If I asked you, “Do you know Stuart Hamblin?” you might pause for a few seconds. If I added that he had a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, placed there in 1978, then you might say, “Yes, Carl ‘Stuart’ Hamblen, the radio personality, songwriter, cowboy singer and motion picture actor.” And you would be right.
Hamblen was born into the family of a traveling Methodist preacher on Oct. 20, 1908, in Kelleyville, Texas. In later years, after going to Hollywood, he appeared in 10 movies with such stars as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. He was also a singer and songwriter with his own radio show.
Many of Hamblen’s 225 songs were recorded by scores of artists, not the least of which were Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. His song, “This Old House,” recorded by Rosemary Clooney, was named Song of the Year in 1954 and was the No. 1 hit song in seven countries at the same time. Some dubbed Hamblen as the first singing cowboy.
One of his best-known songs in religious circles is the tune “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” but an interesting story exists surrounding the song.
The Rev. Billy Graham came to Los Angeles in 1949 for what became an historic evangelistic crusade. Graham’s appearance on Hamblen’s radio show was arranged as part of the publicity for the crusade.
Hamblen was known for his hard living and drinking, but he warmly welcomed Graham as a guest. It was at that interview that Graham extended an invitation to Hamblen to attend the crusade, and he accepted. Hamblen later contacted Graham at his hotel and asked to talk. The result was that he “surrendered his life to Christ.” Hamblen’s became the first publicized conversion from the 1949 crusade and contributed to the decision to extend the event, which lasted for eight weeks.
“My wife and I had been visiting one of Hollywood’s most famous movie stars,” Hamblen later recalled. “We had gone over to his home just to fill him in on some of the things that had happened in his recent absence. Somehow the discussion got around to how people can solve problems within themselves. I remember making a statement such as, ‘It’s no secret what God can do in a man’s life.’ About two hours later, as we were about to leave the actor’s home, he said, ‘Stuart, you ought to write a song about it is no secret what God can do. That is a beautiful thought.’
“As we walked across the lawn, back to our house, I began to think about it,” Hamblen continued. “When we arrived at home I walked into the living room and sat down at the organ. Our hall clock began to ‘chime’ the hour of midnight. I grabbed a pen and started writing, ‘The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through,’ and on and on until the song was finished. I then turned and glanced at the hall clock. It was only 17 minutes after midnight. I couldn’t believe it. I had never been able to write any musical composition in less than three or four hours. I thought the clock had stopped. I then looked and saw the big pendulum still swinging.”
Stuart’s neighbor, the one who made the suggestion about putting pen to paper about the idea, was none other than actor John Wayne. The lyrics that were birthed in that conversation included in part:
The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through.
Someone slipped and fell, was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength, your courage to renew,
Do not be disheartened, I have news for you.
There is no night for in His light, you never walk alone,
Always feel at home, wherever you may roam.
There is no power can conquer you, while God is on your side,
Take Him at His promise, don’t run away and hide.
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 pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
This week, remember that the love and actions of God are anything but a secret, and that you and I are called to share that truth and be encouraged to hold firm to the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote, ”Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” (1 Corinthians 2:9).