement from the gospel music industry.

Please leave your comments here or send me an email at john@grandolegospelreunion.com.



Linda and Eva Mae on
"The New Gospel Singing Caravan"
1969

Jeanne, Sue, Bob, Stephen, Brock,
Susan, Harold, Ben, Mark - 1971

 


Harold, Mark,
Ben, Brock, Stephen,
Jeanne, Sue, Susan - 1972

Sign GOGR Music History Guestbook | View GOGR Music History Guestbook

 


Home | Ticket Info | Photos | Products | News | FAQ's | Guestbook | GOGR Music History | Links

 
2007 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion
Last Modified: July 4, 2007
Site Maintained by A.B. Kendall Productions