San Francisco, circa 1947-1955. Spencer Barefoot cut a modest swath in the intimately entwined musical and social spheres of mid-century San Francisco. Between 1943 and 1949 he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and became assistant to the paper’s noted music critic, Alfred Frankenstein. When he left to form his own “Celebrity Concerts,” Frankenstein wrote: “He has a remarkable gift for friendship and human relations, and this should serve him particularly well in the new ventures he has undertaken.”
As an “impresario,” he acquired a trove of signed and inscribed photographs of musical celebrities. Many of them were inscribed with evident affection. The collection also includes a photographic portrait of the man himself by Imogen Cunningham with her stamp on the mat, and numerous other photographs of the period. I have been unable to identify six more musical photographs, three of them unsigned. The orginal price for the collection was $6,000.
Among the outstanding musicians represented are: Rose Bampton, Roland Hayes, Hans Hotter, William Kapell (3), Lotte Lehmann (2), José Limón (2), Dimitri Mitropolous (5), Jan Peerce (2), François Poulenc & Pierre Bernac, Set Svanholm, Joseph Szigeti, Italo Tajo, and Robert Warren.
Spencer Weldon Barefoot was born on 11 November 1907 in Chickasha, Oklahoma. His parents were Marie L. (Mamie) Spencer (11 August 1883-5 April 1979) and Bert B[oone] Barefoot (25 December 1879-28 June 1949), a judge, whose mother was one half Choctaw, although they were not on the Indian rolls. From his later life and inclinations, one can guess that Spencer was precocious and avid for a life that Chickasha could not provide. His life is far too interesting to describe briefly in this description. Andrea Grimes of the San Francisco Public Library gave invaluable help in my beginning research. I will supply as much of an account as I have learned to the eventual owner of this archive. A reader may take that last sentence as a challenge—how hard could it be find information for a name like that? So I thought—at first.
Through an episode at a recording studio in 1968, a popular New Jersey rock musician named Steve Tracey acquired the stage name of “Spencer Barefoot” and performed under it for decades. Scott at Badcatrecords tells the story on his website. A search for “Spencer Barefoot” also produces: Spencer Pratt Barefoot, Abigail Spencer Barefoot, Spencer Boldman Barefoot, Spencer Neville Barefoot, Spencer Matthews Barefoot, and Spencer Treat Clark Barefoot. Those notables are all featured in “wikiFeet - the most comprehensive celebrity feet database to ever have existed,” an effort to which mankind owes so much.
The list that follows includes only the identified musical photographs. A much more detailed descriptive list is available upon request. It includes notes on condition, photo credits, the dates of associated performances when available. and other information. Most photographs are approximately 8 x 10 inches:
Kurt Herbert Adler (conductor, 1905-1988)—inscribed, June 1949; with a musical notation of the first notes of the Prize Song from Die Meistersinger: “Fan-get an!” [“Let's begin!"] Given the date, it seems likely that this is a friendly salute to Spencer Barefoot's decision to become a musical impresario.
Herman Aicher (1902-1977, two photographs with printed captions) & Salzburg Marionettes—both inscribed, Nov 1954.
Maro (piano, 1921-1978) & Anahid Ajemian (violin, 1924-2016)—inscribed by both, no date.
Gina Bachauer (pianist, 1913-1976)—inscribed, 1955.
Wilhelm Backhaus (pianist, 1884-1969)—inscribed, 1955; name stamp on verso. Photo by Hans Namuth, with name stamp on verso.
Israel Baker (violinist, 1919-2011) & Yaltah Menuhin (pianist, 1921-2001)—inscribed by both, May 14, 1950.
Rose Bampton (soprano, 1902-2007)—inscribed, 1951; name stamp on verso.
George Barati (composer, cellist, conductor, 1913-1996)—inscribed, June 21, 1949.
Jean-Léon Destiné (dancer, 1918-2013)—inscribed, no date.
Rudolf Firkusny (pianist, 1912-1994)—inscribed, May 1947.
Herta Glaz (mezzo-soprano, 1910-2006)—inscribed, Nov 1949; name stamp on verso.
Frank Guarrera (baritone, 1923-2007)—inscribed, no date.
