Crooner's passion

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Spencer G. Lone Tree sings and plays guitar in the studio while recording his latest CD “Side By Side.” (Photo submitted)

 

Crooner’s passions help him live life to the fullest

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Author, illustrator, lecturer and balladeer – these are the passions that drive Spencer G. Lone Tree in living life to the fullest, even in the face of his ongoing battle with cancer.

Singing is my true love,” said Spencer. “It’s really helped me in past year. I also have a strong desire to write.” 

Indeed, Spencer has published two novels in recent years and is in the midst writing the third in a series of five about the history of his Ho-Chunk people. At the moment, however, Spencer is focused on recording a CD “Side By Side,” with the original title track being a tribute to his parents Samuel and Ann Lone Tree.

In addition to originals such as “Side By Side,” the CD will also feature covers of hits such as “Love Me Over Again” by Don Williams, “After the Loving” by Engelbert Humperdinck, “Have I told You Lately that I Love You” by Elvis Presley, “It was Almost Like a Song” by Ronnie Milsap, and many others.

Spencer, who resides in Postville and frequently visits Prairie du Chien, says that he got his start as a 15-year-old in Wisconsin Dells where he made his public singing debut with The Lucci’s, a New York City trio who were performing in the Wharf Bar and Night Club during the summer of 1955. The Lucci’s had earlier heard the young Spencer belt out Frank Sinatra’s hit “Learning the Blues,” while visiting with Spencer’s father at his father’s archery range across the Wisconsin River from The Wharf. 

The Wharf was very popular with locals as well as tourists with its stage and large dance floor. The Wharf also attracted famous acts such as The Ink Spots, Kay Stevens and many others. In fact, when Spencer was 16 he was invited to sing with Kay Stevens and The Holidays. Stevens liked his singing so much, said Spencer, that she invited him to Las Vegas to sing with members of the Rat Pack (Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra). Alas, because Spencer was only 16, his mother wouldn’t let him go.

Spencer recalled that he had never before been in a bar or night club when he debuted with The Lucci’s in 1955, and the stage experience was absolutely electrifying. Spencer then sang with other groups that summer, along with his older brother. Later he learned to play bass and guitar. 

Spencer appeared on a televised talent show in Madison a number of times in the next few years and performed in several clubs in the Wisconsin Dells area. He also entertained veterans in VA hospitals and elders in nursing homes. He also competed in Wisconsin Dells area talent shows.

“One of my most thrilling performances was in my senior year,” said Spencer, recalling when he won the top prize as the best performer of the night after singing “Treat Me Nice” by Elvis Presley. “Hundreds of girls literally came crashing through the doors. I had an Elvis experience. The screaming kept going and going. All hell broke loose. The girls had me signing everything. I signed hands, arms, blouses, even one bra.” 

In September of 2014, Spencer’s first CD was completed. His second CD “Side By Side” will hopefully be available in a few weeks. 

“I consider myself to be a romantic crooner, a balladeer,” said Spencer. “I’ve gotten invitations to perform in Iowa, but have no commitments yet. I’ll wait until after the CD comes out. It will initially be available through me.” 

Spencer, 74, is in his ninth year of fighting cancer, and he said that he has touched base with the American Cancer Society and is thinking of possibly performing at the Ho-Chunk Casino or at his alma mater Wisconsin Dells High School as a benefit for cancer research. 

“It would be fun. It would be interesting to see what the turnout would be,” he said in noting that it would be interesting to see if any of the “girls” who went wild during his “Elvis moment” so many years ago would attend.

With the completion of his latest CD, Spencer will have made two CDs within the past 10 months. He said that he became fired up about recording after having attended a Don Williams concert in April of last year. 

Spencer said that his finger dexterity is not what it once was, and his voice is not as smooth. Nevertheless, when he is engrossed in his music, it becomes a form of therapy.

Spencer says that everyone should be persistent with whatever their dreams may be  in life, no matter what the obstacles.  

“You need to find your passions in life,” said Spencer. “You need to go for it. Get out there and get at it. It might help people to prolong their lives. It will certainly improve the quality of life.” 

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