|Birth name||Leonard Garfield Spencer|
|Born||February 12, 1867|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Died||December 15, 1914 (aged 47)|
New York City
Leonard Garfield Spencer (February 12, 1867 – December 15, 1914) was an early American recording artist. He began recording for the Columbia Phonograph Company, in 1889 or 1890. Between 1892 and 1897 he recorded extensively for the New Jersey Phonograph Company and its successor the United States Phonograph Company. He specialized in vaudeville sketches and comic songs, but also sang sentimental ballads popular at the time. He returned to Columbia in 1898 for an exclusive contract then began recording for Berliner Gramophone (disc) records in 1899 and continued with Victor and Columbia as discs became the dominant format in the early 1900s.
He began performing with banjoist Vess L. Ossman in 1901 and with Ada Jones in 1905. He is best remembered today for his vaudeville-style comic sketches, such as the "Arkansaw Traveler", combining clever turns of phrase, ironic elocutionary delivery, sound effects and music to create colorful dialogues featuring itinerant Southerners, auctioneers, circus barkers, and Irish, Jewish or Black Americans.
As the popularity of Len's style of humor waned in the latter part of the decade, he opened a booking agency called "Len Spencer's Lyceum" in New York. He died of a heart attack while working at the Lyceum on December 15, 1914.
Some of his most popular recordings include:
- "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom Der E" (1892)
- "The Old Folks at Home" (1892)
- "Little Alabama Coon" (1895)
- "Dat New Bully" (1895)
- "A Hot Time in the Old Town" (1897)
- "Hello! Ma Baby" (1899)
- "Ma Tiger Lily" (1900)
- "Arkansaw Traveler" (1902)
- "Peaches and Cream", (1906) with Ada Jones (John B. Lowitz wax cylinder)
- "Mr. Leonard Spencer". The Phonoscope. 1 (1): 14. November 1896.
- "Reminiscences of the Columbia Cylinder Records". Phonograph Monthly Review. 4 (4): 114–115. January 1930.
- Catalog of Standard New Jersey Records for the Phonograph. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/474deac0-e01b-0130-57cf-58d385a7b928: United States Phonograph Company. c. 1894. pp. 33–41.CS1 maint: location (link)
- "Gallery of Talent Employed for Making Records". The Phonoscope. 2 (7): 12–13. July 1898.
- "Len Spencer (vocalist : baritone vocal)". Discography of American Historical Recordings.
- "Len Spencer (author)". Discography of American Historical Recordings.
- Frank Hoffmann, B Lee Cooper, Tim Gracyk -Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925 - Page 188 1136592296 2012 -"She is called "Miss Ada Jones," though in Manhattan on August 9, 1904, she had married Hughie Flaherty...On various records the two imitated Bowery toughs (on the popular "Peaches and Cream," Spencer was a "newsy" named Jimmie..."
- Walsh, Jim (October 1958). "Len Spencer, as his Daughter Ethel Lovingly Recalls Him". Hobbies Magazine: 30–35.
- Works by Len Spencer at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Len Spencer at Internet Archive
- Len Spencer cylinder recordings, from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
- Discography of Len Spencer on Victor Records from the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR)
- A 1947 biography of Spencer in Jim Walsh's "Favorite Pioneer Recording Artists", and a 1958 update with corrections.