Roland Hayes (tenor, 1887-1977)—inscribed, 3.16.51. Also included: a second fine photograph from another source of Roland Hayes at age 35. It is inscribed to Mrs. H.G. Turner and dated 22.10.37. So far, I have been unable to further identify Mrs. Turner. There is a very light, broken photographer's signature within the image that appears to begin with a "W" and might be "Washington," though the state, the city, or a person is unclear. The photograph apparently was removed from a frame; nearly all the edges of the verso bear old traces of paper tape or adhesive, but there are no defects on the recto, apart from a few very shallow signs of normal handling. The paper measures 9-15/16 in.; the generous top margin apparently has been trimmed 1/16 in. A holograph note: "Photo, Given to me when I was Treasurer of the Edmonton Ladies Musical Club…," is written on a separate piece of wrapping paper bearing the stamped name "E. U. Jeanes, pictures & picture frames… Edmonton."
Hildegarde (cabaret singer, 1906-2005; 2 photographs)—both inscribed Mar 25, 1951.
Randolph Hokanson (pianist, 1905-2008)—inscribed, no date.
Hollywood String Quartet (1939-1961)—inscribed, no date, by Felix Slatkin (1st violin), Paul C. Shure, (2nd violin), Paul Robyn (viola), and Eleanor Allen (violoncello).
Hans Hotter (bass-baritone, 1909-2003)—inscribed, no date (name stamp on verso).
Eugene Istomin (pianist, 1925-2003; four photographs)—not signed or inscribed, but three copies of one pose and one of another).
Raoul Jobin (tenor, 1906-1974)—inscribed, no date.
Juilliard String Quartet (1946-present)—signed by the founding members: Robert Mann (1st violin), Raphael Hillyer (viola), Arthur Winograd (violoncello), and Robert Koff (2nd violin), no date.
William Kapell (pianist, 1922-1953; three photographs, the first two name-stamped in red on the verso)—one inscribed March 30, 1953, six months before his tragic death, and bearing within the image what appears to be the address NY 2 W 87; the second is a close-up; a third unsigned photograph at the piano is a teen-age portrait.
Lotte Lehmann (soprano, 1888-1976; two photographs)—one inscribed, 1951, and one unsigned.
Brenda Lewis (soprano, 1921-2017)—inscribed, no date.
Desiré Ligeti (bass-baritone, member of SF Opera)—inscribed, no date.
José Limón (dancer, 1908-1972) in “The Moor’s Pavanne”—inscribed; notes on verso in another hand, dated March 16, 1953.
Adéle Marcus (pianist, 1906-1995)—inscribed, February 10.
William Masselos (pianist, 1920-1922)—inscribed, April 12, 54.
Dimitri Mitropolous (conductor, 1896-1960). Five photographs, as follows:—one inscribed, 1949; one inscribed in white ink, 1951; one studio portrait of the same image, but 11x14 on textured paper; and two 5x7 photographs of Mitropolous conducting.
Robert Mueller (pianist)—inscribed, 11/17/50.
John Creighton Murray (violinist, 1921-2014)—inscribed, May 23rd, 1950.
Julian Olevsky (violinist, 1926-1985)—inscribed, 1.25.52.
Jan Peerce (tenor, 1904-1984), two photos—one inscribed, no date; one with Spencer Barefoot, not inscribed.
Jan Popper (conductor, teacher, 1908?-1987)—inscribed, no date.
François Poulenc (composer, 1899-1963) & Pierre Bernac (baritone, 1899-1979)—inscribed by both, 3.50 (March, 1950?) with name stamp in red on verso.
Gyorgy Sandor (pianist, 1912-2005)—inscribed, 1950; name stamp on verso.
Martial Singher (baritone, 1904-1990)—inscribed, 1950.
Société Corelli—14 signatures, no date.
Gérard Souzay (baritone, 1918-2004)—inscribed, no date.
William Steinberg (conductor, 1899-1978)—inscribed 1949.
Set Svanholm (tenor, 1904-64, as Tristan)—inscribed, 23.X.1949. Dimensions: 9-1/4 x 7-1/8 in.
Joseph Szigeti (violinist, 1892-1973)—inscribed, 4th Jan 1952.
Italo Tajo (bass, 1915-1993, as Don Chisciotte [Quixote])—inscribed, no date. Dimensions 9-1/2 x 7 in.
Claramae Turner (contralto, 1920-2013)—inscribed, no date.
Astrid Varnay (soprano, 1918-2006)—inscribed in white ink, 1951.
Leonard Warren (baritone, 1911-1960)—signed, no date.
Robert Weede—(baritone, 1903-1972)—inscribed Bob Weede, 1950.
Frances Weiner (violinist) & Len Shorr (pianist)—inscribed, no date. Item #100731