RIP: Rip Spencer of Marvin & Johnny, the Valiants, more..

Rip” Sheridan Spencer of Marvin & Johnny, The Valiants, the Chavelles, the Sabers, the Gents, and the Untouchables is dead.

The Los Angeles Times had a simple obituary with no real mention of his musical career.

Sheridan Spencer, a 70-year-old black man, was shot and killed Wednesday, Dec. 9, in the 1600 block of West Caldwell Street in Compton, authorities said.

The shooting occurred shortly after 1:30 p.m. in a residential neighborhood, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said. Spencer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500.

Marv Goldberg wrote an extensive article on Rip Spencer that discussed his rather colorful musical career:

This is the story of the Sabers, Chavelles, Gents, Valiants, Untouchables, Electras, Freedoms, Alley Cats, Africa, and a few other things along the way.

The start of this whole mélange goes back to Sheridan “Rip” Spencer, who attended Los Angeles’ Jordan High School, and his cousin Brice Coefield, who attended L.A. High. The cousins sang together and, as usually happens, they decided to “form a group”. The group they formed was called the Sabers, and consisted of a first tenor remembered only as “Herbie”, second tenor Rip, baritone Brice, and bass Walter Carter.

On the eve of a Marvin & Johnny show in London in 1999, Phil Johnson wrote an article for the (UK) Independent that focused on an interview with Rip:

Inspired to contact Marvin and find out why West Coast doo-wop sounds as it does, I managed to speak to his nephew and musical director, Rip Spencer, who used to sing with the Valiants and the Alley Cats. “Marvin’s old-school,” the impeccably courteous Spencer says. “He doesn’t like to do interviews. I can tell you all you want to know.

“I bought the name Marvin and Johnny from him when he quit the business in 1962, and we’ve had quite a few Johnnies since then, including me. He quit because he was sick of being stabbed in the back and ripped off, not getting his royalties paid and having his songs stolen, so he didn’t want to do anything. I finally convinced him to come back into the business in 1990.”

As to where the sound came from, Spencer takes a long breath. “Jesse Belvin and Richard Berry and those guys were a big influence,” he says. “They were singing like that at Jefferson High School, Los Angeles High, and Marvin went to Belmont High. We had all of these clubs, like the California Club and the Nightlife Club, and we kind of influenced ourselves. There weren’t too many DJs, but Hunter Hancock was playing black R&B on the radio and we got into his sound. Maybe the sound was because of the accent, or the smog we were breathing. Marvin also had this really beautiful baritone voice, and everybody was into Billy Eckstine then.”

Big thanks to Jim Dawson for the initial information, and Electric Earl Reinhalter for the photo.

3 comments to RIP: Rip Spencer of Marvin & Johnny, the Valiants, more..

  • Paula Berry-Wiwuga

    I started listening to Jesse and Marvin as a kid in San Pedro and followed them through all the changes – a great L.A legend for those who knew

  • Vernell Jennings

    I knew him also via ” Chico Vega’s Drifters ” when he did a show with them in Ridgecrest and my husband played the guitar on that show .

    Marvin lived with his mom all of his life in the same house…when his mother died she left him everything . The problem is …there is no next of kin or children or heirs to claim the body . So now his friends have no way of claiming the body for release from the coroners office to bury him .

    This is a terrible situation as he deserves at least a desent funeral .

  • Paul Oliverio

    R.I.P Rip Spencer

    He performed at Jefferson High School in 2004, honoring all the great music to come out of that school, including, of course, Richard Berry’s LOUIE LOUIE.

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