other night, while sitting in a Herty church listening to two gospel
quartets (although one of them had nine members), my mind kept coming
hack to “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” a gospel classic
written by East Texan Stuart Hamblen.
Hamblen, the son of an itinerant preacher, wrote hundreds of songs
during his lifetime, but his most enduring composition was the gospel
classic inspired by, of all people, John Wayne.
Hamblen was born in 1908 at Kellyville,
west of Jefferson,
but strayed from his father’s Methodist teachings when he became
a western singing success, a radio star and a Hollywood star.
He started drinking, gambling and brawling--a lifestyle befitting
his frequent roles as a bad guy in films with Gene
Autry, Roy Rogers and Wild Bill Elliott. His wife Suzy frequently
prayed for him and Hamblen experienced a religious conversion at
a 1949 Billy Graham crusade at Los Angeles. Hamblen stopped drinking
and ran for president in 1952 as the Prohibition Party candidate.
He encountered John Wayne, with whom he had appeared in “Flame of
the Barbary Coast,” and Wayne asked him,”What’s this I hear about
you, Stuart?” “Well, Duke,” answered Hamblen. “I guess it’s no secret
what God can do.”
“Sounds like a song to me,” said Wayne.
The casual remark provided a creative spark for Hamblen. That night,
sitting alone at home, he began writing a song, but had trouble
finding a beginning. When a clock struck the hour, he wrote: “The
chimes of time ring out the news. Another day is done. Someone slipped
and fell. Was that someone you?”
In seventeen minutes, Hamblen had created, “It Is No Secret,” a
gospel classic which has been translated into nearly every language
in the world. Following his success with “It Is No Secret,” Hamblen
wrote more than 225 other songs, including “Remember Me” and “Open
Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine In.”
songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, Johnny
Cash, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb.
Next to “It Is No Secret,” Hamblen’s biggest hit was “This Ole House,”
which was recorded by Rosemary Clooney. Hamblen didn’t particularly
like the way Clooney recorded the song, but it became a leading
hit in seven countries and was 1954’s song of the year.
Many people thought Hamblen wrote the song about a deteriorating
old country home, but it was actually about the body of an aging
Hamblen was inducted as a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters
Hall of Fame in 1970, was honored in 1971 by the Academy of Country
and Western Music as radio broadcasting’s first singing cowboy,
was given a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1976,
and received a Golden Boot Award in 1988 for his work in motion
Hamblen, who made his home at a ranch outside Los Angeles, died
at the age of eighty in 1989.
In August of 2001, Hamblen was honored posthumously by the Texas
Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage,
Appearing on stage to accept the award, his daughter said Hamblen
was approached by a Christian fan who said her father didn’t really
write, “It is No Secret” The fan insisted Hamblen “only held the
Bob Bowman's East Texas
8, 2012 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers