For Spencer Bohren, every guitar tells a story, photo by Elsa Hahne.

Spencer Bohren, New Orleans guitarist, has died

New Orleans is again mourning the loss of a beloved community member with the death of musician Spencer Bohren.

As confirmed by his family, Bohren died on Saturday, June 8.

“Surrounded by all of us, Spencer Bohren moved on from this earthly plane last night,” the family said in a statement posted to Facebook. “We ask for a few days of space as we celebrate his life and mourn his passing as a family.”

 

As reported by OffBeat.com, Bohren announced in November 2018 that he was suffering from stage IV prostate cancer. At the time, his family and he launched a health blog. Its most recent entry was posted on May 21, 2019. In it, the family wrote of his worsening health as well as Bohren’s grief over not being able to perform.

By the beginning of April, Spencer began experiencing pain in his hip. It persisted and deepened, preventing him from participating in a couple of planned appearances. Eating became more and more difficult until it was obvious we were not going to be able to turn his situation around by ourselves. By mid-month, Spencer was in the hospital, where he was hydrated, nourished, and scanned for the source of his pain. It turned out that the stage IV part of his cancer (the part in his bones) had grown, particularly in his hip. There was a fracture, as well, perhaps from some sort of stress or perhaps because the bone was weakened too much by the cancer. The decision was made to radiate the joint to lessen the cancer and thus give the fracture a chance to heal…

In the midst of all of the medical changes, Spencer realized that performing was going to be a supreme challenge. The reality hit hard: he had to cancel commitments that he had booked several months back with the understanding that the progression of his disease might get in the way of fulfilling the contracts. There was a bit of panic as we realized that it was truly time to STOP and give every bit of our attention to Spencer’s physical condition. I mean, musicians NEVER cancel gigs! There weren’t many bookings left, but each one was extremely meaningful to us. This was a tough step.

In October 2012, Spencer Bohren appeared on the cover of OffBeat. In the cover story, John Swenson detailed Bohren’s New Orleans origin story. The following is an excerpt:

Bohren has been a New Orleans-based guitarist and songwriter dating back to the mid ’70s, when he and Marilyn arrived in town on a whim during Mardi Gras and decided that this would be their home. Bohren has built an international reputation as a bluesman, songwriter and more recently as a professional storyteller. When we met, Bohren had just returned from a month at the International Storytellers Convention. He’s also a visual artist whose cigar box assemblages have been the subject of numerous gallery presentations. Though he often plays solo, Bohren has recently built a local following as the leader of a band, Spencer Bohren and the Whippersnappers, which features his son Andre on drums and Andre’s bandmate from Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Dave Pomerleau on bass, with Casey McAllister on guitar and organ…The Whippersnappers have added youthful zest to Bohren’s music and emphasized that the Bohren brood has joined the ranks of New Orleans’ family groups. Though Spencer is from Wyoming and Marilyn from Colorado, they’ve resided in New Orleans long enough to make the 33-year-old Andre a kind of musical anchor baby.

OffBeat sends its sincerest condolences to the Bohren family, his friends and fans, as well as the entire New Orleans music community.

 

  • ALberto

    First heard Spencer on a 33RPM vinyl LP. Over the years I saw him perform with Hot Tuna dudes. I have bought several of his CDs. His music was always faithful and tuneful.Just Solid. I remember Spencer. RIP Good Soul