He was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He began his musical career in Los Angeles in his teens and migrated around to wind up in New York City in time to take part in the folk music revival of the early 1960s. He is best remembered for his activity in the Greenwich Village area. He performed with Bob Dylan soon after Dylan’s arrival in New York City, was a contributor to Broadside Magazine and recorded a number of albums for Folkways Records and other labels.
Raised as a Quaker, Spoelstra’s career was put on hold from 1963–1965, when he performed alternative service as a conscientious objector in Fresno, California. In the mid 1960s, he frequently performed at the Ash Grove in West Hollywood—where a man from New York who had reinvented himself as Taj Mahal comprised the house band—and was known for his contemplative compositions, which sometimes reflected incidents in his part-time career as a school bus driver. He later settled in Northern California, where he lived, primarily near Stockton, until his death. He withdrew from the touring life in the early 1970s to raise a family. In the mid 1970s, he became a minister and used his musical talents as a means to preach his spiritual messages. He worked for a number of years as a tour bus driver in Yosemite National Park. Throughout, Spoelstra remained in touch with his music. In 2001, he recorded an album entitled, Out of My Hands for the Origin Jazz Library label; the first record he’d made in 20 years. The album is a mix of new songs written for the album and some of his old favorites. In his later years he returned to the stage to perform on a limited scale. In any event he performed until the summer of 2006 when illness forced him to stop. Several of his albums recorded for Elektra Records, long out of print, have also recently been reissued on compact discs. Another album, self-produced, of original gospel music, Gospel Trucker, is planned for reissue.
Spoelstra died from complications of pancreatic cancer at his home in Pioneer, California on February 25, 2007.
Edited by thevoid999 on 2 Jan 2009, 02:30
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