Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tillit Teddlie, Maybelle Carter, and Ralph Stanley walk into a singing...

Tillit Sidney "Ted" Teddlie (1885-1987) was one of the most beloved songwriters among the Churches of Christ in the United States, and one of the most prolific. I am compiling a list of all his hymns that I can find, with a view toward devoting a more lengthy post to his work at some time in the future. But along the way, I found out something that really surprised me--he may be the only one of "our" songwriters to be recorded by both the Carter Sisters and the Stanley Brothers.

The first video contains a recording by "Mother" Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, with Carl Smith (June Carter's first husband). It was recorded for Columbia in 1953. The song is "We shall meet some day," and I can't say that I grew up singing it, though like many songleaders in the Churches of Christ from west of the Mississippi, I can put together a complete song service using only Teddlie songs and probably sing them all from memory.

Teddlie wrote the song in 1910, by his own testimony, but the earliest published instance I have found so far is in From the Cross to the Crown no. 2 (Dallas: Quartet Music Co., 1929). Teddlie published it in his own collection Spiritual Melodies 1938, but it really seems to have taken off when it jumped from his native Texas to Tennessee. R. E. Winsett, Seventh-Day Adventist preacher and influential gospel music publisher in Dayton, Tennessee, picked it up in his Gems of Praise and Devotion in 1940, and the rest is history. Winsett would include it again in collections from 1942, 1947, 1948, and 1951, and by this time it had been picked up by the Grand Ole Opry's John Daniel Quartet in their Quartet Song Book (no. 3, 1945, and no. 4, 1947). In 1955 Nashville gospel magnate John T. Benson included it in New Songs of Insipiration no. 2. Respect also came from fellow minister Will W. Slater, who published it in collections from 1940 and 1944, and from the one of the finest gospel songwriters of all, Albert E. Brumley, who published it in collections from 1962 and 1965.

By this time it was firmly entrenched in the commercial gospel, folk, traditional country, and bluegrass traditions. The Stanley Brothers bluegrass band included it in their album Beautiful life in 1978, and it has been recorded more recently by Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, (Stay a while, 1995, heard in the video to the right), and Ann & Phil Case (Why should we be lonely?, 2003). It has also been included in Mel Bay's Bluegrass Gospel Songbook (2006).

"We shall meet some day" was intended by Teddlie, of course, for a cappella congregational singing, and it has had a long career in the hymnals of the Churches of Christ as well, though more likely to appear in hymnals with a Southern flavor (Ellis Crum's Sacred Selections, and the hymnals of Alton and V.E. Howard). It was published most recently (to my knowledge) in W. D. Jeffcoat's Sacred Selections for the Church (2007).

It is rather touching that this song has lasted so long; it is inscribed, "Written in memory of my beloved friend, F. L. Eiland." Franklin Lycurgus Eiland (1860-1909) was the founder of the Trio Music Company and the Southern Development Normal (SDN) in Waco, Texas. Though Eiland was too ill to teach actively by the time Teddlie studied at the SDN, he mentored the young songwriter by correspondence and had a profound impact.(See Scott Harp's article on Eiland)

The 100-Year Tribute to Tillit S. Teddlie is available for purchase in MP3 format from various sources. This included congregational singing of "We shall meet some day," and a brief interview with Brother Teddlie in which he discusses this song. Short clips can be heard for free on Amazon.com.

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