By Jane Kendall
Photography by Christian Lee
Walk into any room where Louise Spencer is singing and you can feel the room vibrate. Louise is Hilton Head Island’s cherished hometown diva, possessing an incredibly sassy voice with great range, control and rich expression.
Louise’s life journey began in Evanston, Ill. At the age of 5, her parents divorced and she was uprooted with her mother to Green Bay, Wis. That was the year she discovered her voice. On one particular summer day, Louise was singing the blues in her back yard to assuage her grief over the relocation. The neighbors called and said they loved it, but asked if she could she keep the volume down a bit. When Louise, turned 8, she auditioned for a part in the theater performance of "Noah’s Flood." She became the male mallard duck, whose only line was to quack. That was not exactly her highest aspiration at the time, but it was a start. As a schoolgirl, Louise always sang with church choirs. In the sixth grade, she was selected to sing with the adult Hallelujah chorus. It was an incredible thrill. Throughout high school she performed in ensembles and competitions, both solo and in groups, and won several awards at the state level.
An amazing fact about Louise is with all this success she never had any formal voice training. Her early influences were Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow and John Denver. She spent a lot of time singing at the top of her lungs at home with headphones on. Louise credits the soul in her voice to her creator: “It is all a God given talent.” She describes the inspiration and interpretation of the songs she sings as coming from within, “How I feel it.”
After high school, Louise moved to Atlanta for a brief stint and offered to sing with local bands at piano bars. It was there, where she was discovered by Bobby Ryder, a Lowcountry music legend. In 1987, he invited her to perform with him and his band in Captiva, Fla., for seven weeks. At the end of the gig, she followed him back to Hilton Head. The rest is history. For many years she was a regular with his band in Scarlett’s Lounge at the Mariner’s Inn.
The greatest miracle in Louise’s life unfolded in 2007. As a cancer survivor who has undergone a total hysterectomy, Louise never imagined that she would be a mother, although it was her deepest desire. In the late fall of that year a serendipitous meeting and an amazing string of unprecedented, almost surreal events occurred over seven days that changed Louise’s life. On Dec. 4, 2007, Louise adopted a blond haired, blue-eyed infant, Beatrice Lilliana, the love of her life. She is beautiful, brilliant and extremely outgoing—just like her mom. She fills their home with love, laughter and creativity. She loves to make up songs and record them on the iPad to surprise Louise with her vocal and writing talents.
Constantly surrounding Louise with love and support, Louise’s mother Toby is her number one fan and cheerleader. She is the other most important person in Louise’s life. Toby has recently retired from a nursing career to help raise Beatrice. The three of them are tightly bonded and enjoy many of the same activities together, as did Louise and her mom and grandmother.
Louise is a naturally happy person. People notice that she gravitates toward joy—she absorbs it and she gives it back. You can see that in action when you visit the Stein Mart store on Hilton Head and in Bluffton, where Louise works. She welcomes everyone with her melodic voice and endearing smile. You can’t help but feel uplifted when you are around her.
You can see Louis perform with Lavon Stevens, another notable local talent, at the Jazz Corner, Ruby Lee’s and at the Sunday contemporary service at the First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head. Louise also sings at weddings and private functions. She and Lavon have recorded a CD of classic tunes called "Travelin’ Music," available on cdbaby.com and iTunes.com.
If Louise could give one piece of advice to aspiring singers, she would encourage them to begin by singing at piano bars and other local venues. “Get yourself out there and do it. You can’t wait for someone to knock on your door and think that they know you already sing. You’ve got to let them know that you sing.”
Favorite quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” —Maya Angelou
Favorite Place to visit: Georgia mountains in the fall.
Motto: “Joy!” Maya Angelou signed Louise’s book with this word. Louise lives by it.
You may not know: Louise has sung for many notables, including Maya Angelou, Donna Summer, Dan Aykroyd and Gene Hackman.