b. Vernon Spencer, 13 July 1908, Webb City, Missouri, USA, d. 26 April 1974, Apple Valley, California, USA. An important member of the Sons Of The Pioneers. The large Spencer family relocated as homesteaders to New Mexico in 1913, which initiated his love for the Old West. In 1921, an argument with his father, regarding the purchase of a banjo ukulele on credit without permission, saw the 13-year-old leave home and find work in Texas until his father fetched him home to finish his education. After leaving school, he worked in the mines until an accident left him hospitalized with a cracked vertebra. Unable to return to the mines, he began singing in local venues. A yearning to be in western films saw him relocate to his brother Glenn’s home in Los Angeles, where he took a daytime job in Safeway’s warehouse and sought musical work in the evenings. He sang and yodelled with Leonard Slye and Bob Nichols as a replacement for Bob Nolan in the Rocky Mountaineers and later in the International Cowboys. In 1933, he and Slye were rejoined by Nolan to become the Pioneer Trio, which eventually became the Sons Of The Pioneers. Spencer, who had not written songs previously, soon began to contribute many of the group’s most successful numbers. His own songs include ‘The Everlasting Hills Of Oklahoma’, ‘Gold Star Mother With Silvery Hair’, and the comedy standard ‘Cigareetes, Whuskey And Wild, Wild Women’. He also co-wrote with brother Glenn and with Nolan. In late 1936, he left after a difference of opinion, and was replaced by Lloyd Perryman. He returned in 1938, by which time Slye had left to begin a new career as the singing actor Roy Rogers. Owing to voice problems, he retired from performing in 1949 (finding his own replacement, Ken Curtis, and providing the group with one of their best known songs, ‘Room Full Of Roses’), but acted as the group’s manager for several years. After finally leaving the Pioneers, he ran his own gospel publishing company, Manna Music, until illness forced him to hand over to his son Hal. Spencer was elected, with Bob Nolan, to the Nashville Songwriter Hall Of Fame in 1971.
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