G.T. “DAD” SPEER
(1891 – 1966)
George Thomas “Dad” Speer was one of the true pioneers of Southern Gospel Music, having founded the Speer Quartet in 1921, the group who later became The Speer Family. As a fitting confirmation of his significance to Southern Gospel Music, Dad Speer was the first inductee to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in the inaugural year of 1971.
The first musical memory of Tom Speer, who in later years became known as “Dad” Speer, was a gospel song his mother sang. From earliest childhood in his native Cullman County, Alabama, Tom Speer felt compelled toward a life of service in Gospel Music. As an adult he wrote songs constantly, sang at every opportunity, and became a devoted and respected shaped-note teacher throughout the Southern U.S. with both the Vaughan School of Music and the Stamps-Baxter Music School.
When Tom Speer returned from serving in France during World War I, he married Lena Brock in 1920 and they settled in Double Springs, Alabama. The newly-weds transitioned from farming to singing in 1921 when, with Tom’s sister Pearl and her husband Logan Claborn, they formed the Speer Quartet. Combining male and female voices was very innovative at the time and contributed greatly to popularizing Southern Gospel Music. In the late 1920s and early 1930s it became clear that the limited income from singing could not support two families so Pearl and Logan left the group. Without Pearl and Logan Tom and Lena often performed as a duet. Before long oldest son, little Brock, who was always in-tow anyway, became old enough to carry some vocal responsibilities and in short order sisters Rosa Nell and Mary Tom, and eventually youngest son Ben, joined the group. By the early 1930s, Tom’s insistence that each of the children learn to play an instrument and learn vocal training paid-off, and the family became a regular, four-part harmony group and their name transitioned to The Speer Family.