Musical Credits: Leona Jones and Danny Koker Recorded in Cleveland, Ohio, Schneider Studio, Spring 1964
Side 1 :
Noah Found Grace
I'm Going Higher
When The Saints Go Marching
Side 2 :
Like A Melody
I Shall Not Be Moved
Down From His Glory
I Will Not Be A Stranger
I've Found A Hiding Place
You Ain't Got Nuthin
He'll Understand And Say Well Done.
The Humbards and Elvis
[Elvis] was fond of watching evangelists on television. Cathedral of Tomorrow, a programme featuring the preacher Rex Humbard and his wife, Maude Aimee, was perhaps his most consistent choice.
Humbard was Elvis’s favourite preacher. Even if he was in the middle of a rehearsal, he would always stop when Humbard spoke on television on Sunday mornings. Others who were close to Elvis at the time remembered that, with the combination of preaching from television, and the words and images of the gospel music he sang, he managed to achieve what he thought was his closest possible approach to a normal devotional life.
[Later] Rex Humbard and his wife were vacationing in Las Vegas. They called their friend, the gospel singer James Blackwood, and asked if he knew of a way they could get tickets to see Elvis’s show. Soon, the Humbards had front-row seats.
Elvis knew that they were there, and wanted a chance to speak with the people whose ministry he had admired for so long. He invited them to his dressing room after the show.
“Elvis, I want you to know I’ve been praying for you for years,” Maude Aimee Humbard said, a few minutes into the visit. “You’re my bellsheep.”
Elvis was puzzled by this terminology, and asked for an explanation. Rex explained to him that shepherds in the Holy Land often tied a bell around the neck of one of the sheep. The rest of the flock would follow wherever they were led by the sound of the bell.
“Elvis,” Maude Aimee went on, “I’ve been praying that you’ll have a spiritual experience that will cause you to lead thousands of people to the Lord.”
At that point, something happened to Elvis. Rex related later how Elvis began to tremble, and tears began rolling down his cheeks. The Humbards prayed with Elvis. It was a moment of profound spiritual experience for all three of them.
When the Humbards tried to leave, knowing that many other people were waiting to speak to Elvis, he begged them to stay. Clearly, something had happened that he was hoping to prolong; he had found a place of respite that had apparently long been absent, despite his searching and questioning about various spiritual paths.
I believe that, in those moments with the Humbards, Elvis was brought back to what he had known from his earliest days. I suspect that in Maude Aimee’s words, he heard echoes of his mother’s voice, and was reminded of the teaching he had received as a boy in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Joe Moscheo is the author of The Gospel Side of Elvis, published by Center Street on 30 August 2007 (£12.99; 978-1-59995-729-6).