Remembering all the famous singing cowboys

Several years back, my young bride Stella and I were invited to the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration that occurs the weekend following Labor Day. There would be a couple of full days that I would be entertaining folks with cowboy poetry presentations. 

During a slack time, I enjoyed listening to Dr. Townsend, an old history professor from Tech, as he talked about various personalities that he had had the privilege to interview and write about. He was an authority on Bob Wills, his music, and his music groups and had interviewed many of the “singing cowboys.” 

This day, he talked about an old song that I remembered from music classes in my junior high years. He said that he had interviewed Stuart Hamblen, who was regarded as one of radios first “singing cowboys.” 

Now this gent was the son of an itinerant Methodist preacher from Texas. He traveled to Hollywood where he became a singer and songwriter and many of his 225 songs were recorded by artists like Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. His song, “This Old House,” was recorded by Rosemary Clooney Hamblen was able to be in several movies with such stars as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne. 

It seems as he gained fame, Stuart was prone to be a heavy drinker as well as a brawler and as a result was known to visit the jail house often. In 1949, his life changed when after a visit with Billy Graham, he committed his life to Christ. Later, during a visit to his neighbor, his friend asked him about his change in his lifestyle. Hamblen replied that it was no secret what God had done for him and would do the same for others. His next-door neighbor and friend was John Wayne, who suggested that Hamblen should use those lines in a song. 

According to Dr. Townsend, Stuart Hamblen and his wife left John Wayne’s house just before midnight and as they walked into their house, they heard the clock chiming midnight. Stuart grabbed a pen and wrote the lines, “The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through” and he continued to write and finished the song in seventeen minutes. 

His song, “It Is No Secret” became the first song to reach #1 on the Gospel, Country, and Pop charts; a song that tells us that “with arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.”  

This insight into the origin of a song from my boyhood made me realize how history evolves in the strangest of ways. I think you will agree that knowing the background story makes life a little bit more personal as well as enjoyable. Mark 4:22  For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.


Talkin’ To Yourself


The old cowboy laid his blanket by his fire,

And lay there gazing at the starlight,

The secrets of the heavens to acquire,

Revealing the mysteries of night. 


Aww, he knew the North Star would show him the way,

Steady an’ constantly in its place.

Folks would make a mark to show direction by day,

Herdin’ them cows down that trace.


An’ he saw other star groups that he recognized,

Rememberin’ some of their story,

Like the Christ Child star that found some surprised,

Tho it glistened in God’s glory.


An’ he marveled at the trails the stars had showed,

He’d heard campfire stories often told,

How they guided groups of men as they rode,

Toward destinies that legends foretold.


Then a “shooting star’ streaked its flare acrost the sky,

An’ he wondered where it might have gone,

Wish upon a shooting star up there so high,

So, he wished there’d be less buck in his ol’ Roan.


But he knew no quicker than he’d made that wish,

That Roan would keep him a sittin’ tight,

‘Cuz that ol’ pony was slicker than a fish,

When you crawled on ‘em he’d start the fight.


An’ dern it, he could put stars in your head,

Different than stars we’re talkin’ about,

Not only that but he’d make you see red,

An’ put your ridin’ skill in doubt!


An’ lo, another “shooting star” made it’s streak,

Figgered he’d might as well try again,

‘Cuz only one wish made chances purty bleak.

Figgerin’ he could shore use a win.


About that time, he nodded an’ drifted off to sleep,

Visions of “shooting stars” in his dreams,  

That Roan came out of nowhere with a high leap,

Makin’ noise like a panther screams.


Bringin’ the  ol’ gent full awake at the breakin’ of the dawn,

To see them stars just a blinlkin’ out,

Soon it’d be time to saddle that devil’s spawn,

An’ he’d ride ‘em with whoop an’ shout!


He’d teach that ol’ Roan how he’d handle his buck, 

Ridin’ an’ spurrin’ with hidden stealth,

Wishin’ upon those “shooting stars” was a stroke of luck, 

At least that was what he told hisself!

©  Ol’ Jim Cathey


God Bless Old Timers and God Bless America!


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