Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stuart (or Russ) Hamblen, Billy Graham, John Wayne, and Hamblen's Song "It Is No Secret"

Back in the 50's there was a well known radio host/comedian/song writer in Hollywood named Russ Hamblin who was noted for his drinking, womanizing, partying, etc. One of his bigger hits at the time was "I won't go hunting with you Jake, but I'll go chasing women".

And along came a young preacher holding a tent revival. Hamblin had him on his radio show, presumably to poke fun at him. And to gather more material, Hamblin showed up at one of the revival meetings. Early in the service the preacher announced, "There is one man in this audience who is a big fake."

There were probably others who thought the same thing, but Hamblin was convinced that he was the one the preacher was talking about (some would call that conviction), but he was having none of that. Still the words continued to haunt him until a couple of nights later he showed up drunk at the preacher's hotel door around 2 am. Demanding that the preacher pray for him. But the preacher refused, saying, "This is between you and God and I'm not going to get in the middle of it." But he did invite Russ in and they talked about 5 am at which point Russ dropped to his knees and with tears, cried out to God.

But that is not the end of the story. Russ quit drinking, quit chasing, quit everything that was "fun". And began to lose favor with the Hollywood crowd. He was ultimately fired by the radio station when he refused to accept a beer company as a sponsor. Hard times were upon him. He tried writing a couple of "Christian" songs but the only one that had much success was "This Old House", written for his friend Rosemary Clooney.

As he continued to struggle, an old friend named John took him aside and told him all your troubles started when you "got religion" and asked if it was worth it all. Russ answered simply, "Yes". Then his friend said, "You liked your booze so much. Don't you ever miss it?" And the answer was, "No". John then said, "I don't understand how you could give it up so easily." And Russ's response was, "It's no big secret. All things are possible with God." To this John said, "That's a catchy phrase. You should write a song about it."

As they say, the rest is history. The song Russ wrote was "It Is No Secret" - "It is no secret, what God can do. What He's done for others, He'll do for you. With arms wide open, He'll welcome you. It is no secret, what God can do." etc...

By the way, the friend was John Wayne, and the young preacher who refused to pray for Russ Hamblin was Billy Graham. And now you know "the rest of the story."

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