Most Influential – #5 – Speer Family

speerfamily1958songsyouverequestedmaxThe top five most influential artists in Southern Gospel music kicks off this week with the artist ranked 5th; the Speer Family.

The Speer Family will be forever credited as the first family/mixed group in Southern Gospel music, beginning in 1921.  In an era when song book quartets were traveling, singing and selling song books, the Speer Family began their singing career with George (dad), Lena (mom), George’s sister Pearl Claborn and her husband Logan.

In the beginning, the group sang throughout the southeast United States singing both Gospel music and secular/mainstream music of that time.  When Pearl and Logan left the group, George and Lena called on their children to join the group.  Brock, Mary Tom, Rosa Nell and Ben all became accomplished singers and musicians at the instruction of Dad Speer.

As the children got older and began getting married, the sisters would leave the road opening up for Brock’s wife, Faye to join the group.  The Speer Family is also credited as having one of the first 12″ LPs released on RCA Victor in 1955 titled The Speer Family Album.

The Speer Family’s success continued in to the 1960’s.  Then the Gospel music community lost George Speer in 1966 and Lena followed a year later (1967).  Brock and Ben could have decided to stop singing after the loss of their parents, but instead they soldiered on and carried the Speers to even greater success in the 1970’s.  

The Speer Family legacy finally came to end in 1996 when the group celebrated 75 consecutive years in Southern Gospel music.  The influence the Speer Family would forever have on the opening landscape of having more than just all male quartets singing this style of Gospel music will never be forgotten.  Every mixed/family group that ever found success in Southern Gospel music can thank the Speer Family.

INFLUENCE METER:

  • speerfamily1968bigsingingdaymaxIt is hard to believe the Speer Family only ever won, one Singing News fan award when Jane Greene won horizon individual in 1989.  They had greater success at the Dove awards winning 11 Dove awards, including mixed group of the year eight times and Southern Gospel album of the year in 1975 (I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen) and 1976 (Between The Cross And Heaven).
  • The Speer Family have also found a home in the Gospel music hall of fame, being inducted in 1998.  George Speer (1997), Lena Speer (1997), Brock Speer (1997), Mary Tom (2006), Rosa Nell (2005), Ben Speer (1998) and Harold Lane (2009) are all Southern Gospel hall of fame inductees.
  • As already mentioned every mixed/family group that came after can credit their success to the Speer Family.  The Speer Family alumni, in addition to those already mentioned, include Karen Apple, Kelly Back, Joyce Black, Sue Dodge, Ann Downing, Jane Greene, Bill Itzel, Bob Johnson, Jeanne Johnson, Harold Lane, Sherrill Nielsen, Linda Robinson, Ginger Smith, Marc Speer, Michael Speer, Steve Speer, Susan Speer, Caroline Traylor, Daryl Williams and Charles Yates.
  • Hit Songs:  “All Because Of God’s Amazing Grace”, “Before The Rocks Cry Out”, “Between The Cross And Heaven”, “Broken Pieces”, “Child Of The King”, “Church Of The Living God”, “Church Triumphant”, “City Coming Down”, “Cornerstone”, “Dearest Friend I Ever Had”, “Didn’t It Rain”, “God Gave The Song”, “God’s Love”, “Hallelujah He’s Coming Again”, “Hallelujah Time”, “He Still Reigns”, “Heaven’s Jubilee”, “Here Comes The Bride”, “He’s Ever Interceding’, “He’s On The Throne”, “He’s Still In The Fire”, “I Just Began To Live”, “I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen”, “I Never Shall Forget The Day”, “I Was There When It Happened”, “In The Midst Of It All”, “It Had To Be Love”, “I’m Bound For That City”, “Jesus (He Is The Son Of God)”, “Joy In The Camp”, “The King Is Coming”, “Let’s Just Praise The Lord”, “Miracles Will Happen On That Day”, “Next Time He Comes”, “Old Fashioned Meeting”, “Old Rugged Cross Made The Difference”, “Pity The Man”, “Rock I’m Leaning On”, “Saved To The Uttermost”, “Spirit Will Come Down”, “Steppin Out On Faith”, “Time Has Made A Change”, “What Sins Are You Talking About”, “When Jesus Breaks The Morning” and “Won’t We Be Happy”.
  • Best Album:  Big Singing Day (1968)

