In Memoriam: Spencer Bohren

Published on: June 9th, 2019

906 Spencer Bohren [Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee]

Spencer Bohren [Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee]
Spencer Bohren at WWOZ on Dec. 4, 2018 [Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee]

It is with heavy hearts we share that Spencer Bohren has passed away after a strong battle with prostate cancer. 

Called a “modern day troubadour,” his experiences shaped his music, which always showcased his great love for America’s wealth of traditional folk, blues, gospel, and country. Spencer’s ability to animate the musicians and singers from the past with respectful readings of their music and spellbinding stories about their lives is legendary.

Spencer will be well remembered as a masterful songwriter and for the heartfelt introductions he often had for them during live performances. His catalog is a beautiful collection of vintage guitars, lap steels, and banjos. His presence, both on and offstage, was laidback, open, and comfortable. As a result, he forged enviable connections with his audience.

Born in Casper, Wyoming, Spencer grew up in a Baptist family and spent time in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington during his early career. In 1976, he began raising a family with his wife, Marilyn, in New Orleans. 

Spencer also stepped outside the boundaries of traditional recording and performance. In 2005, he released Down The Dirt Road Blues, a historic documentary told through music. It follows the old song through different sounds and variations, including Delta blues, Chicago blues, rock’n’roll, and folk. 

In 2006, Spencer struck a strong chord with New Orleanians with his song, ‘Long Black Line,’ written and released after the flood waters following Hurricane Katrina receded.

Spencer was also a visual artist, and integrated some of his artwork into his music. He called the pieces Petits Mysteres.

He will be greatly missed by everyone at WWOZ. We extend our best wishes to his family and friends, and our appreciation for the many years of music he gave us.

A memorial will be held on Sunday, June 23 from 2-6p at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.). 

Below, see his performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center from March 9, 2019 as captured by WWOZ, his performance of 'Is Your Heater Hot Tonight' at WWOZ in December 2018, and some of the many photos we’ve captured of Spencer throughout the years:

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