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Author Topic: Joseph Spence  (Read 6534 times)

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2007, 06:31:08 PM »
Here's a little article on Spence Form Wikipedia:

Joseph Spence (born August, 1910 in Andros, Bahamas - died March 18, 1984 in Nassau, Bahamas) was a Bahamanian guitarist, singer and blues musician. He is well known for his vocalizations and humming while performing on guitar. Several modern folk, blues and jazz musicians, including Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Woody Mann and John Renbourn were influenced by and have recorded variations of his arrangements of gospel and Bahamanian pop tunes. The earliest recordings of Joseph Spence were field recordings by folk musicologists such as Sam Charters. Nearly all of the recorded songs are in a Drop D tuning, where the sixth string is tuned to a low D rather than E, so that the guitar sounds, from sixth to first D A D G B E. The power of his playing derives from moving bass lines and interior voices and a driving beat that he emphasizes with foot tapping. To this mix he adds blues coloration and calypso rhythms to achieve a unique and easily identifiable sound. He has been called the folk guitarist's Thelonious Monk

Offline OMpicker

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2007, 02:03:42 PM »
I agree that while covers of JS' tunes may make things a bit clearer, they lose the spontaneous, joyful, inventive qualities of his playing.  I think he could probably play one song the whole night and you'd never hear it the same way twice.  For help in demystifying positions and the steady calypso-like bounce to his tunes, the new DVD by Elijah Wald released by Stefan Grossman is worth looking at.


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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2007, 04:47:29 AM »
Yeah Joesph Spence is Great! Recently I was at Stephan Grossmans website. He has all these free old radio shows on there. I think they are from the 70's He plays all these different artist and does some lessons. If you listen to the one on Ry Cooder you'll hear Joesph Spence do Comin in on a wing and a prayer. Very nice!  I have a recorder in my computer so I recorded all the shows Its really quite alot of material.
I think you'll like Joesph Spence.    Lenny

Offline natterjack

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2007, 12:44:06 PM »
The 1958 Folkways recordings are definitely the way to go.

I've heard his somewhat unusual vocal style (partly) attributed to the fact he was very reluctant to take his pipe out of his mouth.

Also, his version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is the only Christmas song that doesn't make me grit my teeth!


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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2007, 08:14:20 PM »
Back when I was ignorant of the blues my uncle played my family Joseph's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

And like most of Spence's songs it consists of one just barely cohearant line ("Sandy Craw Ih Comin' To Townnn") and he grumbles his way through the rest of the tune.

Yet it's very enjoyable

Here is a link to the afformentioned website in which you can listen to free (but short) radio shows:
« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 08:15:24 PM by mississippijohnhurt1928 »

Offline Rivers

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2007, 05:57:02 PM »
I picked up the Folkways disc a couple of weeks ago, thanks for the rec people.

May I also strongly recommend Arhoolie's Good Morning Mister Walker. This little gem is equally essential for fans IMO. You really do need both and let's face it one can never have too much Joseph Spence.


  • Guest
Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2007, 04:26:30 PM »
Hi everyone!! my name is JOSEPH SPENCE HIBBERT, i live in costa rica, im 26 years old, i have heard alots of good comments about this wonderful artis, i'ld like to meet he's family  to see if we got any kind of relationship, if anyone knows how to contact any family member, or if you're part of his family please contact me at

Offline Slack

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2009, 08:00:24 PM »
Joseph Spence

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2009, 09:27:03 PM »
Thanks for that Mr. Slack. A gem! Imagine a duet of Joseph Spence & Glenn Gould with dual weird vocalizations goin' on. Well..maybe on that other shore....
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2009, 01:21:44 AM »
But everybody knows - there ain't no Sanity Clause.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline RB

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Re: joseph spence?
« Reply #25 on: December 28, 2009, 06:46:00 PM »
Enjoyed 'Santy Claus ...' by Spence, thanks.  Perhaps as suggested, Spence is the Monk of guitar. 

I know I enjoyed some good singing in a church in Hopetown, Abaco in about 1994 or 5.  The kids were playing ocarinas, but the good song was 'The Carribean Lord's Prayer.'

Offline Westside

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I heard Joseph Spence for the first time today! Wow!
« Reply #26 on: September 13, 2012, 12:19:25 PM »
I heard Joseph Spence for the first time today and all I can say is WOW!  I can't believe that I have never come across him before.  I can't get enough of him!  I see he has quite a few CDs, are there a couple that might come recommended as must haves?  Also, does anyone have this book "Joseph Spence: The Complete Folkways Recordings 1958: Fingerstyle Guitar/Solos" LINK:  If so, is it any good, and does it include tab?  I see that there is also an instructional DVD by Elijah Wood out there!
« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 12:23:13 PM by Westside Ryan »

Offline Johnm

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Re: I heard Joseph Spence for the first time today! Wow!
« Reply #27 on: September 13, 2012, 01:10:13 PM »
The Elijah Wald CD is well-done.  Elijah really immersed himself in Spence's material and was in contact with a couple of Spence specialists in preparation for doing the video lesson.  I don't know about the book, but Spence's Folkway recordings are my favorites of his because he plays at great length, tons of variations, which really suits and shows off his enormous imagination.  If you want to get it right, get used to tuning your G string sharp.
All best,

Offline Stuart

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Re: I heard Joseph Spence for the first time today! Wow!
« Reply #28 on: September 13, 2012, 03:35:10 PM »
The Folkways recordings are a must have. I have the original LP, "Bahaman Folk Guitar." Sam Charters' liner notes differ from those of the CD, "Joseph Spence: The Complete Folkways Recordings, 1958."

Here's Stefan's page:

I recall seeing the book at some point. I don't think that it has complete transcriptions, but if you're just starting out, anything will be a time saver. 

There appears to be a fair amount on YouTube. Here's a clip of Elijah:

Offline Johnm

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Re: Joseph Spence
« Reply #29 on: September 13, 2012, 03:40:30 PM »
Hi all,
I merged the new Joseph Spence thread of today with an earlier thread on Spence which had a lot of information in it.  Apart from the first post in the thread, all other posts will retain the titles of the original thread they were in.
all best,


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