This is a very interesting article. I, being a cylinder and record collector find that this sort of in-depth information about the recording artists and the music in general is just fascinating.
Len Spencer was quite a man for his time, outside of recording, he was very ahead of his time, from experimenting with his younger brother(Henry) in film, to publishing music that rather famous composers wrote in the late 1890's.
He must have been one of the hardest "regulars" in all record studios at that time to record, as he was well over six feet tall and was very rather loud, according to the passed down accounts of studio laborers who heard him sing.
And the man must have had what some people say "Nine Lives", as he got into so many severe accidents, from pianos falling on him to crashing into a cable car in 1898. And he just stressed himself to death, as he had so many activities to attend to throughout his 47 years of life whether it be his family or his Vaudeville/minstrel stage he opened around 1913.
He also must have taken schtick from other performers,(such as Harney) I mean really, listen to that record of him singing “You’ve been a good old Wagon, But You Done Broke Down”, really listen to it, it sound quite a good amout like the cylinder recorded in the 1920’s of harney himself singing the tune, and how Spencer sings this fits the few descriptions of how Harney sounded in the 1890’s and 1900’s.
He also must have complicated his stress and somewhat slight madness(he probably had it later in his rather short life) by having a venereal disease which was for some reason uncommon in these early recording artists(such as Arthur Collins, Vess l Ossman, Billy Murray etc.), but was common in the general public as expected. Spencer died at about the same age as Scott Joplin, so it can be assumed by Joplin’s cause of death, Spencer’s must have been a very similar cause, but he complicated it a whole lot more than Joplin ever could have.
|this is the man himself, mister Leonard Spencer as he looked in 1896, (from the Nov.1896 issue of The Phonoscope)|