Baltimore-area bluesman W.C. Spencer plays guitar, harmonica, drums, and organ and sings on his recordings, and his live shows are a spectacle, as he plays drums, guitar, and sings all at the same time, not unlike Mr. Satan of the Satan & Adam blues duo, who recorded for a variety of blues labels in the 1990s. Using an invention of his own creation, an eight-piece Alectroset hybrid drum kit that he plays with just one foot, Spencer can play an organist's bass pedals with the other foot. He plays all the instruments while singing the blues.
Spencer launched his performing career in 1974, after graduating from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Through his performing career, he's had plenty of inspiration from unique guitarists like Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton. Spencer opened shows and shared stages with both of them during the 1970s and '80s. Spencer began playing guitar in his native Baltimore as a ten-year-old and quickly took his cues from people like Libba Cotten to teach himself acoustic guitar. He wrote his first original composition as a 14-year-old, and by the time he was 15 he got his first electric guitar. In high school he formed his first band, the Heathens, who specialized in British blues and rock & roll bands like the Rolling Stones and the Animals.
After four years in college in Virginia with no degree, Spencer returned to Maryland and put together a blues trio. But when his two partners on bass and drums were unable to tour with him because of day jobs and family commitments, Spencer began experimenting with a harmonica rack and a tambourine on his foot. Working with a University of Virginia engineering student, he created a rudimentary drum kit and hi-hat that he could play with his foot while playing guitar and harmonica. As he continued to hone his craft and perfect his sound, he added a foot bass pedal synthesizer as well as snare and crash and ride cymbals to supplement what he was doing on drums with his right foot.
Spencer toured extensively through the late '70s and early '80s, opening shows for Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Merle Haggard, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. He returned to Baltimore in 1983 and earned his college degree at age 33. He worked a procession of conventional jobs through the 1980s but also developed a substance abuse problem. W.C. married the girlfriend who helped him overcome his alcoholism in 1991 and moved to rural Maryland. After a job layoff in 1994, Spencer recorded his first album, Bluescat, accompanied on some tracks by Hammond B-3 organists Tommy Lepson and Marty Canelli.
His second album for Catscan Records, Over Time, includes a blues tune from each of the ten decades of the 20th century as well as a smattering of original songs. He covers the likes of Muddy Waters, Albert King, Tampa Red, and W.C. Handy on the album. Spencer toured extensively up and down the East Coast based on the strength of his second album, dazzling audiences with his multifaceted live show and his sheer dexterity in being able to play all his instruments simultaneously. Spencer's most recent album is 2005's Blues Explorer. Here, he tackles well-known covers like "Kansas City," "Key to the Highway," and "Worried Life Blues," but also gives fans spry originals like "I Said the Blues." ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi