Special to the Southeast Examiner By Robert Ham & Bobby Smith
The Albina Music Trust has released another album treasure from out of Portland’s past. This time around, it’s a lost album by The Legendary Beyons. For more than 50 years, the group has moved Portland with their music, and now their early work has been documented in a new LP, accompanied by a detailed oral history of the group and a beautiful booklet with archival photos. For those who haven’t heard The Legendary Beyons, the release is a welcome introduction.
Their unreleased 1977 album is a collection of demos that never got pressed into vinyl. The cover of the new album tells you nearly everything you need to know: four Black men in custom-tailored suits, working it with synchronized steps before Portland’s Fourcourt Fountain. In their joyous faces is written a brotherhood that began when this core of singers – Jeddy Beasley, Thurtis Channel, James Tims and Ira Hammon – harmonized as The Legendary Beyons. This image reveals the richness of their soulful, Motown-inspired vocal sound.
The songs are the culmination of a story that began when these young men began singing in the locker room after basketball games at Jefferson High School. As their reputation grew, The Beyons, with the help of a backing band featuring arranger Dan Brewster and The Soul Masters, were familiar faces of the old Albina’s club scene. A litany of touring acts stopped through the area, performing side-by-side with The Beyons: The Whispers, Bloodstone, Blue Magic and others – the list is deep. However, without a local recording industry or sustainable income for gigging Black musicians, The Beyons began performing in 1968, but never released a recording in their heyday.
This recording session represents a seasoned group roughly a decade into their career and is their only 20th century recording that has survived. These songs, ranging from Dreaming You In My Mind to the sweet soul ballad, There We Were, Here We Are, spotlighting the group’s tightly knit harmonies. The album’s single is Love Notes. The cosmic intro of Let’s Talk About Love calls upon Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, to share the band’s take on L-O-V-E.
The Legendary Beyons are still active. They performed last month at Portland’s Black Music Expo, primarily singing gospel music these days. Their 2019 album, Once I Get To Heaven, is available on streaming services. See thelegendarybeyons.com.
Albina Music Trust is a taxpayer-funded initiative of the arts and education non-profit, World Arts Foundation, that serves the underrepresented music community in Albina, Portland’s historically Black neighborhood. For more, see albinamusictrust.com.