Richard Spencer's father never took him to a ballgame, never taught him to tie a tie, never offered a fatherly ear when he needed it.
For the most part Spencer, a songwriter and lead singer of the group The Winstons, was cool with that. After all, his mother had provided all the love and soul nourishment he needed.
Or so he thought.
Spencer, who recently moved from his hometown of Wadesboro to Virginia, discovered otherwise 50 years ago, he's told me during several interviews. Since the dude wrote what many - okay, definitely I - consider the ultimate Fathers Day song, I usually call him up every year around this time.
He patiently explained, again, what made him call his dad.
"We were playing a gig in Clearwater, Fla., backing up Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions. It was 1969. I was having really bad marital problems. It was one of those mornings I was feeling kind of bad. Even though he had rarely been there for me, I felt like I wanted to talk to my dad” that morning, he said.
So, what patriarchal pearls of wisdom did Papa Spencer dispense? I asked.
“I didn’t talk to him,” Spencer said, still sounding disconsolate lo these many decades later. “His phone was disconnected.”
The pain of not being able to reach his dad when he needed him resulted directly in his perennial and painful paean to Fathers Day, the Grammy-winning song Color Him Father. That same day, with pen in hand, he wrote these words on some Jack Tar Hotel stationery: