Ain't No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Claude Ely



7 comments
Paul Harvey

Here's a great radio story, courtesy of Radio Diaries and NPR, about the Rev. Claude Ely, Holiness/Pentecostal exhorter and singer from Kentucky and author of the classic "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down." Johnny Cash's recording of the song just before he died, and a huge internet mashup done to that recording, was the subject of a post of mine some time ago. A brief excerpt from the transcript of the radio show:

People would show up to revivals because they had heard about this country singer who sang like a black man. Brother Claude Ely would thrash his guitar, shake and gyrate from one part of the stage to the other. Young men would run up to wipe the sweat off his forehead.

Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother, was a fan of Brother Claude Ely's ministry, and some people remember Gladys and Elvis getting blessed at Brother Claude Ely tent revivals while Brother Claude Ely laid hands on them and prayed for them.

This story comes from the efforts of Macel Ely, Brother Claude's nephew, who encountered his uncle's music while traveling in Europe, and wondered how it found its way there. Evidently he is producing a full-length documentary on the subject. You can hear Ely's rendition of his song along with some photos here, and a CD compilation of Claude can be found here.

A final note: somehow those who prattle on about NPR's "liberal bias" somehow never get around to talking about stories like these, which took up most of the last segment of yesterday's show from that dreaded bastion of left-wing propaganda, All Things Considered -- never mind all the locally produced reporting such as the programs about Colorado which I have written about here, and the programs about the Ozarks which John Schmalzbauer has written about for Immanent Frame here.

Here's some more information on Macel Ely's book which came from his efforts to find out about his uncle's widespread influence, Ain't No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Brother Claude Ely (published by the wonderful Atlanta outfit Dust-to-Digital, compiler and publisher of the peerless six-CD set Goodbye, Babylon, and many other musical classics).

Ain’t No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Brother Claude Ely is written as an oral, biographical history taken from the recorded interviews of more than 1,000 people in the Appalachian Mountains who knew Brother Claude Ely. Coined as the King Recording Label’s “Gospel Ranger,” Brother Claude Ely was well-known and loved by many in the earlier part of the 20th century as both a religious singer-songwriter and a Pentecostal-Holiness preacher. Few people, however, knew the personal details of his childhood, military service, and years of hard work in the coal fields of southwestern Virginia.

Now, decades after his legendary death, many fans still seem mesmerized and touched by this humble man’s quick wit and sincere desire to share the Gospel’s “Good News” with everyone who would listen to his message of hope and love. Having received popularity for his song, “There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down,” Brother Claude Ely passed along a musical and spiritual influence which can still be heard today like a mountain echo in those long, winding hollows and impoverished coal fields. Hollywood and the “King of Rock and Roll” also later acknowledged their admiration for and fascination with the late Brother Claude Ely. This book chronicles the life of one man who made an eternal impact on thousands of Appalachian dwellers. His simple sermons and folkloric songs are still providing assurance, hope, and faith to many mountain people

7 comments:

Tom Van Dyke at: May 6, 2011 at 10:25 PM said...

A final note: somehow those who prattle on about NPR's "liberal bias" somehow never get around to talking about stories like these, which took up most of the last segment of yesterday's show from that dreaded bastion of left-wing propaganda, All Things Considered -- never mind all the locally produced reporting such as the programs about Colorado which I have written about here, and the programs about the Ozarks which John Schmalzbauer has written about for Immanent Frame here.


Actually, "they" do.

Michael Bracy, who will be the lobbyist representing NPR, told TheDC his pitch on Capitol Hill isn’t going to focus on NPR’s news and opinion content, only its music. “I think it’s safe to say some policymakers aren’t always up to date on how the music industry is working in the marketplace,” Bracy said. “We’re just making sure that musicians, independent record labels and others who [provide music content to NPR] have their policymakers and delegation end up knowing how they work with NPR and public radio stations.”

http://patterico.com/2011/05/06/outrage-of-the-day-taxpayer-funded-npr-spends-your-money-to-hire-lobbying-firm-to-help-them-get-more-of-your-money/

Anonymous at: May 7, 2011 at 1:55 PM said...