 

Here is a YouTube clip (published by Edwin Miolen) of the Speer Family performing “Child Of The King”.  Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on “Most Influential – #5 – Speer Family

  1. Ya, I guess they were one of the big pioneers 90 years ago, and in that sense they were influential, but has anyone said “Hey, let’s do it like the Speers” since Mom & Pop left? Their circle of influence pretty much turned into a dot about 40 years ago. Just my opinion, of course.

  2. First of all, I want to commend you for your love of southern gospel music and its history. However, since you are much younger than those of us who actually experienced southern gospel music in its heyday – the 1960s and 1970s, us older ones might have some insight than you do not have.

    There is no doubt that the Speer Family had a sizable influence in southern gospel music, but possibly one of the reasons for this was because of their longevity and the fact that many excellent singers came and went who later developed careers of their own, as you already mentioned. .I can’t remember whether the Speers won a Grammy – I seem to recall their being nominated, but you did not mention that and I didn’t have time yet to check it out.. You did not mention Allison Durham Speer. Yes, she came later, marrying a Speer if memory serves me right, but in recent years when the Speers still sang occasionally, she was a part of them..

    I would not have rated the Speers higher than the Rambos in the influence meter and I’ll tell you one major reason why: I just did a check of the Singing News Gospel Hits Charts of the 1970s and I found that the Rambos had at least 21 different songs listed in the top 40 and many of those songs remained in the top 40 for many months. The Speers had songs listed in the top 40 only about half as much or less. And twice the Rambos’ songs went to #1 and as far as I know, the Speers never had a #1 song charted on the Singing News Charts. Of course, most of that was due to the songwriting of Dottie Rambo – in fact the Speers also recorded some of Dottie Rambo’s songs such as “Sheltered in the Arms of God” and “If That Isn’t Love.” (Actually, I think one mistake you made in evaluating influence was to look at the awards categories. The awards during this time period were very much a popularity contest, even more so than it is today. The Rambos were nominated for Dove awards almost every time during their heydey, but they never won for group of the year or other awards. During that era, pentecostals and women did not generally fare so well being the top vote getter. It was after that, for example, that Dottie Rambo began to be recognized with most of the awards she received later in life (ASCAP lifetime achievement award, Songwriter of the Century, Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and several more.). The early exception for Dottie Rambo was the Grammy and Billboard Magazine award she won in 1968 for recording with an all-black choir. The KKK threatened to kill her for that.

    There is no doubt that the Speer Family was one of the most genuine and sincere groups singing gospel over the years, but if you were to ask people over the age of 50 about the influence meter, they would likely rate the Rambos ahead of the Speers in the influence meter. But having said that, Dottie Rambo loved the Speers and the Speers loved Dottie Rambo.

    I’m anxious to see who you have in the #1 spot. I’m pretty sure I know who it will be and if so, I will probably agree with you and comment at that time. Thanks for loving southern gospel and I think you recognize, as I do, that without the forerunners that went before us, we would not have had the great variety of Christian music that later developed, some of it good and some of it not so good.

    1. Thanks Jerry, you are right in that I wasn’t able to actually witness the great groups of the 1960’s/1970’s live. But I am thankful that I do own their record albums (and I have a collection that would rival and maybe surpass some of you old timers). 🙂 I respect the artists that have come before because I am of the belief that you can’t know where your heading if you don’t know what came before. I am certain everyone’s list would be different if asked to do a similar ranking. I tried to be as objective as possible, but a little subjectivity bleeds in to it whether you want it to or not.

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