At its peak, Second Coming performed 300 nights a year and was a regular attraction at such now-forgotten nightspots as the Classics III, Act IV, Ventuna 21, Montage, the Quonset Hut, Anthony House and the Cave. For a couple of years in the early 1980s, Mr. Taylor and his singing partner, Joe Saitta, even had their own club, the Second Coming in Greenbelt.
"Every night was a party, with a line out the door," Saitta recalled.
Mr. Taylor was in his teens when Second Coming was formed in 1969, and the band kept going until 2006.
"We were a soul group with hints of rock-and-roll," Saitta said. "Charlie was an amazing guy with just an incredible voice. He could hit any note out there, from the lowest to the highest."
Many people say he was the finest singer in the District's vibrant "blue-eyed soul" scene of the '60s and '70s, when predominantly white bands played a potent blend of rhythm and blues, rock and good-time party music.
"He could do James Brown, then turn around and do Frank Sinatra and then do 'Danny Boy,' " said Don Halcombe, who sang with Mr. Taylor in three bands. "He couldn't read music, but he never forgot a word and never missed a gig."
Mr. Taylor grew up in Southeast Washington, moved with his family to Prince George's County and played football at Oxon Hill High School. (He shouldn't be confused with the Washington Redskins' Hall of Fame receiver of the 1960s and '70s, Charley Taylor.)
He found his voice when, without a day of formal training, he began to sing doo-wop with neighborhood buddies on the street corners of Anacostia. Not even his family can explain where his musical gift came from.
"I don't ever remember Charlie having any interest in singing as a child," said his older sister, Roberta Payne of Raleigh, N.C.
In his teens, he joined a couple of bands, the D.C. Magnatones and the Nowheremen, that had powerful horn sections and were local counterparts to the Righteous Brothers and Blood, Sweat and Tears. The groups appeared at teen dances and at USO clubs -- and sometimes where they weren't welcome. Once, Mr. Taylor and friends were kicked off the Ellipse for singing Christmas carols too close to the White House.
"He was so shy at the beginning," Halcombe said, "but he had something that grew out of him and made him this fearless singer. Honest to God, he had the best voice I ever heard in my life."
His Voice Was a Fixture in 'Blue-Eyed Soul' Scene
Charlie Taylor, left, and Joe Saitta sing at a late-1960s performance by their band, the D.C. Magnatones. They would later form Second Coming, a popular act in the area's "blue-eyed soul" scene of the '60s and '70s.
Taylor "was so shy at the beginning," says Don Halcombe, a former bandmate, "but he had something that grew out of him and made him this fearless singer."
Charles Massey Taylor was always the fellow with the big voice who never quite hit the big time. He was 59 when he died May 20 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He had been in a coma for five months after being treated for heart arrhythmia and an injured knee.
Largely on the strength of Mr. Taylor's husky, versatile voice and his exuberant stage presence, Second Coming performed at venues stretching from Canada to Florida, from Las Vegas to all five boroughs of New York. Every summer for 35 years, the group played in Ocean City, and Marvin Gaye once sat in.
During the disco era of the 1970s, Mr. Taylor and his bandmates dressed in custom-made sequined jumpsuits cut halfway down their chests. He sometimes rigged up surgical tubing that ran down his sleeve and was connected to a propane tank. At a particularly dramatic moment in a song, he would press a button and flames would shoot out from his fingertips.
"He was quite an amazing entertainer," Saitta said. "He took a lot of risks with the shows."
For a while in the early 1980s, Second Coming seemed to be one record deal or one big-time agent away from hitting the national spotlight. But the chance to be something more than a well-polished local act never came.
Several years ago, as his music engagements grew more scarce, Mr. Taylor settled in Annapolis with his longtime girlfriend, Kathy Osborne, and began to look for day jobs. He worked as a crab wholesaler, ran an asphalt business and inspected houses for mold, but he kept singing wherever he could, at rib joints and during intermissions of boxing matches. His voice, everyone agreed, still sounded great.
"We were retired for 30 years, then we had to start working," said Saitta, who sang alongside Mr. Taylor for nearly four decades. "We were just young boys looking for a little bit of fun, and we found it for a long time."