The Old Rugged Cross sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter.
Good Friday is such a sad day for Christians that it is hard to be chipper especially when believers, do not even have the consolation of coming together for worship these days. And it makes it hard to pick out an appropriate song for the Home Confinement Music Festival. Then I remember millions of American Protestants have long taken comfort in the Hymn The Old Rugged Cross.
George Bennard, writer and composer of The Old Rugged Cross.
It was written in 1912 by evangelist and song-leader George Bennard, 1873–1958, who was saved as a young man by the Salvation Army who became a Methodist camp meeting revivalist. It was popularized when two of evangelist Billy Sunday’s musicians, Homer Rodeheaver, who bought the publishing rights to the song for a reported $50 or $500 and Virginia Asher. Together as a duo they were the record it in 1921. It circulated as a revival campaign staple for decades and the sheet music sold briskly for both church accompanists and home parlor pianists especially in the South.
Music for The Old Rugged Cross.
But did not become more widely known until Ernest Tubb's 1953 album, The Old Rugged Cross. After that it became a staple of the burgeoning sub-genre of country gospel music. Many of country music’s biggest stars recorded it on the gospel albums including Al Green, Andy Griffith, Anne Murray, Brad Paisley, Chet Atkins, George Jones, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, Tennessee Ernie Ford, , Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, George Beverly Shea, and John Prine. That’s a whole wing of the Country Music Hall of Fame right there.
The cover for a re-mastered version of Ernest Tubb's recording.
As a boy growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the 1950’s the song was inescapable at Easter time. Mom played her favorite, Tennessee Ernie Ford, over and over at our house.
Black gospel singers including Mahalia Jackson and the Rev. Al Green also recorded it as did folk/rock superstar Bob Dylan. The new genre of Christian Rock is all over it as well bringing it to the new Evangelical Mega Churches.
Johnny Cash Sings Precious Memories, 1975,
Today we will enjoy a live performance by Johnny Cash and June Carter before thousands in a sports arena. The song was included on Cash’s 1975 album Johnny Cash Sings Precious Memories