Spencer Bohren

Dec 26, 2019

Spencer Bohren
Credit Jazz-Schmiede

Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #197 (December 27 at 8:00 p.m. and December 28 at 3:00 p.m.)

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Spencer Bohren is from Wyoming but is often associated with the Crescent City of New Orleans, as he lived there for a number of years and continues to prove a popular club attraction there.

Born on April 5, 1950 and raised in a strict Baptist family, Bohren sang harmonies in church, and it was his passion for gospel music that led him to become an equally diligent student of blues. He left Wyoming in 1968 for the folk scene around Denver.

At the Denver Folklore Center and in coffeehouses, he learned acoustic folk-blues firsthand from people like the Rev. Gary Davis before moving to Seattle, where he played with a series of blues bands and continued to hone his songwriting abilities.

In 1973, he moved back to Colorado to play with folk-blues singer Judy Roderick, and after talking extensively with Dr. John one night, he decided to move to New Orleans, where Dr. John was born and raised. Bohren spent a decade there, playing clubs like Tipitina's and the Absinthe Bar.

In 1983, Bohren and his family began a seven-year journey on the road in an Airstream RV; Bohren performed all over the U.S., and later began to tour extensively in Europe and Japan. In 1989, Bohren had a Top 40 hit in Sweden.

His discography is quite extensive and Bohren has been presented at many large festivals around the U.S. and Europe.

Bohren's albums include Born in Biscayne (1984) for Great Southern Records, Down in Mississippi (1986) for New Blues Records, 1989's Live in New Orleans for Great Southern Records, Snap Your Fingers for Loft Records (a French label), and Totta & Hot ‘n' Tots (a Swedish group featuring Bohren); Spencer Bohren for Alpha Records of Japan in 1991, Full Moon for Virgin Records of France in 1992, and Present Tense for Loft Records in France, a 1995 release.

His recordings on U.S. labels include Vintage, a 1994 release for New Blues of New Orleans, and Dirt Roads, a 1996 release on his own Zephyr label out of Caspar, WY.  The album Present Tense was available in Europe on Sony and on his own Zephyr label here in the U.S. Carry the Word followed in mid-2000.

Following an extended illness, Bohren passed away on June 8, 2019.