A humorous view of politics, religion, human behavior, and insights toward everyday happenings by a single guy living in downtown Chicago.
Friday, September 14, 2012
The Faith Tones
Recently, a friend of mine posted a photo of this gospel LP
on Facebook and I could hardly believe my eyes.
Here it is: The Faith Tones “Jesus Use Me”
Could it be real? I began investigating.
It turns out that, yes, there was an album released by The
Faith Tones with the title, Jesus Use Me, by Angelus Records in 1964 (WR 4802).
The Faith Tones became a quest. I had to know more.
Fortunately, I have a buddy who used to work for the CIA, is
now a private investigator and also joined in on my quest.
Here’s what we discovered. . . .
The Faith Tones arereal. Those are not men in drag. That’s
really them, bouffant and all.
Here’s a recent photo of the album that sold on
eBay on December 30, 2011 for $214.00.
The real deal, folks:
As my buddy and I went to work, details of The Faith Tones
began to emerge.
The Faith Tones began as a gospel quartet during the spring of 1963 in the Winston-Salem, North
Carolina area. The group originally consisted of Beverly Beecham (one the left
with the bouffant), Vivian Wyler (middle), Marie Samuels (with the glasses) and
Roberta Long (not pictured). They soon
became a trio probably due to the fact that Roberta Long, a newlywed, gave
birth to her first child soon after the group began.
The remaining trio of Beecham, Wyler, and Samuels were all
single working women in their early twenties, thus, many evenings were
available for rehearsals. All of the women were trained church musicians,
accomplished pianists and organists, and were members of the Lottie Moon
Missionary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem NC. Their combined talents, along with their
availability, proved to be quite productive. They quickly became a much
sought-after group among numerous Southern Baptist churches often lacking in
talented or inspirational musical devotionals in the area.
Apparently, their talent lay in the fact that they
were all trained pianists; vocal abilities were secondary. At any performance, one
of them could supply accompaniment on a piano or Hammond organ while easily
supplying a third vocal harmony – a feat seldom accomplished in any Southern
Baptist church at the time.
It was at that time that Angelus Records was making a great
deal of revenue from releasing multiple recordings of Negro spirituals after
the “March on Washington” in April 1963. Numerous talent scouts were in the
Washington-Virginia-North Carolina area and it was only a matter of time until
the Beecham-Wyler-Samuels trio was heard.
Performing their popular gospel song, “Jesus Use Me” one week after the
assassination of John F. Kennedy, probably caused their pastor, Br. John W. Buckner, to announce in a following sermon something like, “these devout women truly sing the
inspirational tones of faith.” --
popularity was rising among local churches, an agent from Angelus Records was
in attendance. Perhaps he heard the "inspirational tones of faith" sermon where they had performed and came up with "the faith tones" as a name.
A 45 rpm recording of “Jesus Use Me” by The Faith Tones was
released to local radio stations in North and South Carolina in January 1964.
It was met with wide acceptance and rose to No. 14 on the East Coast Gospel Chart
at its highest rating the following month.
The chorus is still popular among many televangelists. You can here Jimmy Swaggart performing it here.
Jesus use me; Oh Lord, don’t refuse me,
For surely there’s a work that I can do;
And even though it’s humble, please help my
will to crumble
Though the cost is great, I’ll work for
The “B” side
to The Faith Tones 45 rpm release contained an obscure 19th century
Protestant hymn, “Where Is My Boy Tonight?”
Where is my wandering boy tonight—
The boy of my tenderest care,
The boy that was once my joy and light,
The child of my love and prayer?
Soon after, local demand and popularity called for an LP of The Faith Tones.
Angelus Records supplied it. WR 4802. Released in 1964. (Very few recordings exist. The last known copy sold on eBay on Dec 30 2011 for $214.00)
It turns out that the original members of The Faith Tones performed
in hundreds of non-denominational churches across the Southeastern and Southern
U.S. for the next eight years up until 1972.
Like I said, my buddy, a private investigator, and I did
quite a bit of sleuthing and can now supply details for those of you who would
like to know about the members of The Faith Tones.
Beverly Beecham: b. 1938 .
