Don Spencer

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Don Spencer
Don Spencer in Sydney, 2011 (cropped).jpg
Spencer in 2011
Background information
Birth nameDonald Richard Spencer
Born1936/1937 (aged 85-86)[1]
Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia
GenresChildren's music
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • presenter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1962–present
Websitedonspencer.com.au

Donald Richard Spencer OAM (born 1936/1937)[1] is an Australian children's television presenter, singer-songwriter, and guitarist. He had a long-running role on Play School on both the Australian version (1968–99) and the United Kingdom version (1972–88), one of only two presenters to work on both versions.[2]

In March 1963 his first single, "Fireball" – the theme tune to a UK TV science fiction series, Fireball XL5 – reached No. 32 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2002 Spencer established the Australian Children's Music Foundation. On Australia Day (26 January) 2007 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) with the citation "for service to children's music and television as a songwriter and performer, and through the establishment of the Australian Children's Music Foundation". Spencer married Julie Horsfall, they have two children: Dean, a musician; and Danielle, an actress and singer, who was married to actor Russell Crowe between 2003 and 2018.

Early life[edit]

Donald Richard Spencer was born on 22 March 1936/1937[1] the son of John Henry and Lillian May in Tamworth.[3] Spencer attended Tamworth High School,[3] he played hockey as a teenager and competed in the Australian championships. At 17 he left Australia and travelled to Africa where, in his 20s, he trained with the Kenyan hockey team trying out for the Olympics. A chance meeting with locally-born, singer-songwriter, Roger Whittaker, in Nairobi inspired Spencer to buy a guitar and start his musical career.[4]

Career debut[edit]

In the early 1960s Don Spencer moved to London and became a solo singer-guitarist, supporting various acts as The Rolling Stones, the Four Seasons, The Hollies and Marianne Faithfull.[5] His first single, "Fireball", was released on the His Master's Voice label – it was the closing theme song for the television science fiction series, Fireball XL5, written by Barry Gray. In March 1963 it reached No. 32 on the UK Singles Chart.[6][7] Other singles included "Busy Doing Nothing", "Worried Mind", "Marriage Is for Old Folks", and a cover of The Beatles' song "In My Life". In 1964 he covered Brent Edwards version of Johnny Madara and David White's track, "Pride Is Such a Little Word".[8]

Spencer presented his own teenage pop show, Gangway!, for seven years, then co-hosted Pop-In.[5] He later appeared in TV comedies, Face It with Ronnie Barker. Returning to Australia, he appeared on TV's Bandstand, and acted in Sons and Daughters, Return to Eden, and in the 1974 film Barry McKenzie Holds His Own.[9] In 1977 Spencer wrote his next single, "What's a Pommie?", the track was covered by fellow Australians Rolf Harris, and Col Elliott.[10]

Children's entertainment[edit]

Don Spencer (far right), with Simon Burke, Benita Collings, Andrew McFarlane, Eddie Perfect and Justine Clarke in 2016

In 1968 Spencer became a presenter on Australia children's TV series, Play School, in 1972 he also appeared on the United Kingdom version of the same title.[3][11] He continued on both versions for 17 years,[3] the only male presenter to appear in both. One of his well-known phrases was "old magazines" which he used to effect when describing items used to make something.[11] During this period he recorded and released albums that helped to educate children mostly about the many species of Australian animals, and they in turn had received awards for gold and platinum sales.[12][11] He continued on the Australian version until 1999.[3] At the APRA Music Awards of 1995, Spencer's track, "Have a Beaut Day", was nominated for Most Performed Children's Work; it was co-written by Spencer with Allan Caswell.[13]

In 2002 Spencer established the Australian Children's Music Foundation (ACMF) as its inaugural CEO.[14][15] In 2007 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on Australia Day (26 January) for "service to children's music and television as a songwriter and performer, and through the establishment of the Australian Children's Music Foundation".[16][17][18] In 2008 Spencer was awarded for Excellence in Community Support presented by Support Act Limited.[19][20]