What on earth are you ("Tom") talking about? That link is more of the same, in fact mocking NPR's lobbyists. And your post is more of the same, once again calling into question your ability to understand what you read.

Tom Van Dyke at: May 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM said...

Oh, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout very well. That's why you were so moved to respond.

I like NPR. Its lean to the left is manifest in what it chooses to feature and what it does not, but it doesn't cheat the story. It's what the other "credible" commercial outlets should be.

And yes, I did slip a dig in via the link [so as to not make a big thing of it], the irony that NPR protests that it's not really gov't-supported, yet it hires a firm to lobby for gov't support.

As for the lobbyist's expressed strategy to emphasize NPR's music over its political coverage, I simply note it. I like the music stuff, and although I'm unconvinced it serves any vital national purpose, at least it doesn't finance bad art that would otherwise go unmade. The latter case is an offense against the republic and humanity itself, and I prefer the gov't not encourage it.

I'd be happy enough if along with the quasi-commercials for NPR's sponsors and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's commitment to building "a more just, verdant and peaceful world," we heard "and the Taxpayers of the United States of America."

Just to keep everything straight up, and remind everybody involved what's what.

[I wasn't going to get into any of this and take advantage of management's courtesy any further, but since I've been called out, I hope they'll not begrudge a reply in self-defense.]

Paul Harvey at: May 8, 2011 at 6:37 PM said...

Tom: You're right when you say " 'they' do." I mean, Friday's show featured a lengthy segment on the reproductive cycle of the female termite. They could have given equal time to the "soldier termites" who protect the, umm, not hives, you know, whatever they call the areas where termites live. They COULD have given equal times to the king termites whose role, evidently, allows the female termites to lay an egg every three seconds for fifteen years. They could have. But NOOOO! The femi-nazis who run NPR gave all their attention to the female termite queens -- supposedly in tribute to Mother's Day, but we all know it was just the liberal nazis showing their anti-male bias. Par example, here's a bit from the transcript:

"This little male king sits next to this enormous female that can be several inches long, a ghastly thing," Moffett says. "Even an entomologist like myself, who loves all creatures equally, is pretty startled when he sees a termite queen."

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/06/136028437/a-termite-queen-and-her-ultimate-sacrifice

Never mind the years when Dinesh D'Souza (he of the fantastically insightful commentary on Obama's Kenyan rage) was featured as a weekly commentator on All Things Considered. Never mind the completely uncritical profiles of Huckabee and that Godfather's Pizza/Republican darkhorse contender guy, over the past couple of days. It's these female-termite-rule-the-roost stories that really demonstrate NPR's fatal "liberal bias."

John Schmalzbauer at: May 8, 2011 at 10:26 PM said...

Thanks for posting this, Paul. With about 150 episodes, Ozarks Watch Video magazine has done about 4500 minutes of television on such diverse topics as Albert E. Brumley's gospel music, wine making in the Ozarks, Rose O'Neill (the creator of the Cupie doll), Ozarks native stonecraft architecture, and numerous Ozarks fiddling episodes. For a complete list see this site: http://www.optv.org/local/ozwdesc.html They are all digitized and ready to watch on your computer.

-John Schmalzbauer

Tom Van Dyke at: May 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM said...

That's not quite fair to my position, Paul. I didn't say NPR had a "fatal" leftist bias. It's a mild but palpable one. Sort of like certain blogs...?

If you want to argue anecdotes, my local public station ran a show one day, "Left, Right and Center."

Guests were Robert Sheer, Tony Blankley, and, presumably representing the center...wait for it...Arianna Huffington.

I like NPR, I listen to it. Dunno if Garrison Keillor's still-inept singing and winking faux-folksy prose are a matter of national importance or value, tho.

Anonymous at: May 9, 2011 at 8:24 PM said...

I just finished reading this book about Brother Claude Ely and it was terrific. My only disappointment was when I realized I had finished the book and was left wanting more stories. :) Cool commentary, Paul!

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