Category Archives: Music

Pentecostal Songwriter F. A. Graves

Description: F. A. Graves, circa 1897. 

This Week in AG History — January 22, 1927

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Wed, 22 Jan 2014 – 4:36 PM CST

Music has always been an important part of the Pentecostal tradition. This was true one hundred years ago as it is today. One of the best-known early Pentecostal songwriters was Frederick A. Graves (1856-1927).

F. A. Graves overcame significant childhood adversity. He was orphaned at age nine and was diagnosed with epilepsy five years later. He was an earnest young Christian and prepared for ministry at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and studied music in Northfield, Massachusetts. Despite suffering periodic seizures, he moved to southwestern Minnesota and served as an organizer and evangelist for the American Sunday School Union. He heard John Alexander Dowie, the famous healing evangelist, at a meeting in Minneapolis. At Dowie’s meeting, Graves experienced a miraculous healing of his epilepsy.

Graves wrote at least 43 songs, including popular hymns such as Honey in the Rock (1895) and He Was Nailed to the Cross for Me (1906). However, Graves did not write a single song until he was almost 35 years old, after his healing from epilepsy. Much of Grave’s inspiration as a songwriter came from his own experience of suffering and God’s merciful healing. Graves did not expect to be healed, nor did he expect to be a songwriter. Graves often testified in his usual understated manner, “God had a blessed surprise for me.”

Graves received credentials as an Assemblies of God minister in 1916. All of his children attended Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. His son, Arthur, became president of Southeastern Bible College (now Southeastern University). Another son, Carl, became an Assemblies of God missionary to Ceylon. His daughter, Irene, married Myer Pearlman, the noted convert from Judaism, author, and theology professor at Central Bible Institute. F. A. Graves died on January 2, 1927. Nearly 1,000 people attended his funeral in Zion, Illinois.

Read the obituary of F. A. Graves on page 7 of the January 22, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Keeping our Accounts Balanced,” by D. W. Kerr

* “Old-Time Pentecost,” by Mattie Ledbetter

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free:  877.840.5200

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Review: God’s Shining Jewels

God’s Shining Jewels, by Marvin and Helen Frey. Columbus, GA: Brentwood Christian Press, 2008.

The song “Kum Ba Yah” is widely known, but few realize that this African-American spiritual emerged from the life of the Pentecostal church.

In 1936, young Pentecostal evangelist and songwriter Marvin Frey (1918-1992) wrote the chorus, “Come By Here.” According to a recently-published biography of Frey, God’s Shining Jewels, this chorus traveled to Belgian Congo with African missionaries, who eventually brought the song to Angola. The Angolan believers sang “Come By Here” in the Lu Valle dialect, sounding like “Kum Ba Yah.” The missionaries, upon their return to America, brought this musical adaptation with them, which quickly spread throughout America and beyond. Frey registered both “Come By Here” and “Kum Ba Yah” with the Library of Congress. For an alternate account of the song’s origins, see the Wikipedia entry for “Kum Ba Yah.”

Who was Marvin Frey? One of twelve children born to immigrants from Germany, Frey was reared in Portland, Oregon. At age seventeen he began a prolific songwriting career, composing some of the most popular Christian choruses of the twentieth century. In 1955 he and Helen united in marriage, and they formed a dedicated ministry team for thirty-five years. The Freys began a children’s and youth ministry in New York City. They held credentials with the Independent Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal organization led by Rev. A. W. Rasmussen.

God’s Shining Jewels is a careful retelling of the lives and ministry of Marvin and Helen Frey. Of particular note are stories of their memories of and interactions with Pentecostal luminaries such as Charles S. Price, Aimee Semple McPherson, Thomas Wyatt, and Jack Coe. This inspiring and informative volume will be of interest not only to friends and ministry partners of the Freys, but also to scholars who will appreciate this account of a significant figure whose influential music and ministry extended over several generations.

