* There is no writer credit on the singles, only an arranger credit to H. Connors. This is Henry Connors, a pseudonym of Hungarian-Australian composer-arranger-conductor Tommy Tycho.
Jimmy Little (1937-2012): Indigenous Australian 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.
Single on Decca July 1961, B-side of Mockin’ Bird Hill, recorded in Nashville by popular and prolific folksinger, guitarist, banjoist, actor, broadcaster and author (1909-1995). Also on Decca album The Versatile Burl Ives and in Australia on Festival EP Royal Telephone.
*The writer credit on the US single is to Albert Stanton, no doubt the music publisher Al Brackman who used that pseudonym. On the album and the Australian EP there is no writer credit.
This version appears to be well-known in Australia.
Further reading: Burl Ives biography by Marcy Donelsen at All Music.
Thanks to Joop Jansen for clarification.
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. [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).
Frederick Martin Lehman (1868-1953) was a German-born pastor and prolific hymn writer, in USA from early childhood.
I have dated this as 1909 but could it have been 1919?
Differing dates of publication are given for Lehman’s work, and it was republished multiple times. Some sources favour 1919, placing it after Powell and Shupe (above).
I found no US Copyright Office musical registration for Lehman’s Royal Telephone in 1909 or 1919 or adjoining years. (Perhaps the song’s copyright resided in a book that contained the song, a practice from before the US copyright reforms of 1909.)
There are convincing sources for 1909. Daniel Woods, scholar of the Holiness movement and Pentecostalism, refers to the work as F. M. Lehman’s popular 1909 Holiness hymn, and numerous hymnals and gospel songbooks place it in 1909 (see Notes on sources, below).
Royal Telephone Company? It is not hard to find this corporate name in the archives, including early examples from 1884 in New York and 1902 in Indiana, but it would be wild speculation to suggest that any of them were a source of inspiration.
The image of prayer as a telephone is not unique to Royal Telephone.
• Prayer Is Like A Telephone (1991) is credited to Paul Crouch and David Mudie or to Daniel Shiells and Mike Newbon, depending on where you find it.
• Jesus Is On the Mainline goes back to 1960 (at least as a recording). Versions by Ry Cooder and Mavis Staples are among 36 listed at Second Hand Songs.
(Thanks to Nigel Rees’s Quote … Unquote)
Notes on sources:
1. The song is credited to Lehman and dated 1909 in many hymnals or gospel songbooks, for example from 1914, 1918, 1921, 1925, 1929 and 1939.
2. The 1914 and 1918 publications are interesting because they predate the frequently given date of 1919 for Lehman’s song.
3. Daniel Woods goes with 1909 in Schweiger and Mathews (eds.), Religion in the American South … (2004), pp. 125 ff [digitised at Internet Archive: free registration required].
4. Hymnary.com and the defunct Cyber Hymnal [archived] favour 1919, and many other examples may be found.
5. We have to consider the possibility of error, neglect, or cost-cutting in preparing songbooks for publication. They could have been reusing the same content but without updates or corrections. Later editions could be citing the date of a reprint rather than the original date of publication.
Powell and Shupe are sometimes credited for Royal Telephone. They copyrighted the song in January 1914, and the 1925 edition of their sheet music gives an original publication date of 1914.
Frederick M. Lehman’s authorship is usually dated as either 1909 or 1919 with variations (see below). The latter of those years would favour Powell and Shupe as the originators.
Source: 1. US Copyright Office, Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1915 Musical Compositions, p. 187, facsimile at Internet Archive 2. Royal Telephone sheet music (1925, orig. 1914), facsimile at University of Indiana’s IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana (see especially the title page and first manuscript page).
Initial research from Eunice Ann Carr. Fine detail spotted by Terry Stacey.
Presumably this was based on the Swedish adaptation recorded by Yvonne Norrman (1964, above)
*The writer credits are to:
• Henry Connors, a pseudonym of Tommy Tycho, arranger of Jimmy Little’s 1963 Australian version;
• Claus Holm, a pseudonym of Danish singer-producer Gustav Winckler, author of the Danish adaptation.
In late April 1965 Cash Box had the song on the Top 10s of Denmark and Norway:
Swedish lyrics (= I march by your side) are by songwriter-producer-broadcaster Bengt Sigurd (1923-2006) who is credited on the label with arranger Henry Connors (Tommy Tycho).
No doubt this was a source for the charting Danish version by Rita Storm (1965, below.)
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