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.
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.
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
people thought Hamblen wrote the song about a deteriorating old country home,
but it was actually about the body of an aging Christian.
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 pictures.
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 pen.”
April 8, 2012 Column
Bowman of Lufkin is the author
of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached
Bob Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
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