Stuart Hamblen, the son of an itinerant East Texas preacher, wrote hundreds
of successful songs during his lifetime, but his most enduring composition was
a gospel classic inspired by, of all people, John Wayne.|
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 cowboy He started drinking, gambling and brawling
-- a lifestyle befitting his frequent role 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 evangelism crusade
in Los Angeles. Hamblen stopped drinking and ran for president in 1952 as the
Prohibition Party's 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."
"Sound like a song," said Wayne.
The casual remark provided a creative spark for Hamblen. One night, sitting alone
at home, he began writing a song. When he heard a clock strike 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 17 minutes Hamblen had created. "It Is No
Secret," a gospel classic which would be translated into nearly every language
in the world.
who left East Texas in the l920s to
attend McMurray College in Abilene,
started his career by becoming a singing cowboy on an Abilene
radio station. In 1929 he won a talent contest in Dallas,
using his $100 cash prize to travel to the East Coast, where he recorded four
songs for the forerunner of RCA Victor.
Hamblen then traveled to Hollywood,
becoming the lead singer of a radio singing group known as the Beverly Hill Billies.
He was soon a West Coast hit, headlining such programs as Stuart Hamblen and the
Lucky Stars, the Covered Wagon Jubilee, and King Cowboy and his Wooly West Review.
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
His songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone,
Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, and Ernest Tubb.
to "It Is No Secret," his biggest hit was "This Ole House," which was recorded
by Roosemary 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
Many people thought Hamblen wrote the song about a deteriorating
old country home, but it was actually about the body of an aging Christian.
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
| Hamblen, who made
his home on a ranch outside Los Angeles, died at the age of eighty in 1989. Hamblen
was also honored posthumously by the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in
Appearing on stage
to accept the award, his daughter Lisa said Hamblen was once approached by a Christian
fan who said the East Texan didn't really write 'It Is No Secret." The fan insisted
that Hamblen "only held the pen."
November 28, 2011
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