April 25, 1911

  • Born in Los Angeles, California (Boyle Heights area, now known as Hollenbeck Heights) to William and Emma Spencer

1927 -1929

  • Earns money for voice lessons by appearing in bit parts in the all African American talking movie “Hearts In Dixie,”  "Mississippi Gambler, " and other small film productions
  • Studies voice at the 28th Street YMCA, and Los Angeles Music Settlement

1930

  • With other vocalists created the 28th St. YMCA Quartet or "Two-Eight Quartet
  • Graduated Roosevelt High School
  • Stars in "Havers "Minstrels" in Fox West Coast Theaters, booked on the Fanchon Marco circuit
  • Appears as a special soloist at the Hollywood Bowl, singing “The Horn” a hunting song in which he used a 2- octave range, “ending on his famous low C”. 

1931

  • Worked as a road builder and gardener, and along with the help from donors, moves to San Francisco
  • Sings with the Dixie Symphony Quartet from Los Angeles
  • Studies voice with Mrs. 'Kip' McMurray

1932

  • Dixie Symphony Quartet disbands.
  • Creates own radio series of readings and songs called Truthful Deacon Brown" on Radio KPO, San Francisco
  • Meets Noel Sullivan who underwrites singing lessons for two years
  • Meets Roland Hayes
  • Contract with CBS San Francisco for weekly series broadcasts
  • Concert engagements throughout northern California and Canada
  • Marries Dorothy Mae Fisher

1933

  • Belasco, Curran and Lang Production of "Show Boat" in Los Angeles at the Curran and Mayan Theater

1934

  • Scholarship to Eastman School of Music with the help of famed tenor Roland Hayes
  • Jane Wolford is his voice teacher

1935-37

  • While attending Eastman, earns a living with his voice on Radio Station WHAM, and Saturday and Sunday evenings at club Chateau in Rochester
  • Summers of 1935- 37, returns to west coast, and weekly broadcasts with NBC San Francisco

1938

  • Receives Bachelor's degree in Music (BA) and special citation, “A Performers Certificate,” at age 27
  • Sang in the Federal Music Project “Gettysburgh” for NBC Blue radio, first from El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, then as soloist with Los Angeles Symphony at Hollywood Bowl Sept. 23rd
  • Performed in Dunsany’s play “The Unknown Warrior”
  • Performs as Joe in “Show Boat” with the St Louis Municipal Opera Company
  • Broadcast series for NBC West coast

1939

  • Travels to New York to be Paul Robeson understudy in "John Henry" in New York

1940

  • Paul Robeson's "John Henry"  closes in New York after only seven performances
  • Returns to Club Chateau in Rochester for the winter
  • Concert tour through western Canada (about 18 concerts)
  • Concerts and appearances arranged throughout Iowa, through a minister
  • Concerts in Antioch College, Cleveland, Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York (with an orchestra)
  • Moves to Harlem. Meets Barney Josephson through music critic John Hammond, and begins singing at Café Society, in New York City

1941

  • Cafe Society Uptown opens. Spencer sings Allen Lewis'  "Strange Fruit"
  • First Town Hall Recital, New York City
  • Singing engagements throughout the states and Canada during the summer
  • Has own broadcast with CBS radio

1942

  • Steady work at Cafe Society and CBS radio
  •  St Louis Production of "Show Boat"
  • Concert appearances throughout the states and Canada during the summer

1943

  • Signs agreement with agent Colston Leigh
  • "Cabin in the Sky"  MGM movie
  • "Bataan" MGM movie
  • Appears in Langston Hughes play "For This We Fight" at Madison Square Garden. The cast included Paul Robeson, Canada Lee and Pearl Primus
  • Concert at Howard University with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Organized First All-African American U.S.O. unit and toured the Carribean and Southwest Pacific Bases 1943-44

1944

  • CBS broadcast program of five recitals a week, consisting of classical songs, popular ballads and spirituals
  • Café Society Uptown opens

1945

  • Receives fellowship from Julian Rosenwald Fund, to study voice and other languages in New York City
  • Studies German and Russian song literature with Alexander Kipnis, Italian with Melchoir Luise, and French with Eva Gauthier and Leon Rothier
  • Sang the ballad “A Walk In The Sun” on Broadway
  • Signs agreement with Arch records

1946  

  • "Show Boat," Zeigfield, New York City. Eight shows a week for the entire year (Jan.)
  • Narrated the world premiere of "Aaron Copeland’s A Lincoln Portrait" with the New York Philharmonic under Arthur Rodzinski, recorded and released by Columbia (Feb.)
  • Second Town Hall Concert (April)

1947

  • Awarded of “Performer of the Year" by The Newspaper Guild at Madison Square Garden, New York City
  • First African American to sing at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Solo concert at Carnegie Hall, sings world premiers of songs by French composers Darius Milhaud and Arthur Honegger, and ninety-year-old Russian composer Alexander Gretchaninov, who was present at the premier and received a standing ovation.

1948

  • Becomes the first Africa American to perform concerts in Alaska, and it was the first time a Steinway piano was played there, as it was flown in for the performance. 
  • Dorothy and Kenneth divorce

1949

  • Invited by French government to perform at the International Music Festivals in Nice and Paris.
  • Concerts in Berlin, including with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Returns to France for a series of radio broadcasts with Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise
  • Concert tour in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (October)
  • Marries American journalist Josephine Levin in Paris (December)
  • Concert tour in Israel (December)

1951  

  • Concert tours in the United States, Canada and Alaska during winter months
  • Son William Spencer (Billy) born in Paris in March
  • French film "Les Joyeux Pelerins" (a Fred Pasquali movie )
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1952

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Sarastro in "The Magic Flute," in Ghent, Belgium, eight shows
  • Concert appearances in Europe

1953

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Sarastro in “The Magic Flute” in London
  • Concert appearances in Europe

1954

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • With Edith Piaf in Monaco in March
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1955

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Concert tours in India, Pakistan and Ceylon
  • Concert tour in Northern Africa
  • Concert tour in Greece

1956  

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • German film: "Mein Bruder Josua" (My Brother Joshua)
  • German film “Gruß und Kuß vom Tegernsee” (Greetings and Kiss released in 1964 in the United States)
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1957

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • German stage production of "Mein Bruder Josua" (My Brother Joshua)
  • Appeared in episode of American television series "My Nice Mama"
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1958

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Sarastro in “The Magic Flute” Salzburg, Austria
  • British television (ITV) production of Eugene O'Neill's "Emperor Jones"
  • Performs "St. Matthew's Passion" in Berlin
  • British television (ITV) production series "Cry, Beloved Country" with Gordon Heath and Errol John
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1959

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • German film: "An Jedem Finger Zehn"
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1960

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1961

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • German film “Unser Haus in Camerun” (Our House in Cameroon)
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1962

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Sarastro in “Magic Flute” in London
  • German TV production of "Emperor Jones" (Kaiser Jones) aired in Germany, Switzerland and Austria
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe

1963

  • Concert tours in the United States and Canada during winter months
  • Concert appearances throughout Europe  

1964

  • Kenneth Spencer killed in Eastern Air Lines' Flight 304 crash at Lake Pontchartrain, after leaving the New Orleans International Airport, February 24th. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.