About the songs…

1. When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, J. M. Black, 1893.

The events of life are sometimes the best inspiration that a songwriter has, that is the case for this gospel hymn. While calling the roll for a Sunday school class, James Black was concerned when the daughter of an alcoholic was not present. “Well I trust when the roll is called up yonder, she’ll be there,” was his reply. Upon returning home he could escape thoughts of the little girl. Sitting down at his piano he composed this hymn.

James Black passed away in 1938, just three years before this hymn would be sung in the Academy Award winning movie “Sergeant York” which was released in 1941.

2.  Down At The Cross, Elisha Hoffman & John H. Stockton, 1878.   
Elisha Hoffman was born on May 7th, 1839, in Pennsylvania. His father was a minister, and Elisha followed Christ at a young age. Hoffman was ordained the gospel ministry in 1868 and served as publisher for the evangelical Association in Cleveland, Ohio for eleven years. In his lifetime, he edited fifty songbooks and wrote over two thousand Gospel songs.

John Hart Stockton, the composer of this hymn, was born in New Hope, PA, on April 19, 1813. He was ordained as a Methodist minister, and made a full member of the New Jersey Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1857. In 1874, because of poor health, he retired from the active ministry, but continued an active interest in evangelical work. He assisted in the Moody-Sankey meetings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Other hymns that Stockton wrote include Take Me As I Am, Only Trust Him, and The Great Physician.

3. Pass Me Not, Fanny Crosby & Howard Doan, 1870.

Pass Me Not is one of the many collaborations by Fanny Crosby and William Doane. Doane, a gifted musician would create memorable melodies for Crosby’s insightful lyrics. Crosby, a” household name” by the end of the 19th century wrote over 8,000 hymns with over 100 million copies printed. 

The lyrics in this song “Do not pass me by” have inspired many a soul to call out to Jesus for salvation. The song first appeared in Songs of Devotion by Howard Doane published in 1870.

4. Church In The Wildwood, Dr. William S. Pitts, 1857.

This favorite hymn began as a song about a fictitious church. While wandering about a lovely wooded area at a carriage ride rest stop near Bradford, Iowa, William Pitts began to imagine a church in that setting.  After returning home the memory of the setting and a fictitious church still lingered in his thoughts and he was inspired to write The Church in the Wildwood. Several years later on a return visit he discovered a church had been built in the valley from which his inspiration arose.

During the winter of 1863-64, Pitts taught a singing class in Bradford. His class sang the song during the dedication of the new church. When the railroads bypassed Bradford, the town fell into decline as did the little church. Soon after the turn of the century, the Society for the Preservation of the Little Brown Church was formed and services were again held. Both the church and the song experienced a revival. Little did Pitts know that his song would bless so many congregations.

Many are familiar with the song through its appearance in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show during which a business man with car troubles is stranded for a few days in Mayberry.

5. Leaning On The Everlasting Arms, Elisha Hoffmanu & A. J. Showalter, 1887. 

Born in Cherry Grove, Virginia, Anthony Johnson Showalter (May 1, 1958-September 14, 1924) became an American gospel music composer, teacher and publisher. In 1884, he formed the Showalter Music Company of Dalton, Georgia and began publishing several music books on theory, harmony and composition which were widely used in singing schools across the South. But his most famous publication was the best known gospel song Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. The hymn tune was first published in 1887 with lyrics by Elisha A. Hoffman.  Showalter, a deacon at the First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, mentioned that the composition was inspired by Deuteronomy 33:27,"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms".

6. What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Joseph Scriven & Charles C. Converse, 1868.

This hymn began as words of encouragement scribbled on a notepad, was published in a small collection of poems then became the last hymn selected by Ira Sankey for his collection Gospel Hymns Number One. From then on it has become a favorite wherever it is heard. And while Charles Converse was very successful  lawyer and musician he is best known for composing the music for this beloved hymn.

