Today's musical selection starts off with Dale Evans singing Let Us Love. This is followed by The Monroe Brothers with their 1936 recording of Do You Call That Religion. Next is Cowboy Copas with his 1953 recording of Purple Robe. and This song was written by Odell McLeod, who wrote two gospel song Copas recorded called From the Manger to the Cross and Four Books of the Bible. Another classic gospel song he wrote was Thirty Pieces of Silver. This song was recorded by the husband and wife bluegrass duo Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper in 1949 and that recording will follow. One of most overlooked but important people in the Outlaw Country movement was Billy Joe Shaver. Billy Joe was one of the most talented songwriters in the history of country music and today's Cowboy Church includes one of his most famous works, I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal. I am going to let Billy Joe Shaver himself tell you about the history of this song from a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine's Patrick Doyle. When Patrick asked him when he become born again, Billy Joe gave a very open and honest answer that gives a new meaning to this beautiful song. He said "I’ve slipped back since then many times since, but it was when I wrote [1981’s] 'Old Chunk of Coal.' I went out on the Harpeth River in Nashville. I went way up a treacherous pathway up this cliff to jump off of it. It looked like the Devil’s tower or something. It was cloudy, no stars or moon or anything, dark as pitch. Way up on top that cliff was an altar – or something that looked liked one. I thought I jumped off a cliff, to tell you the truth. I’d already seen Jesus actually, or a vision of him shaking his head saying, “How long you gonna do this?” It was pure white. I was really screwed up, man. I’d taken a bunch of stuff and done a bunch of stuff and come in my house about four in the morning and this vision was waiting on me, and then I got in my truck and drove out there to this place. At the top of that cliff was an altar, or something that looked like one, and I wound up with my back to the edge of the cliff and my elbows and everything on the altar, and my boots were off of my feet and they looked just like they were gold. It would take me forever to tell you what really happened, but I found myself asking God to forgive me for being such an idiot, and he helped me because he gave me that song. I came down that path after all that stuff, slipped my boots and came down that path singing that first half of that song." (to read the whole interview, you can click here) This is the kind of testimony that shows just how God can work through any of us. We are never to far gone for God to help us, and he will often show himself and change our lives in times when things seem hopeless. Billy Joe felt his life was over but God was not through with him yet. He knew that Billy Joe had much hope to give this world through songs like this and through sharing his own story. God had not played much of a role in Billy Joe's music before this. In fact on his 1973 album Old Five and Dimers (one of the defining albums of the Outlaw country movement) he kidded this with a song called Jesus Christ, What a Man! in which includes the line "Sing me more songs about Jesus, for I am a big Jesus fan..." However as his career went on the amount of songs about God he recorded increased and his live shows afterwards always included spirituals. The version of Just and Old Chunk of Coal included here is live from the 1994 Farm Aid. Hank Williams Jr. is best known for his rowdy party songs, but over his long career he has recorded much more than this. This included many sentimental love songs like Eleven Roses and quite a few gospel numbers. In 1969 he recorded a whole album of gospel songs called Sunday Morning. Next is one of the songs from that album, Are You Walkin' and Talkin' For the Lord. Hank Williams Sr. as many of you know, wrote one of the all time best country gospel songs, I Saw The Light. He originally recorded this song in 1948, but the video on this post is from a 1951 episode of The Kate Smith Evening Hour. Hank would die New Years Day, 1953. Hank Williams singing the line "no more darkness" makes one wish he had turned away from the darkness in his own life. Hank isn't the only famous country singer featured in this video, a young and very energetic June Carter is hard to look away from here. George Jones then sings Someone's Watching Over You Tonight from his 1962 gospel album, Homecoming in Heaven. This song was written by J.P. Richardson, who is better known as The Big Bopper. The Big Bopper would have a great career as an early rock and roll singer. George Jones fans probably know him best for writing George Jones' first number 1 hit (in 1959), White Lightning. This song could not be more different from the fast paced silliness of White Lightning but George was nothing if not versatile and he delivers a fantastic performance here. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Lead Me Gently Home Father. At this time the group was composed of Bob Nolan, Leonard Syle (later to become Roy Rogers), Lloyd Perryman, Hugh Farr, Carl Farr and Sam Koki. The group would later record this song again in 1948, however I personally prefer this earlier version.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isiah 41:10
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 21:8
Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. 1 Chronicles 31:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. Thessalonians 3:13
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16.33
Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.
-Michael J. Ruhland