Few artists have worked as long and contributed as much to the Charleston music scene as steel guitarist John Spell, who the city honors on June 21 with the observance of John Spell Day in conjunction with National Music Day.
John Spell learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at the age of six. In a session with Roger Bellow on WYLA FM last month, Spell recalled the days before he knew being a paid musician was possible, when he woke up before school to perform on live radio shows and when he played at USO square dances because he wasn’t old enough to go to night clubs.
Through the 1940s, Spell performed as a member of the Palmetto Boys, the Blue Ridge Mountaineers, and the Hi Neighbor Boys with Horry County native Duke Roberts. Then in 1954, Spell and his bandmates became staff musicians at the newly-opened Channel 5 television station, where Spell performed live music five nights a week.
On May 30, Mayor John Tecklenburg signed a proclamation recognizing June 21 as John Spell Day to honor Spell’s “enduring contributions to Charleston’s musical culture” and to recognize Spell’s incredible musicianship.
WYLA FM and the Charleston County Public Library will host a concert and formal ceremony in Spell’s honor on Fri. June 30 at 1 p.m. Spell is set to perform, along with musical guests Roger Bellow, Riley Hart, Bob Sachs, Jeff Gaskins, John F. Kennedy and Marcy Shore. The performance is open to the public.