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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News with Gloria Jean Mavins-Sprinkle
Published: 10 July 2013

The Deep Tones: Top row, left to right: Calvin Williams, Carroll Dean, Furman Haynes; Bottom row, left to right: George Vereen, Ivy Floyd
Photo courtesy of Bill Proctor

Legendary harmony singer Furman Haynes passed away in Portland, Ore., July 2. A founder member of The Deep Tones, Haynes traveled the world singing with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Bill Landford to Johnny Smith's Ink Spots.  He co-founded a record label based in Portland, and was happily married to the love of his life for 60 years.  

"I loved being around them," said Haynes' niece Gloria Jean Mavins-Sprinkle. "They were two peas in a pod. They were very happy. He was just someone who I have loved my whole life—all my life long."

Music historian Charles Horner, who created the website Classic Urban Harmony with his wife Pam, said Haynes was a great singer who contributed a lot to American music.

"Furman Haynes was a very talented singer," he said. "He recorded a lot of records and sang with a lot of groups. He was a great singer and people who knew him well say he was a very nice man. We are so sad to hear of his passing."

Born Aug. 2, 1923, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, to Clifford and Sherman Crum-Haynes, Furman Haynes started out helping his father in his blacksmith shop, then worked for a time in the Sunbeam bakery.  

Haynes began his musical career in the church singing spirituals. Ambitious and talented, he took a train north to New York City where he found work as a taxi cab driver.

"He had a voice that was just magnificent," Mavins-Sprinkle said. "And it wasn't long before he started singing and became in great demand, for there were a lot of groups, such as The Four Knights and The Rhythm Masters who wanted him to be a part of their group." 

In 1948, Haynes formed Deep Tones, with George Vereen, Calvin Williams, Carroll Dean  and Ivy Floyd. They sang spirituals and then added  secular songs, such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Castle Rock, and The Night You Said Goodbye. Decca signed The Deep Tones to its Coral label, calling them The Four Deep Tones, even though there were five.  They cut four songs for Coral, and although they never had the kind of hit that would catapult them to stardom, they all built solid careers in music.

In the early 1950s Haynes met Katie Williams, and when the pair married they moved to the West Coast and settled in Portland, Ore. They had a son, Dee. The city was to be Haynes' home for the rest of his life, even though he traveled widely.

"One thing he always held dear was his home," Mavins-Sprinkle said. "He always said his best entertainment was at home."

The Deep Tones reformed as The Hi-Liters, publishing on their own label, HiCo. Later still they became The Stereos. During his career, Haynes also sang with The Four Knights, the Bill Landford Quartette, The Sandmen, and with Johnny Smith's Ink Spots.

The HiCo records are considered fine examples of early R&B harmony. Extremely rare, they are collectors' items, since the label produced just four recordings all in 1958: Let Me Be True To You / In The Night and  Over The Rainbow / Baby Please Be True.

Calvin Williams, his fellow Deep Tone and  lifelong friend, introduced Haynes to record collector and radio presenter Bill Proctor.  They met as Proctor was trying to find the identity of a singer on a recording by The Sandmen that a writer had mistakenly listed as Thurman Haynes.

"It was Furman," he said. "Calvin Williams told me that his friend Furman would like a copy of that recording."

Haynes had sung on a lot of popular records, yet he didn't own them himself, Proctor said.

"He had never had access to some of the material he'd sung. He'd never had the records."

Even though Proctor was based in New Hampshire, he and Haynes became firm friends, talking on the phone every week for almost 10 years. The talked about music, people they both knew, and life, Proctor said. Calvin Williams passed away in 2011.

"In my collection I have some 25 different doo wop groups singing Over the Rainbow. But out of those 25, I prefer Furman's version. I think it probably is because I was so fond of him. He would call sometimes at night and I'd put it on while he was talking."

Haynes toured in Canada, Japan and across the United States, and for years played regularly in Las Vegas. He appeared on television, performing on several shows including Jukebox Saturday Night II, a PBS Special hosted by Patti Page. He sang with Brook Benton, Count Basie, Patty Page and Ella Fitzgerald, among many other greats.

"Even though he had always held his home life tight in his heart, the world opened up to him, he jumped in the right way, held his head up high and God led him all the way," Mavins-Sprinkle said.

Haynes' religious belief took him to New Hope Church, under the leadership of Rev. Johnny Pack IV,  and then to Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Haynes and Katie Haynes were active church members for the last 26 years.

In Portland Haynes took a job at Kaiser, where he worked for more than 20 years. "He enjoyed it because he was helping people something which he has always loved doing, and he retired with honors," Mavins-Sprinkle said.

Services were held in Portland July 10 at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

Preceding him in death are his parents and youngest sister: Gloria Reto Haynes Mavins.

Furman leaves to love him forever his wife: Mrs. Katie Wiliam-Haynes; one sister: Elizabeth Haynes-Clayton; one brother: Clifford Haynes, Jr.; one son: Dee M. Goods; two granddaughters: Khadell S. Rahman and Khalihah R. Rahman-Maye; two grandsons: Dee A. Goods, Na'eem H. Goods; three great-grands: Nailah R. Maye, Shilow V. Maye and Kylie Goods and his dear and close niece Gloria Jean Mavins-Sprinkle; a crew of other nieces, nephews, good cousins and friends.       

Recordings of Furman Haynes are available from Bill Proctor. Email him at Proctor70@msn.com

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