Some people remember that moment, the instant when their life changed and their future path was laid out in front of them. For Spencer Morgan, finding that line of demarcation is easy.
“As corny as it sounds, the first time I realized I wanted to take music seriously was when I got my first guitar,” recalls Spencer. “That moment was when I knew that I wasn't going to be doing anything else.”
Now, as one of the busiest musicians in Central New York, both with his band, Last Left, and as a solo artist, he truly is living out that childhood aspiration.
Morgan’s father, Jim, was a bass player in bands that played all over the Northeast in the ’70s, including Fountain, Keel the Puppet, and Holidaye, and provided all the encouragement a young musician would need, both knowingly and unknowingly.
“My father had an acoustic Epiphone guitar and when he wasn’t home I would take it out of the case and just strum the strings, pretend I was rocking out,” he said. “I made sure I always put it back properly though; that way he would never know.” (Don’t worry, Spencer, your secret is safe with us.)
A short time after Spencer got his own guitar, his father’s band Keel the Puppet was starting to get back together and, at a rehearsal, the inexperienced guitarist was allowed to sit in.
“After a few songs they looked at each other and said, ‘Alright, so you're in,’" Spencer remembers. “One of the most important times in my life right there.”
Over the years since then we’ve watched Spencer grow from a talented young guitarist who occasionally relied on flashy stock riffs – as most teenage guitarists do – to a tasteful and expressive player.
More significant, we’ve seen him mature from a background singer shouting out group responses to a confident and dynamic lead vocalist and frontman.
“Becoming the frontman was something I, all of a sudden, leapt at,” says Spencer. “I wanted to be that mad man running around a stage, possessed and driven by the desire to have people leaving saying, ‘Now that was a show.’”
That show now can be either a full band extravaganza with bandmates Steve Shepardson, Dave Maliani and Jeff Dingman, or a more spontaneous solo performance.
“A Last Left show can be very eclectic. The goal is to touch on a lot of different genres,” explains Spencer. “The acoustic show offers me the freedom to learn anything last minute. If I hear something I wanna play that night, I can learn it fast. I don't have to practice it with anyone.”
Spencer plays his acoustic show every Thursday night at the Celtic Harp. Last Left will be playing this Saturday and Feb. 17 at The Gig at Turning Stone, Jan. 20 and Feb. 3 at Celtic Harp, and Feb. 10 at Turquoise Tiger at Turning Stone.
Sisti is an experienced performer who writes about local music for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at email@example.com.