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Spencer Wiggins

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Spencer Wiggins was a gifted and emotionally powerful vocalist who cut a handful of superb Southern soul singles during the mid-'60s but never scored the hits he genuinely deserved, though years later he would be lionized as one of the lost masters of the form by British and Japanese enthusiasts of deep soul. Wiggins was born in Memphis, TN, in 1942; his parents had a strong interest in music, and while in high school Spencer formed a gospel vocal group, the New Rival Gospel Singers, which also featured his brother Percy Wiggins and sister Maxine Wiggins. At the same time, Spencer and Percy were members of the glee club at Memphis's Booker T. Washington High School when the student body included Booker T. Jones, Maurice White, and William Bell and the faculty included noted disc jockey and talent scout Nat D. Williams. In this fertile environment, Spencer and Percy first turned professional, formed an R&B vocal group called the Four Stars that featured David Porter, later to become a noted songwriter. In 1961, Spencer graduated from high school and began making a name for himself on the Memphis club scene; after several years of gigging he caught the attention of Quinton Claunch, a songwriter and producer who ran the soul-dominated Goldwax Records label. Claunch signed Spencer to a record deal in 1964, and while his first sides were licensed to the Bandstand USA label, he was soon releasing product through Goldwax proper. Despite cutting strong material with Claunch at the controls and some of the city's best session players backing him up, Spencer never scored the major breakthrough hit he needed, and after Goldwax went under in 1969, he recorded material for the Fame, Pama, and Vivid Sound labels before he left Memphis for good in 1975. In 1976, Spencer had a spiritual rebirth and turned his back on secular music in favor of gospel. After relocating to Florida, he became a deacon of the New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, and was named director of two of the church's choral groups. While a 1977 gospel album cut with the help of Al Green was never released, in 1999 Spencer released a cassette-only EP, Jump for Jesus, which received significant airplay in the Miami area. A full-length gospel album, Keys to the Kingdom, was released in 2002 and merged Spencer's full-bodied vocals and spiritual message with tracks produced and arranged in contemporary R&B and hip-hop styles. A thorough compilation of Spencer's work for Goldwax, The Goldwax Years, was released by the British Kent label in 2006. ~ Mark Deming

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Memphis, TN

Years Active: