This is a Guest Post by WFPS Member Jerry Sprague
George Beverly Shea recently passed away at 104 years of age. Shea was a great gospel singer who worked with the Billy Graham crusade for many years. The name of George Beverly Shea and “How Great Thou Art” are almost synonymous. But very people realize that there was a connection between “How Great Thou Art” and the Sons of the Pioneers.
And now for the rest of the story. . .
Roy Rogers (then Len Slye), Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan started the Sons of the Pioneers in 1934. The group became very popular over the next 20 years but in about 1948, Tim Spencer decided to leave the group as a singer, though he remained involved in the management. Part of the reason for leaving was a spiritual conversion Tim experienced. He felt a real need to spend more time with his family. After leaving the group, he started his own music publishing company, Manna Music, Inc. One summer his and son and daughter came home from Bible camp singing “How Great Thou Art.” Tim was very impressed with the song after seeing a copy of the sheet music the kids had brought him. The song was written by Stuart Hine from London. So, Tim got on a plane and flew to London to meet with Hine and bought the rights to the song. Back in America the song became popular very quickly through exposure by George Beverly Shea and the Billy Graham Crusades. The first major recording of the song was by Bill Carle. Next, Tim Spencer’s family made a recording of it, followed by George Beverly Shea’s rendition. Very soon after Shea’s recording, the Sons of the Pioneers recorded it. Over the years, the song has become one of the best loved gospel songs of all. So, this Sunday in church, pick up your hymnal and turn to “How Great Thou Art;” at the bottom of the sheet music will be copyright, Manna Music, Inc. 1953; renewed 1981. And remember: it all started with the Sons of the Pioneers!
Now you know the rest of the story.
The Wannabe Cowboy
May 6, 2013
My My … well they’re all up somewhere … doing a little serenading, yodelling … and a bit of gospel too.
Nolen Berry said:
Great article. The song is still part of the Manna Music catalog administered by Tim’s son Hal. Sons of the Pioneers are still performing the song in their concerts. See sonsofthepioneers.org. Thanks again. Nolen Berry, Business Manager for Sons of the Pioneers.