Finishing the Race

Some captivating footage from a recent celebration of singing-convention mainstay Charles Towler’s 50th year in gospel music (h/t, SS). The sound isn’t great, but seriously, who cares? There are not one but TWO Phillipses - Eloise and Tracey - at the keyboards (the former on the Hammond, the latter on the piano) for the performance of one of Towler’s songs, “When I Finish the Race.” Indeed, I think I got saved listening to the organ alone, which just makes you wanna run somewhere.

If you want more convention-singing fix, make sure to get a copy of Stephen Shearon and Mary Nichols’ just-released documentary, “I’ll Keep On Singing,” which prominently features the Phillipses and Towler, among others, talking about and performing convention music. My copy just arrived in the mail this week, and I screened it in my Gospel Music and American Lit course Thursday. It was a big hit. My students wanted to do some singing afterwards! More information on how to score a copy of the documentary is here.  

Update: Steve Shearon writes to note that there are dozens of other videos from the Towler Anniversary celebration now up on youtube. Among them, Stan Whitmire (an Eloise Phillips protege) and more Tracey Phillips mastery. Steve particularly recommends this clip of Towler’s “signature” tune, which apparently had quite an impact at the event:

Email this Post


  1. KC wrote:

    My goodness, I love Tracey on piano. She is perfection.

  2. John wrote:

    Just glad to hear that Doug finally got saved…

  3. judi wrote:

    Glad your students wanted to do some singing! I miss singing while at camp, in youth groups, on a hike, working in the garden, marching for a cause, on a long bus trip, driving alone in my car. Maybe I’m in the wrong places but outside of church, not too many people I run into are just singing for the fun of it any more. Me neither. Hope singing makes a comeback in whatever form. It would be good for the country.

  4. JulieBelle wrote:

    Eloise and Tracey are two of the best musicians around. Both in this video are simply divine! I found myself wishing the people would quit singing so they could really shine.

  5. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    Thanks for posting this, Doug.

    To everyone: If you go to and search for towler 50th anniversary (no quotation marks), 34 videos of different songs from this event will pop up, including one of Stan Whitmire playing “I’ve got that old-time religion . . . ” and “Blessed Assurance.”

  6. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    Following up: If it will help, here’s the lyric of “When I Have Finished The Race.”

    Verse 1
    Thru great persecutions, (repeat)
    thru troubles and woe, (thru many troubles and woe)
    I’m running with patience (repeat)
    the race here below,
    Tho’ often I’m troubled, (repeat)
    I’m never down-hearted, (repeat)
    For I’ve got to finish, finish, finish
    the race that I’ve started, oh, yes!

    I started for heaven (I started for heaven)
    while down on my knees, (while praying there down on my knees)
    I mean to keep running (Running, running, running)
    until I shall see (keep running until I shall see)
    The King in His glory (See the King in his glory)
    beside the white throne (there beside the white throne)
    When I have finished, finished, finished the race that I started, oh, yes!

  7. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    Verse 2
    I’m laying aside (repeat)
    the weight of my sin, (the weights of my sin)
    So that I may finish (repeat)
    the race that I’m in,
    The future’s uncertain, (repeat)
    the way is uncharted, (repeat)
    But I know I’ll finish, finish, finish the race that I’ve started, oh, yes!

    Repeat Chorus

  8. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    Finally: Of the 34 video clips mentioned above, the one of the last song of the evening is “His Blood Has Made Us One,” Towler’s signature piece. This is the one during which many “got the Holy Spirit.” Lots of cries and crying, though you may not hear it most of it.

  9. James Hales wrote:

    Anywhere I can find the lyrics to “His Blood has made us One”? That is a great song!

  10. Charlie Sexton wrote:

    James, The Hayes Family recorded it several years ago, and it’s also in one of their folio songbooks. I’ve got one at the church, somewhere. I can tell you more tomorrow afternoon, if you’ll email me. You still have me email address?

  11. JulieBelle wrote:

    I was going to recommend “Great Joy in that City” from this collection on youtube for a showcase of the Phillips extravaganza…

  12. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    Here it is.

    VERSE 1
    From many diff’rent backgrounds, with many varied int’rests,
    Yet we were all so lost and undone;
    But Jesus’ love and mercy has bro’t us together,
    His blood has made us one!

    His blood has made us one,
    the blood of God’s own Son;
    One in purpose, one in power,
    His blood has made us one.

    VERSE 2
    We’d have no cause to be here together as a fam’ly
    If there were not a common bond;
    But Jesus’ blood has saved us, we’re brothers and sisters,
    His blood has made us one!


    VERSE 3
    We may not all agree on the things that aren’t important,
    For we are all made diff’rent, you see,
    But we’re members of His body, and we’re joined together
    In love and unity.


  13. Stephen Shearon wrote:

    To JulieBelle, I certainly understand what you mean about wanting to hear Eloise and Tracey “really shine.” Ironically, however, they’re at their peak when they’re playing for a large group of convention singers. I often listen to Tracey’s “Old Time Religion” CD (you should get it!), and enjoy it greatly, but it simply doesn’t match the vitality, artistry and creativity she displays when accompanying a room full of good singers — nor does listening to it match the pleasure one gets from singing in a group she accompanies. The same can be said of other great convention pianists; playing for singers is what they like to do.

    If you want that experience, I suggest you attend either a good convention or Ben Speer’s Stamps-Baxter School in July (or one of the other good singing schools).

  14. Troy wrote:

    I love singing Charles Towler’s songs under his direction at the Stamps Baxter school. If you’re interested in his songs, he publishes an annual songbook, which always includes a number of his compositions (and often have “His Blood Has Made Us One”). You can find them at:

  15. JulieBelle wrote:

    Stephen, I am friends with Tracey and know she and her mother well. I’ve heard them both in a variety of settings. I wasn’t suggesting that I wanted to hear them play solo…was merely pointing to that particular song that showcased what few southern gospel pianists even attempt to do when accompanying.

  16. Charles L Towler wrote:

    For an even better video of last Saturday night, go to
    One more thing: Gospel Heritage Quartet gave out of the souvenir songbooks at the celebration, but we’re reprinting them and making them available for a $5.00 donation for our singing school in August among the Choctaw Indians in OK.

  17. Charles L Towler wrote:

    The address for the book…and perhaps a complete video is: PO Box 5299, Cleveland, TN 37320.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked * Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.