Cathy Ferris.JPG

Cathy Ferris with music penned by Spade Cooley, given to Ferris when she saw the entertainer during a visit to the county jail in 1961.

After reading a retrospective in The Californian by Bakersfield attorney Timothy Lemucchi on the notorious case of wife killer Spade Cooley, Cathy McCuistion Ferris recalled a chance encounter she had with the entertainer at the time of his trial in 1961. She was 18 and fresh out of high school when she spoke with Cooley at the county jail. She agreed to share her recollection with our readers:

I have always been a musician, playing the piano in my church when I was a young teenager. In 1961, I played the piano for a girls trio and we sang in churches around town. There were several people from our church, Full Gospel Tabernacle (now First Assembly of God) who ministered at the Kern County Jail on Sunday mornings. They purchased a small piano on rollers, and asked us to go with them to sing to the inmates. Our parents were a little nervous about that, but trusted the men that were watching over us each week.

One Sunday morning we were on the second floor singing our songs, the men were giving their testimonies, and we realized that the man inside the cell in front of us was the notorious Spade Cooley. He was very moved by our music, and when our presentation was over, he asked me if he could give me a song that he had written in his cell, and would we learn it and sing it for him the next time we came.

The song was called “Faith.” It was a simple song with beautiful words, and we gladly learned it as a trio and sang it for him the next week. He was so grateful and he showed it with tears streaming down his face as we sang it for him several times.

I still have the handwritten copy on manuscript paper with his name and the year 1961 at the top. I would be happy to get it into the hands of someone in his family who would appreciate it and value it.

Mr. Cooley's crimes were horrible. It reminds me that alcohol and drugs can alter our personalities so much that we can be capable of terrible things, but I'm so grateful that our God loves the sinner — Spade Cooley, and Cathy Ferris.

I believe I will see Spade Cooley again in heaven, and hopefully we can reminisce about our encounter in the Kern County Jail in 1961.

The lyrics to the last verse of Spade Cooley's song:

“Tell all the people about a precious Friend

“Tell them thru Jesus a broken heart can mend

“Don't let them stumble and fall along the way

“For faith and trust in Jesus, all you have to do is pray.”



(1) comment


Hello, my name is Amanda Malone, or Amanda Cooley. My father is Donnell C. Cooley 3. Spade Cooley or Donnell Clyde Cooley is my great grandfather. My family has many different opinions about Spade and what happened with my grandmother and aunt. Some say he was a monster, others say he was sick with what his son had and his grandson (my father) has which is bipolar with schizophrenia effect and manac depression. There is no excuse for what happened but I would love to learn more about who spade was before hE murdered his wife. I used to sit with my father and listen to his stories about spade for hours . Even though my father was only a baby when Spade died, my grandfather Donnell 2 told my father everything he knew about spade. But as I have gotten older I have found that there are two sides to every story. I would love to know the real Spade, as the musician and actor that everyone loved. I know the dark side now I want to know the good side of Spade.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.