JIMMY LITTLE
Royal Telephone
(Frederick Lehman [also attrib. Chas H. Powell - Peter Shupe] - arr. Robert Iredale - Saunders - Tommy Tycho)
Australia 1963
#1 Sydney #3 Melbourne #1 Adelaide

Single on Festival label. Released in USA on Big Top (1964).

Jimmy Little (1937-2012), a country, pop, and gospel singer, also an actor, first made records in 1954. His first charting songs were covers of Conway Twitty's Danny Boy (1959) and Marty Robbins's El Paso (1960). Over his long career, he was most identified with country music, but his critically acclaimed 1999 album Messenger featured songs by younger contemporary Australian composers, as did 2001's Resonate. Beyond performing, Jimmy Little was a prominent advocate and role model in the causes of indigenous education and health.

Further reading: 1. Jimmy Little page from Howlspace [archived]. 2. 'The gentle soul of gentleman Jimmy Little', tribute at Independent Australia.

BURL IVES
Royal Telephone (Telephone To Glory)
(Frederick Lehman [also attrib. Chas H. Powell - Peter Shupe])
USA 1961

Single on Decca label, B-side of Mockin' Bird Hill, recorded in Nashville, February 1961. Also on Decca album The Versatile Burl Ives.

Also released in Australia on Festival EP Royal Telephone, DX 11039.

This version appears to be well-known in Australia.

Thanks to Joop Jansen for clarification.

REV. SISTER MARY NELSON
Royal Telephone
(Attrib. here to Nelson [also attrib. Frederick Lehman or Chas H. Powell - Peter Shupe])
USA 1927
Original version?

This raw, passionate gospel performance is the earliest recording I can identify, recorded April 1927.

John Bush, at All Music Guide, notes that little is known about The Rev. Sister Mary Nelson, but that she was 'probably a Pentecostal storefront preacher in Memphis'.

The song was credited here to 'Nelson' but although the lyrics have been altered somewhat, the song is clearly the work by Frederick Lehman or Chas H. Powell & Peter Shupe (see below). Elsewhere it has also been attributed, inaccurately, to 'traditional'.

There have been a number of recordings entitled (The) Royal Telephone.
For now I am assuming they are all of the same song:
- Blind Connie Rosemond and Blind Arthur Lowe Separate records but both recorded 06/1927. They share a matrix number, indicating that these are one and the same performer. You can listen to an audio clip at All Music Guide (Blind Connie Rosemond). [Thanks to Joop Jansen.]
- Frank & James McCravy (1930)
- Edward McConnell (1931) cf Smiling Ed McConnell (1933)
- Happy Valley Family (1935)
- Selah Jubilee Singers (1939)
- The Blue Sky Boys (1939)
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1951)
- Rev. Oris Mays (19??)
- The Gospel Harmonettes (1964)
- Carl Story (1968).
See, for example, the Online 78rpm Discographies Project, title search at the Abrams Online Database and album discographies at Both Sides Now.

Royal Telephone was published in Rodeheaver's Gospel Songs and Duets, 1925. Could this explain the number of versions recorded from the late 1920s onwards?

[PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT]
Royal Telephone
(Chas H. Powell - Peter Shupe [attrib. elsewhere to Frederick Lehman])

USA 1914?

Powell and Shupe are sometimes credited for Royal Telephone, and their sheet music online at University of Indiana gives an original publication date of 1914. That edition, however, was not published until 1925. In any case, Lehman (c.1906) seems to be the original author.

Reference: Royal Telephone, sheet music (1925, orig. 1914), scan at University of Indiana's IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana (title page, first manuscript page).

Research contributed by Eunice Ann Carr. Fine detail spotted by Terry Stacey.

[PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT]
Royal Telephone
(Frederick Lehman [attrib. elsewhere to Chas H. Powell - Peter Shupe])

USA c.1906
Original published version

Several dates of publication are cited for this work, in particular 1919, as it was apparently republished several times. This is the earliest date I have found. The composer is Frederick M. Lehman (1868-1953), German-born pastor and prolific hymn writer, in USA from early childhood. 

References: 2. It easy to find sheet music dealers online offering 1906 editions for sale. 3. See, for example Religion in the American South: Protestants and others in history and culture by Schweiger & Mathews (Google Books) which gives 1909 as the date of publication.

Further reading: Lehman's biography and photo at The Cyber Hymnal, where you can also read the lyrics, attributed there to Lehman. 

Corrections or comments? Contact the writer.