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.”