Feel the Love of Christmas … Again
Taylor’s Band, Family Carry on Christmas Tradition
WHEELING — From the beginning to the end of his half-century career, B.E. Taylor was all about the love.
Having become a Christian in his 20s, he made it his goal to share the love of Christ through his music, according to family and friends.
Case in point: His biggest hit song in the early 1980s was “Vitamin L” — the “L,” of course, stands for love.
His first adult contemporary solo album in the late 1990s was titled “Try Love.”
His first original Christmas song? “Feel the Love of Christmas.”
The late singer from Wheeling, who was best known for his annual Christmas tour featuring unique renditions of well-known Christ-centered carols, found joy and purpose in sharing the love of Jesus with his audiences year after year.
Last year was the first time in 19 years without a B.E. Taylor Christmas concert, following his death from brain cancer in August 2016. Now his band, including his son, B.C., will carry on the tradition for two nights only at the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling on Thursday and Friday.
“Jesus is the reason for the season. That was primary, to get that message out,” said B.E. Taylor’s longtime friend and lead guitar player Rick Witkowski of Weirton. “It wasn’t preachy. He didn’t hit people over the head with it. But the love was poured out from the stage to the people. That was very important to B.E.”
And it’s important to band members to continue the outpouring.
“It’s so much about the celebration of the feelings of the show and the fact that people have turned this into their tradition — and that’s because of my dad and his love for this season and his love for Christ,” said B.C. Taylor, a professional musician in Nashville who plays drums and sings in the Christmas band.
“It’s my tradition to do this show, and I believe all the things he believes,” said Taylor, who was 11 when he first performed at the Christmas show, singing on “O Come All Ye Faithful” with his mother, Veronica, who continues to run B.E. Taylor Productions, and older sister, Tahnee.
“This year there was just an overwhelming sense of we’ve got to do this for ourselves and for our extended family who come to the show year in and year out,” B.C. said.
The show is dubbed “I Will Remember” B.E. Taylor Christmas. “I Will Remember” is the title of one of the handful of original songs Taylor recorded on his three Christmas albums. He wrote it about his idyllic Christmases growing up in Aliquippa, Pa., with loving parents and two brothers.
B.C. said all of the same elements people came to expect in the show will be there — the high school drum lines on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the Aliquippa Church in the Round choir on “Joy to the World” and “Mary’s Boy Child,” for instance — along with some surprises, including videos of Taylor performing. B.C. will come out from the drum kit to sing a song or two, and Tahnee will sing at the show for the first time in about a decade.
Their uncle Dan, B.E.’s brother and Christmas tour manager, also will perform “I Saw Three Ships” as he has done the past two years in Wheeling.
The first time Dan Taylor took the Capitol stage, his brother had summoned him from backstage because he had lost his voice after performing four concerts in five days and staying up late greeting fans. It was a thrill for Dan, who idolized his brother growing up and calls himself “the karaoke version of B.E. Taylor.” His voice uncannily mimics his brother’s.
In 2015, which turned out to be B.E.’s final concert, the pair sang the song together, and it was a huge hit with fans.
“Outside of my marriage and the birth of my three children, that ranks right up there with one of the biggest highlights of my life,” said Dan, whose three daughters also will continue their tradition of performing as a trio at the show.
He is looking forward to the two concerts and is working with the band and his sister-in-law, Veronica, to do their best to make it a night to remember for everyone involved.
Other band members agreed, noting that, of course, it won’t be the same without B.E. at center stage.
“We’re not trying to do a show that’s the same as B.E., but we’re trying to pay tribute to B.E.,” said Wheeling resident Jamie Peck, who plays saxophone and keyboards in the band and helped arrange Taylor’s stunning rendition of “O Holy Night.” “Bill’s (B.E.’s) whole idea was to spread the birth of Christ and Christmas through music, and our goal is to do just that.”
Joining Peck, Witkowski and B.C. on the stage will be backup singers Jeff Jimerson and Hermie Granati, Herb Schweitzer on keyboards and vocals, Dom Liberati and Ryan Gleason on bass guitar and Anthony Rankin on guitar, mandolin and percussion.
“We are going to honor Dad as best we can with the versions that we are going to do,” B.C. said. “The bottom line is he’s not there and those are huge shoes to fill, but we all love him, and we’re all going to do our best.”
Added Dan: “The two biggest things we want to do is one, celebrate the birth of Christ and two, feel the love of Christmas with the fans. … If anybody knew Bill, all he would want is those two things to be accomplished.”
Tickets are sold out for Friday’s show but are still available for Thursday by calling 304-233-4470, visiting www.etix.com or going to the box office at WesBanco Arena.