For more than 70 years, Spencer Taylor, as a member of The Highway Q.C.’s, has traveled across the country sporting fancy suits and singing toe-tapping music with a caravan of groups like Sensational Nightingales, Mighty Clouds of Joy and The Soul Stirrers. While The Highway Q.C.’s are celebrated for launching the careers of several artists, Taylor continues to be celebrated as a father and inspiration, not only to his biological children, but throughout gospel music.
“I wanted to follow in my dads footsteps,” Lynn Taylor, Spencer Taylor’s son, told The Informer in an exclusive interview. “When you think of Spencer Taylor you think of other lead singers like Joe Ligon, Sam Cooke and others because these guys’ legacies are so strong.”
Founded in Chicago in 1945, The Highway Q.C.’s helped launch the careers of several artists, including Johnnie Taylor and Sam Cooke.
Around the mid-1950s Spencer Taylor (no relation to Johnnie Taylor), who migrated to Chicago a decade earlier and was performing with a group called the Holy Wonders, began singing as the lead singer of The Highway Q.C.’s.
Under Spencer Taylor’s guidance, the Q.C’.s released a string of hits via Vee-Jay Records including “He Said” (1960), “Do You Love Him” (1961) and “All Men Are Made By God” (1962). From 1975 to 1983, the Q.C.’s recorded several albums for Savoy Records, including “You Don’t Know How Blessed You Are,” and “Something’s on My Mind (That’s Worrying Me).” The group is now on the Malaco/ 4Winds label, and still releasing music.
At 95, Taylor, who now lives in District Heights, Maryland, continues to serve as lead singer of The Highway Q.C.s.
“We are still singing God’s praises,” Taylor told WHUR’s Jacquie Gales Webb in a “HUR @ Home Inspiration,” episode on Sunday, June 11. The interview included Spencer Taylor, who was sitting with his son Lynn Taylor, and the Rev. Randy Walker Jr, The Highway Q.C.’s second leader and producer, who chimed in from his studio.
“I thank God for my papa,” Walker said about the legendary gospel musician affectionately.
WHUR’s Winston Chaney said: “Spencer Taylor has brought class, character and good music to gospel.”
In March 2017, Spencer Taylor received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Stellar Awards, with a Journal of Gospel Music (JGM) announcement calling him “The Godfather.”
“For Spencer Taylor to still be singing after all these years is really a testimony to his holding on and believing in what he sings about,” Jerome Bell, 61, legendary gospel announcer, told The Informer. “The quartet genre is a fine example of men working together that dates back before integration.”
Though a member of Sensational Nightingales, Horace Thompson, the group’s lead singer and bass player, said he has admired Spencer Taylor for many years.
“I have known Spencer Taylor for nearly 70 years,” said Thompson, a Bowie, Maryland resident. “He came to my hometown (Gainesville, Georgia), but my mission was to sing with the Nightingales and I accomplished my mission.”
Making Quartet Music a Family Affair
From The Highway Q.C.’s to the Sensational Nightingales, both quartets are well dressed groups with tight harmonies that know how to prioritize their families.
Thompson said when he was on the road he made sure he was a father who kept a close eye on his two children.
“There is a difference in being a dad and being a father,” Thompson said. ”A father sets certain standards and holds their children responsible. Every Monday when I came home we had a family meeting.”
As the years passed Thompson’s wife Rosetta Thompson took an increased role in his career to become a singer and a top quartet promoter. Rosetta Thompson went from wielding a hot comb as a beauty shop owner to a gospel singer and promoter on the weekend.
“The joy of my life was seeing my wife, my son and daughter and my grandson singing,” Thompson said.
Spencer Taylor has also incorporated his children into the family business.
As one of Spencer Taylor’s five children, Lynn Taylor said singing with his father is more than special.
“To experience this with my dad and to see how much he is loved is such an experience because he is loved all over the world,” Lynn Taylor said.
The gospel legend’s namesake, Spencer Taylor III, who recently died, served as a drummer and singer for The Highway Q.C.’s.
“JGM is saddened to learn of the passing of Spencer Bouvier Taylor III, drummer and singer with the legendary quartet The Highway Q.C.s,” the Journal of Gospel Music reported.
The service will take place Thursday, June 15 at Calvary Baptist Church in Lanham, Maryland.
When asked if there will be quartets performing, Lynn Taylor declared, “yes,” promising to follow the quartet music tradition.
“In the early days the quartets had a dress code and Dad was the man for the dress code. You had to have matching shoes, ties and shirts. My brother ‘Boo,’ took that role and now I take that role.”
The Highway Q.C.’s will perform June 27 in Annapolis at the Christian Center Church.