An important reference point in the appreciation of traditional Southern gospel quartet singing, the Speer Family emerged when there were countless Southern gospel quartets, but continued to perform into the 1990s. Although the Speer lineup had changed over the years, their music in the '90s was still true to the music they were making when the group was formed by patriarch G.T. in 1921.
G.T. Speer was born in a rural community near Fayetteville, Georgia, and worked as a teacher at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Dallas. He also taught at the Vaughan School of Music, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The first incarnation of the Speers was formed in 1921 with his wife Lena, his sister, and her husband. Until then, virtually every gospel group was made up of only males. G.T. persisted with his original lineup and, much to the surprise of gospel purists, became popular. He also strayed from the norm by having the Speers sing only gospel music, and soon other groups followed suit.
In 1925, his sister and brother-in-law left, so G.T. and Lena added their children Rosa Nell and Mary Tom to the lineup. They eventually left to raise their own children, but returned to become permanent members a few years later. Over the years, the Speer Family often contained other musicians, most notably Harold Lane, who spent two decades with them.
Through the 1950s and '60s, the Speers were frequent guests on radio station WLAC Nashville. In 1966, G.T. suddenly died and became the first person inducted into the Deceased Category of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; his wife Lena died the following year and became its second inductee in 1972. During their long career, the group has won numerous awards and honors, but one of the highest came in 1981 on the group's 60th anniversary: the Speers were entered into the Congressional Record and received a plaque that contained their first commercial record. To celebrate these events, the Benson Company distributed a commemorative anniversary album and packaged a multimedia presentation chronicling the distinguished family's history. In 1993, they released a new album, A Beautiful Day.