Top; Kenneth Spencer performing in Denmark, circa 1955. Above: Kenneth Spencer singing at an unknown location, circa 1940's
Kenneth Spencer's first major concert was at the Hollywood Bowl in 1930, at age nineteen. In 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, Kenneth Spencer arrived in New York City with his diploma from Rochester School of Music, and no job. The former NBC star of San Francisco found out he was virtually unknown in the east coast. New York music critic and jazz lover John Hammond heard Kenneth sing and introduced him to Barney Josephson, owner of the famous Cafe Society, which introduced many African American artists and was the only club in New York that allowed patrons to sit with each other, regardless of race.
Mr. Josephson hired Spencer upon meeting him and hearing "How do you do?" Barney Josephson became good friends with Spencer who referred to him as "Papa." During these years Kenneth became friends with Paul Robeson, Lena Horne, Teddy Wilson, W.C. Burleigh, and many other artists.
Left: Program for Kenneth Spencer's Carnegie Hall concert in 1947. Right: First page of Spencer's 1948-49 performance schedule in the United States. Every year after moving to Europe in 1949, Spencer spent winters touring the United States.
Kenneth Spencer sang world premiere performances by American composer Gail Kubik, French modernist composer Darius Milhaud and Swiss composer Arthur Honegger (both of whom he befriended in Paris), and Russian Romantic composer Alexnder Gretchaninov, who, at 83 years of age, was in the audience at Spencer's Carnegie Hall concert and received an ovation.
Above: Kenneth Spencer sings in unknown club Paris 1949. Below: Program announcement for Paris performance, 1949.
In February 1949, Spencer was invited by the French government to sing at their International Music Festival. Spencer also gave concerts at Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo and Cannes. As he peered through the curtains backstage in Paris, he was astounded to see a packed house, with the concert being announced only ten days before. This experience moved him greatly and he decided to move to Paris. In 1950, he sang ina series of radio broadcasts with Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise.
Left: Kenneth Spencer sings in an outdoor event in Germany, 1961 Right: Kenneth Spencer at Lux, unknown location, circa 1960.
Left; Kenneth Spencer performing in Stuttgart, Germany, circa 1955, Right; flowers from an admirer, circa 1960
Starting in 1950, Kenneth Spencer spent fourteen years touring throughout Europe giving concerts and performances. He adapted Germany as his own country and became a national fixture. His concerts were well attended by all generations who came out to hear his impressive voice and spirited performances.
Kenneth Spencer performing in Stuttgart, Germany in 1960.