In December 2010 the ACMF sponsored a supergroup, Peacebeliever, which recorded a cover version of Plastic Ono Band's 1969 single, "Give Peace a Chance", for the charity.[21] Alongside Spencer fellow vocalists were Katie Noonan, Blue King Brown, Tim Freedman, Newton Faulkner and Omara Portuondo.[21] In July 2013 Spencer announced the ACMF's 11th annual National Kids Songwriting Competition, which is open to school aged children from four to eighteen years-old: "We want kids to unleash their creativity and engage with learning in a fun way ... Music can give kids really positive self expression and is a great tool for improving literacy levels".[15]

Personal life[edit]

Spencer with his daughter Danielle in 2011

Don Spencer married Julie Horsfall, a caterer from Yorkshire.[22] They have two children: Dean and Danielle Spencer (born 16 May 1969).[18] Dean is a musician, while Danielle is an actress and singer, who was married to actor Russell Crowe from 2003 to 2018.[23]

Spencer resides in Darlinghurst.[24]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Title Deatils Certification
Don Spencer from Play School sings 21 Children's Favourites
  • Released: 1984
  • Label: J&B (JB 095)
Feathers, Fur or Fins
  • Released: 1985
  • Label: ABC Records (836 053-1)
  • Format: LP, Cassette
Hokey Cokey
(with Chloe Ashcroft & Carol Chell)
  • Released: 1985 (UK)
  • Label: BBC Records (REC 557)
  • Format: LP
Australian Animal Songs
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: ABC Records (836 054-1)
  • Format: LP, Cassette, CD
Australia for Kids
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: ABC Records (838 415-1)
  • Format: LP, Cassette, CD
Let's Have Fun
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: ABC Records (846 596-1)
  • Format: LP, Cassette, CD
Have a Beaut Day
  • Released: 1994
  • Label: ABC Records (814 447-2)
  • Format: CD
The Ultimate Collection
  • Released: 2007
  • Label: ABC Records (E-301402-2)
  • Format: 2xCD

Charting singles[edit]

List of singles with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions
UK
[7]
"Fireball"/"I'm All Alone Again" 1962 22

Other singles[edit]

List of singles as featured artist, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions
AUS
[26]
"The Garden"
(as Australia Too)
1985 22

TV and filmography[edit]

Awards[edit]

Tamworth Songwriters Awards[edit]

The Tamworth Songwriters Association (TSA) is an annual songwriting contest for original country songs, awarded in January at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. They commenced in 1986.[27] Don Spencer won one award in that time.[28]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
1995 "Pete the Lorikeet" by Don Spencer Children's Song of the Year Won

Bibliography[edit]

Books written or co-written by Don Spencer:

  • Spencer, Don; Caswell, Allen; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1985). Feathers Fur or Fins. Woolloomooloo: Chappell & Intersong Music, Australian Broadcasting Commission. ISBN 0-94710-688-X.[29]
  • Spencer, Don; Caswell, Allan; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1989). Don Spencer's Australian Animals. Sydney, NSW: ABC Enterprises for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. ISBN 0-64212-841-3.[30]
  • Spencer, Don (1989). Don Spencer's More Songs from Feathers, Fur or Fins. Sydney, NSW: ABC Records.[31]
  • Spencer, Don (1990). Don Spencer's Let's Have Fun. North Sydney, NSW: Warner Chappell Music. ISBN 1-86362-023-0.[32]
  • Spencer, Don; Macken, Clare; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1993). Don Spencer's Thumbs Up! Australia. Illustrated by Felicity Meyer. Sydney, NSW: ABC Books. ISBN 0-7333-0231-9.[33]
  • Spencer, Don; Bryant, Nick (2000). 1001 Cool Jokes with Don Spencer. Illustrated by Glen Singleton. Dingley Village: Hinkler Books. ISBN 1-86515-182-3.[34]
  • Sharkey, Jane; Holland, Margaret; Spencer, Don (2005). Sing and Learn Times Tables. Dingley Village: Hinkler Books. ISBN 978-1-74121-930-2.[35]
  • Spencer, Don (2011). Don Spencer's Don't Call Me a Koala Bear and Other Aussie Songs. Illustrated by Michelle Pike. Scoresby: Five Mile Press. ISBN 978-1-74300-135-6.[36]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "'Planted the seed': The biggest influencers in Don Spencer's life colourful life".
  2. ^ Williams, Sarah (15 October 2012). "How we made: Joy Whitby and Phyllida Law on Play School". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sullivan, Leanne (2009). "Spencer (Don)". Who's Who in Australia (45 ed.). North Melbourne: Crown Content. p. 1968. ISBN 978-1-74095-166-1.
  4. ^ "Don Spencer & ACMF". IdeaLogical Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Don Spencer". ABC Music. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Don Spencer". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Don Spencer – 'Fireball'". Chart Stats. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  8. ^ "'Pride' – Ray Brown & The Whispers (1965)". Where Did They Get That Song?. PopArchives (Lyn Nuttall). Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Don Spencer". IMDb. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  10. ^ "'What's a Pommie' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  11. ^ a b c Throsby, Margaret (19 July 2011). "Don Spencer Hosted Play School on ABC TV for 28 Years". ABC Classic FM. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Board members". Australian Children's Music Foundation (ACMF). Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  13. ^ "Nominations – 1995". Australasian Performing Right Association | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  14. ^ Fulton, Adam (2 August 2010). "Shaping Young Lives with the Gift of Music". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  15. ^ a b "2013 National Kids Songwriting Competition Now Open". Australasian Performing Right Association | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  16. ^ "Search Australian Honours: Spencer, Donald Richard". It's an Honour. Government of Australia. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  17. ^ "Local Heroes Honoured". Northern Daily Leader. Fairfax Media. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  18. ^ a b Eliezer, Christie (30 January 2007). "Aussie Day". Christie Eliezer's Music Business News. TheMusic.com. Retrieved 11 March 2010.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Braithwaite, Alyssa (23 September 2008). "Don Spencer to Be Recognised for Services to Kids' Music" (PDF). Australian Associated Press (AAP). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  20. ^ "Billy Thorpe Foundation Announced". Australasian Performing Right Association | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  21. ^ a b "Yoko Gives Aussies a Chance at Peace". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)). 1 December 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  22. ^ Ewbank, Tim; Hildred, Stafford (2001). Russell Crowe: The Biography. London: Carlton Books. p. 48. ISBN 1-84222-423-9.
  23. ^ Corcoran, Rachel (17 February 2010). "Mrs Russell Crowe Launches Her Singing Career". Daily Express. Northern & Shell. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Play School legend Don Spencer lends musical talent for kids". Daily Telegraph. 26 September 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2019.
  25. ^ a b c "ARIA Accreditations". ARIA. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  26. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 22. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 19 June 1988.
  27. ^ "Tamworth Songwriters Association". Tamworth Songwriters Association Online. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  28. ^ "Tamworth Songwriters Association Past Winners". Tamworth Songwriters Association Online. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  29. ^ Spencer, Don; Caswell, Allen; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1985), Feathers Fur or Fins, Chappell & Intersong Music in association with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-947106-88-1, retrieved 14 August 2013
  30. ^ Spencer, Don; Caswell, Allan; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1989), Don Spencer's Australian Animals, ABC Enterprises for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-642-12841-6, retrieved 14 August 2013
  31. ^ Spencer, Don (1989), Don Spencer's More Songs from Feathers, Fur or Fins, ABC Records. National Library of Australia, retrieved 14 August 2013
  32. ^ Spencer, Don (1990), Don Spencer's Let's Have Fun, Warner Chappell Music. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-1-86362-023-9, retrieved 14 August 2013
  33. ^ Spencer, Don; Meyer, Felicity; Macken, Clare; Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1993), Don Spencer's Thumbs Up! Australia, ABC Books. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-0-7333-0231-2, retrieved 14 August 2013
  34. ^ Spencer, Don; Singleton, Glen; Bryant, Nick (2000), 1001 Cool Jokes, Hinkler Books. National Library of Australia, ISBN 978-1-86515-182-3, retrieved 14 August 2013
  35. ^ Sharkey, Jane; Holland, Margaret; Spencer, Don (2005), Sing and Learn Times Tables, Hinkler Books, ISBN 978-1-74121-930-2, retrieved 14 August 2013
  36. ^ Spencer, Don; Pike, Michelle (2011), Don Spencer's Don't Call Me a Koala Bear and Other Aussie Songs, Five Mile Press, ISBN 978-1-74300-135-6, retrieved 14 August 2013

External links[edit]