Twenty of Frey’s most sung choruses (followed by copyright dates) are below:

Alleluia, 1973
Blessing and Honor and Glory, 1977
Do Lord, 1977
He is Lord, 1977
He Showed Me His Hands, 1977
He’s All I Need, 1974
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, 1983
I Have a Jubilee Down in My Heart, 1977
I Know It Was the Blood, 1977
I Love Him For He Is Mine, 1977
Isn’t He Wonderful, 1973
I’ve Got Peace Like a River, 1977
Kum Ba Yah, 1936
Lord Make Us One, 1977
Oh the Blood of Jesus, 1977
Praise Him in the Morning, 1977
The Move Is On, 1977
This Is My Commandment, 1977
We’ll Give the Glory to Jesus, 1977
With Healing in His Wings, 1978

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Paperback, 160 pages, illustrated. $12.00, plus $2.50 postage. Order from: Jubilee Productions, PO Box 273, North Chili, NY 14514. For more information, contact the author by email:

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Religious Life of Elvis

Dr. Jim Goff, a leading historian of Southern Gospel music and Southern culture, has authored an important addition to Elvis scholarship. The article, “Conflicted by the Spirit: The Religious Life of Elvis Presley,” is featured in the 2008 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine. Goff’s sympathetic treatment of Elvis’ religious confliction portrayed a gifted individual with human frailties, with whom many readers will be able to identify.

Goff provided an overview of the subject and demonstrated his warm and engaging prose in the article’s introduction:

“In life and in death, Elvis Presley holds a fascination far beyond that of even the most successful singers and movie personalities. Worldwide, thirty years after his death, millions upon millions recognize him by his first name alone, the mention of which conjures up a surfeit of sight, sound, and memory. Less known is the real man, and especially the religious yearnings and conflicts that alternately soothed and convicted him. Ever enamored by gospel music, Presley was likewise influenced—and perhaps haunted—by the religious strictures of his youth. This early religious training was decidedly evangelical and Pentecostal in its orientation. Ultimately, it served as a religious umbrella under which the entertainer sought refuge in times of turmoil.”

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We discovered a new [old] hymnal!

Book Ad

Do you know the story behind the above hymnal, Glorious Gospel Hymns, published by Gospel Publishing House?

We at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center thought we had a complete collection of all Assemblies of God hymnals ever published, so when a donor gave us a copy of Glorious Gospel Hymns last year, we did a double take. Research into old issues of the Pentecostal Evangel yielded the above advertisement (published March 9, 1946, and Feb. 15 and Aug. 30, 1947), so it was likely published in 1946.

Since we had never seen Glorious Gospel Hymns, it must not have received wide circulation. The thick, 670-page hymnal contains The Apostles’ Creed, responsive readings, and other selections not found in the other gospel songbooks produced by GPH during that time period.

This edition of Glorious Gospel Hymns was compiled and edited by Haldor Lillenas, assisted by more than five hundred pastors, evangelists, and other church workers. According to the introduction, the book was prepared because of the “need among many denominations for a hymnal having a combination of the most famous and widely used hymns and the strongest and best loved gospel songs obtainable.” Haldor Lillenas produced a hymnal by the same title in 1931 for use by the Church of the Nazarene.

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The Couriers

[splashcast JWJV4127TN UNXU8152EW]
SplashCast with Flickr photos
Produced by iFPHC

The wait is over! The 2007 annual edition of Assemblies of God Heritage has been mailed to all Assemblies of God ministers plus subscribers. In the feature article, leading gospel music historian Jim Goff recounts the story of the Couriers – Assemblies of God boys who changed the world of gospel music by helping to shift its emphasis from entertainment toward ministry. Operating first as a quartet and later as a trio, the Couriers are celebrating five decades of music ministry as three of the long-time members, Dave, Duane, and Neil continue to travel and minister in song.

Also visit the eBay store of Mrs. Don Baldwin (Don Baldwin was a former Couriers member), featuring Couriers memorabilia for sale.

To view the photoset of the Couriers at Flickr click on the link below:
Flickr Photoset

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