The eldest of four
siblings; although the daughter of Disciples of Christ parents, she was
educated in a private Catholic school. We found her Sophomore year class photo!
Beverly is on the front row, fourth from the right.
Beverly’s parents converted to Southern Baptist when Beverly
was sixteen years old. She obtained a music scholarship to North Carolina State
University but apparently dropped her studies after three years in 1959. She
applied for marriage license the same year but never married. From 1960 through
1972, she earned very little income aside from occasional royalties from a
subsidiary of Angelus Records.
In 1972, she applied for a three-month visa
sponsored by the Southern Baptist Association to teach in Burma (now Myanmar).
She remained in Burma/Myanmar as an undocumented worker until returning to the
U.S. in 2004 at the age of 66 whereupon she applied for a marriage license to marry
a same-sex partner in Massachusetts.
She remains married and employed as a private
music instructor in the Boston area.
Vivian Wyler: b. 1940.
Orphaned until 1944. Adopted by
parents, aged 39 and 44 years old in Dover, Delaware. Obtained B.A. in applied music from Oberlin College in 1961. Resided
with parents in Raleigh N.C. until 1963. Employed as cosmetologist in
Winston-Salem from 1963 to 1972. Received royalties from subsidiary of Angelus
Records through 1972.
Here we go! (The good stuff)
Civil court records filed in
1974 document numerous hotel monetary records with a named companion who was a NASA
astronaut. (No names here). He was slated for one of the later moon missions
that had been cancelled. Apollo 18, 19 or 20. But, Ms. Wyler moved to Houston
in 1972, had an Order of Protection placed against her by Mr. X, the astronaut,
and subsequently moved to Beaumont, Texas.
She opened a hair-weaving salon in
1975, innovative at its time in East Texas, which was very successful until
hair weaving refugees inundated the Beaumont area after Hurricane Katrina in September
Wyler’s business never recovered.
Marie Samuels: b. 1945.
The eldest of 18 children born to Southern
Baptist parents from Springfield, Missouri, who were influential in creating
the “Quiverfull” notion of multiple offspring that would infiltrate society
with like-minded conservatives.
Although Marie was the eldest child of eighteen siblings in
a family of fundamentalist Baptist parents who espoused an insular, almost cult-like
devotion to the familial cloister, she somehow obtained a full music scholarship
to North Carolina State University, probably against the will of her parents. Though she
was the eldest of eighteen, she was the youngest of The Faith Tone members at
nineteen years of age.
During the next seven years of The Faith Tones’ heyday,
Marie worked at a minimum-wage night-job supervising children with Down syndrome
while working toward her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Music Composition at
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both degrees, she eventually
In retrospect, the seven-year success of The Faith Tones
would never have been possible had it not been for the quiet, diligent
compositional work of Marie Samuels;
She obviously refrained from any and all romantic involvement,
devoting all her time to her work with disabled children and toward her music
In 1974, she signed a lease with a young product engineer
employed by 3M, apparently having fallen in love. Two months later, she sought
medical treatment suspecting complications from a possible unexpected
Marie died from complications during surgery when a
parasitic twin, a fetus in fetu, was
discovered in her abdomen and surgeons attempted to remove it. She died from
trauma and blood loss at the age of twenty-nine.
So, there you have it, folks – the complete history of The Faith Tones.
When you think about it, their lives pretty much exemplify what we all experience.
average life, hopeful, escaping reality, ended up like she never expected.
Worked to overcome her past. Became successful; fell in love; and failed. But
it’s not over yet.
Marie: Completely altruistic, died unexpectedly at 29; possibly the true success story.
The Faith Tones and their legacy album "Jesus Use Me" may look perplexing, and even ridiculous on
the surface. But when we dig deeper, we can never know whether or not our lives will turn out to
be that of Beverly’s or Vivian’s or Marie’s.
But while we’re here, just for today, we can revel in what
By all means, Let’s relish all we can with our own Faith Tones!
(Please note: The preceding article was an exercise in fictional creative writing.)
UPDATE!! I actually got my hands on a mint-condition LP of "Jesus Use Me". One came available on eBay and I sniped it! So, here you go, folks! An actual recording of the lovely Faith Tones performing "Jesus Use Me".