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GOGR Music History -
The Speer Family

The Speer Family moved to Nashville, Tennessee shortly after Brock was discharged from the Air Force. Brock felt the calling of God to the ministry and he enrolled at Trevecca Nazarene College. The Speer Family established themselves amid the music world of Nashville. They had a morning radio show and traveled around singing their gospel music. At this time, there were few mixed gospel groups traveling about the country.

Brock would have probably become a minister, had his father not experienced some dental problems. Itís amazing how God works His magic. Dad had his teeth extracted, and he began experiencing some trouble speaking from the stage. He turned the emcee duties over to Brock, and Brock soon found out that he could do his own version of sermonizing without the benefit of a pulpit. Through the ministry of music, Brock was able to relay the gospel to countless thousands.

The Speer Family began to experience an increase in number through their grandchildren. Dad offered a fifty-dollar "bounty" for each of his grandchildren. Brock and Faye were the first to have a grandchild when Susan was born. Soon thereafter, Faye retired from the road for a few years, but singing was always in her blood and she was always available to sing with the family whenever the need arose.

During this time, brother Ben was attending high school at Trevecca and working at WSIX radio in Nashville. Around this time, the Speers began their first foray into television when they began an early morning program on Channel 5 in Nashville. 


The Speer Family Live on Television
L-R: Ben, Mom, Dad, Brock

 

The Speers became television trendsetters which they continued through their involvement in other television programs including "Singing Time in Dixie" and "The NEW Gospel Singing Caravan".

The Speer Family continued to sing, but Cupid finally made it necessary for the Speers to go outside the family for some reinforcements when Mary Tom married Robert Reid in 1954. The Speer Family soon realized the need to look for some "adopted" Speers. The first to join the group was a young Alabama girl named Joyce Black who became a Speer in March of 1955. She remained with the Speer Family for about three years before her beautiful smile and bubbly personality propelled her into the arms of Ken West. Joyce continues today to sing, play the piano, and teach music in Tennessee.

By now, the Speer Family had many single recordings on the RCA Victor label. One, if not the first 12" gospel music album was released in 1955 by the Speer Family on the RCA Victor label. Entitled simply, "The Speer Family Album," it became a bestseller in the RCA catalogue. The album was very akin to a typical Speer Family concert. It featured popular songs of the day, traditional favorites, and a composition by Dad Speer. Soon, Brock and Ben Speer became important figures in other realms of the music industry.


Speer Family - 1954
L-R: Ben, Joyce Black, Dad, Mom, Brock

 


The Speer Family Album - 1955
Featuring Ben, Dad, Joyce, Mom, and Brock

Publishing of gospel music soon became a part of the Speer Family business. Ben Speer heard the song "Peace in the Valley" and realized that it would soon become a big hit. How right he was! However, no sheet music existed and nobody could tell Ben the origins of the song. He decided that it must be public domain, so he quickly produced sheet music of this great song which said, "arranged by Ben Speer." Thus, Ben Speer Music Company was born. He soon learned that the song was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, so a royalty arrangement was worked out and it became a top selling song for Ben Speer Music Company.


Ben at the Console

 

Brock became quite involved with the newly formed Skylite recording company. He was the producer and music director for many of the early Skylite projects. He often designed the record jackets, played rhythm guitar, and wrote the liner notes for these albums. Groups such as the Florida Boys, Oak Ridge Quartet, and Rebels could thank Brock for their successful Skylite album releases. Ben was also an instrumentalist on many of these recording sessions.

The Speer Family now headlined on the biggest stages in gospel music. The family took their music seriously and they never failed to give their best whenever they were on the stage. Dad Speer believed in good music education and took voice lessons nearly all of his life. The Speers were always bringing new songs to their audiences. Often, these songs would be from the pen of Dad Speer. Songs such as "Standing by the River," "Surely I Will, Lord," "Iím Bound for that City," and "My Lord Will Lead Me Home" became mainstays in the Speer program. Brock and Ben incorporated some comedy into the program, but people were always enthralled by the precise singing of the Speers and the love the family obviously felt for each other. A highlight of a Speer Family concert was always the famous duet by Mom and Dad, "Wonít We Be So Happy." The Speer Family also traveled with Big Jim Waits for a while to allow him the opportunity to sing once again. These old masters, Jim and Dad, performing on stage together was pure magic.


Speer Family on Stage - 1958
L-R: Ben, Mom, Dad, Brock, Ginger Smith


Mom and Dad's signature song



Speer Family - 1962
L-R: Ginger, Ben, Dad, Brock, Mom

 

Ginger Smith was the next adopted Speer to join the family. For more than five years, this lovely Georgia girl played thepiano and sang a lovely soprano part for the Speer Family. Ginger was loved by all who enjoyed her wonderful talents. Ginger soon caught the eye of Wally Laxon, who was a great gospel music tenor singer himself. Much to the chagrin of Dad Speer, she left the Speer Family to wed the first tenor of the Tennesseans Quartet. Wally and Ginger have had a very successful career as singing evangelists.

Dad and Mom Speer have been singing the gospel at this time for more than fifty years. In 1958, the Speer Family released the album "Dad Speerís Golden Anniversary." This was one of the first albums released on the new Skylite record label which hosted the Speers for many years. However, it was becoming apparent that time was making a change, as the song Dad Speer sang for many years would declare. Dadís health was becoming an increasing concern to the family. Dad was always one for saying "The show must go on," but his family was more concerned about his health.

As time was making a change, the Speers found the need to change themselves. Join us next time as we again explore some of the changes in the Speer Family.

If you have comments or questions, feel free to post them at this site or email me at: john@grandolegospelreunion.com.


Speer Family at RCA Studios
L-R: Ben, Brock, Mary Tom, Mom, Dad

Joyce Black West at the Piano Roll of Honor

 

 

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