7. Grandma Please Save A Seat For Me © T. J. Brown BMI & Nancy Cardwell Erdos ASCAP.

“Co-writing songs with Tom Brown is easy because he comes up with great  ideas, and all I have to do is help him finish a few details and edit. My grandmother, Fern Phillips, passed away several years ago, and she was the one I was thinking of when we wrote this song. Grandma was a frail woman physically, but a mighty prayer warrior when it came to spiritual matters. Like my own mother, she seemed to have a direct line to heaven. And like the character in the song, she did occasionally shout in the local Methodist church when she was overcome with the joy of God's presence. I can picture my grandma saving a seat for me in the little country church in this song, and I think of her every time i sing it. (She could also make amazing chicken & dumplings, apple pie and hot rolls---and I think I inherited my passion for coffee drinking from Grandma.)”

8.  I Know ©T. J. Brown BMI & Earl Brackin BMI 

This song was finished one day when Earl and Tom were on their way to Nashville for the IBMA World of Bluegrass. Tom bought a melody, chorus, and half of a verse to the traveling songwriting session and the song was pretty well finished as they reached the city limits.  The goal was to write a song that had that old time bluegrass gospel groove in the manner of bluegrass brother duets from the 1950s. 

9. Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Traditional/Spatial Arrangement

Although the author of Just A Closer Walk is unknown, circumstances suggest it dates to African American churches in the second half of the 19th century, possibly even earlier. In the 1930s the song became better known nationally when African-American churches held huge musical conventions. In the 1940s, the song was recorded in many different styles, ranging from Southern gospel to jazz and brass bands. It became a hit song for Red Foley in 1950, charted again for Tennessee Ernie Ford in the late 1950s, and was a personal favorite of Elvis Presley. By the end of the 1970s, Just A Closer Walk had been recorded by more than one hundred artists.

10. Darkest Hour ©Ralph Stanley Fort Knox Music, BMI.

This is one of many great songs written by Dr. Ralph Edmond Stanley, known in the music world for his distinctive voice and banjo playing. Dr. Ralph who has become known quite well for singing the mournful Appalachian dirge Oh Death in the 2000 movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Ralph was born on February 25, 1927 in Big Spraddle Creek, Dickenson County, VA. In 1946 relying heavily on the musical traditions of the region, which included the haunting minor-key singing style of the Primitive Baptist  church and the sweet family harmonies of the Carter Family, the Ralph and his brother Carter began playing on local radio stations. After Carter passed away in 1966, Ralph decided to continue performing and he has been able to maintain the sound that the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys became famous for.

11. Unclouded Day, J. K. Alwood. Circa 1885.

Unclouded Day has been recorded by many artists both gospel and secular over the years. In 1987 in was performed by Willie Nelson at Farm Aid Concert and broadcast throughout the United States. This is the most famous song written by Alwood a minister of the United Brethren Church.

12. Travelin’ On© David Crawford, SWC Films BMI

Travelin' On is a song that was born while the David was literally traveling on down the highway.  Hearing that another band was interested in finding a new song, he composed this tune on the highway between Dalton, GA and Carrollton, GA.  Using gas stations, the parking lots of closed stores, and frantically scribbling at red lights and stop signs he jotted down snippets of versus, incomplete thoughts, and assorted rhyming phrases until, upon arriving in Carrollton, he had completed the song.  Without a doubt, not his best traveling time to Carrollton, but certainly the most musically productive trip he'd ever taken.  David says: "As difficult as the creative process can be, when the lines start flowing, I can't afford to dismiss the gift as something I'll be able to recreate later.  Therefore I'm grateful God chose to speak to me on those highways, I'm glad I took time to listen and not take his presence for granted, and I hope the song provides relief to all who realize that even though this world has it's fair share of hard times, realizing God is with you is the first step toward handing Him the wheel."

Just A Closer Walk CD
Just A Closer Walk CD
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