Tri-state area loses music legend B.E. Taylor

B.E. Taylor, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia music legend, nationally known recording artist, and one of the finest voices of his generation, passed away on Sunday at the age of 65 from complications due to an inoperable brain tumor ( photo).

B.E. Taylor, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia music legend, nationally known recording artist, and one of the finest voices of his generation, passed away on Sunday at the age of 65 from complications due to an inoperable brain tumor.

Taylor was defined by love, and it was his life's mission to spread joy through music.

The eldest of three sons of Bill and Betty Taylor, he was born William Edward Taylor in Aliquippa but was called 'Billy Eddie' by his mother, eventually shortened to B.E. He remained intensely loyal to his hometown of Aliquippa all of his life, as well as his beloved Steelers.

At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease and was housebound for a year, where he developed his lasting passion for the Beatles and Motown. His parents also got him a guitar and he became an adequate guitar player but discovered his true gift as a sensational vocalist. He would form B.E. Taylor and The Establishment while still in high school.

After school, he was auditioning in Bearsville, N.Y., when he met Weirton's Rick Witkowski, an adequate singer but sensational guitarist. Together, B.E. and Rick became lifelong friends and musical brothers.

Taylor's most recent and biggest career successes were the result of his emotional Christmas recordings and electrifying Christmas tours. Even though he was well-known as a longtime Christian, Taylor's association with Christmas happened almost by accident when he contributed a song to a local radio station's Christmas compilation in 1991.

His fresh reworking of Silent Night received such overwhelming response that he recorded and released B.E. Taylor Christmas on Chrishae Records in 1994. This, in turn, led to a live performance. In December of that year, Wheeling DJ Doug Daniels created local demand for a one-time performance of the album at Oglebay Park. The audience's reaction set in motion the B.E. Taylor Christmas Tour that would eventually play annually to more than 40,000 fans across Southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, many of whom returned year after year.

The tour annually sold out two nights at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and two nights at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling and would grow to 15 shows, including Indiana, New Castle and Beaver Falls. To satisfy fan demand, Taylor released B.E. Taylor Christmas 2 in 2002.

In March of 2007, Taylor was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The most prodigious period of his long career coincided with the regimen of treatments he endured over the past decade, always with a luminescent smile and his trademark positive attitude and always with his devoted wife Veronica at his side. During this period, he completed eight Christmas tours, a busy schedule of Valentine and summer concerts, released B.E. Taylor Christmas 3, as well as four other CDs and one concert DVD.

In 2008, the Pittsburgh Ballet commissioned a world premiere featuring live performances of Taylor's original love ballads. Taylor appeared with Marvin Hamlisch in a 2010 weeklong Pittsburgh Pops show built around Taylor's One Nation Under God, an album of patriotic songs. In 2010, WQED-TV and other PBS TV stations across the country began airing his Christmas show as a fundraiser. He was working on B.E. Taylor Christmas 4 and his upcoming tour at the time of his passing. B.E., his wife and son had just fulfilled a dream to see the Beatles' Love in Las Vegas.

Long before B.E. Taylor redefined Christmas for tens of thousands locally and around the country, he was already a Pittsburgh rock legend. As the top Pittsburgh club draw in the 80s, The B.E. Taylor Group filled dance clubs and scored MTV video rotation and a Billboard regional No. 1 hit with Vitamin L. The group had three major label releases on MCA and Epic/CBS before Taylor embarked on his solo career. Taylor was one of the first area artists to cross over from covers to originals, helping create the modern Pittsburgh music scene. He worked with Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Old Navy and performed with acts like Chicago, the Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Kathy Troccoli and more.

Taylor was awarded the Duquesne University Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He was also a member of the Beaver Valley Hall of Fame and was given the Distinguished West Virginian Award.

He was a fixture on the local charity concert scene in Pittsburgh, the Beaver Valley and Wheeling. He was always willing to lend his talent to worthy causes such as Auberle, Special Olympics, Tiger Pause, Children's Hospital, Pittsburgh's School for the Blind, Project Bundle Up, Toys for Tots, the March of Dimes, House of the Carpenter and the Soup Kitchen of Wheeling.

Funeral arrangements are pending and will be private. The family asks that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.

B.E. is preceded in death by his parents Bill and Betty Taylor; sister-in-law Delilah Taylor; friend Tom Green. B.E.

Taylor is survived by his wife of 34 years Veronica, children B.C., Tahnee and his dog, Lucky; brothers David and Danny (Lori), parent-in-laws Mike and Mary Ann DeBlasis; sister-in-law Gina DeBlasis; brothers-in-law Rocky (Elaine) and Mike DeBlasis; nieces and nephews David, Daniel, Dustin, Jordan, Sydney, Bailey; friends Rick Witkowski (Deb); Gus Monezis (Aggie); Steve Hansen (Linda); Stephen Connolly; Scott Hedrick (Becky); Bill Piccard (Pam); Janie Husek; Dr Curtis Lewis; Theresa Mitchell; Doug Daniels (Denise); Dr Neiss and the vast, loyal musical family that he created over a long, storied career of creating love and making music.

And as the news of Taylor's passing continues to circulate, more and more people who knew the singer are speaking out.

Gus Monezis is a long-time friend who managed Taylor in 1976. Taylor lived with Gus and his wife for a few months when he was just starting out.

"B.E. was obviously a very unusual person because he had enormous talent. He was blessed with a voice. But he was a great person. You know, there's good people, there's better people and there are really good people. He was really good,” Monezis said.

Another person who called Taylor a friend is Denny Magruder, executive director of the Greater Wheeling Sports Entertainment Authority. He's responsible for booking B.E. Taylor's Christmas concert every year at the Capitol Theater.

"This guy was a class act. And I think, we send out condolences and our sympathies with prayers to his wife Veronica and their family. They really just, they were just a good family. First class,” Magruder said.

So many people in the valley have either met B.E. Taylor, seen his concerts or simply know his music. If you would like to share your thoughts and memories please do so on our Facebook page.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off