Charlie Spand

Charlie Spand was a blues and boogie-woogie pianist and singer, noted for his barrelhouse style. Spand was deemed one of the most influential piano players of the 1920s. Little is known of his life outside of music, and his total recordings comprise only thirty-three tracks.

Details on Spand’s early history and later life is scant. What is known is that he recorded in excess of 20 tracks for the Paramount label between 1929 and 1931 and a further eight for OKeh Records in 1940. He was a friend and working partner of Blind Blake, with whom he recorded the classic ‘Hastings Street’ and appeared on the Paramount sampler disc ‘Home Town Skiffle’. Spand’s piano work was in the powerful Detroit style and his writing skills were considerable. His first recording, ‘Soon This Morning’, became something of a staple for blues pianists. Working mainly in Chicago he was known to artists such as Little Brother Montgomery and Jimmy Yancey but after the war he disappeared. It is speculated, by Francis Wilford Smith, that Spand was born around the turn of the century in Ellijay, Georgia, and retired to Los Angeles.

by Jason Ankeny
Next to nothing is known about barrelhouse pianist Charlie Spand -- the 33 scattered tracks which comprise his recorded legacy are virtually the only concrete proof that he even existed. Although his exact origins are unclear, his 1940 recording "Alabama Blues" contains references to his birth there; academics also offer his earlier performances of "Mississippi Blues" and "Levee Camp Man" as strong evidence of a connection to the Delta. However, Spand first made a name for himself as a product of the fecund Detroit boogie-woogie scene of the 1920s; between 1929 and 1931, he cut at least 25 tracks for the Paramount label, duetting with Blind Blake on a rendition of "Moanin' the Blues." His trail is next picked up in 1940, when he recorded eight final tracks in Chicago backed by Little Son Joe and Big Bill Broonzy; at that point, however, Spand seemingly vanished into thin air, and his subsequent activities both in and out of music remain a mystery.

Charlie Spand on BluesDatabase