Texas History: Stuart Hamblen - The Singing Cowboy
Stuart was the rebellious son of a preacher and refused the “narrow” road, and chose the “broad way” of riotous living.
Because alcohol would habitually confound Stuart's thinking, he was often jailed for public brawling, much to the embarrassment of his loyal family. Soon, his corrupt lifestyle tarnished his home, friendships, and a nationally acclaimed career.
Carl Stuart Hamblen was a major success in radio, movies, and country music. Born in 1908 in Kellyville, Texas, he had many talents that led him away from the church. Stuart first tasted success as a teenager in Dallas/Fort Worth when he became radio broadcasting's first singing cowboy. After he recorded hits for RCA Victor, the bright lights of Hollywood lured him to California.
By 1931, Hamblen was one of the most popular figures in country music with his regular radio programs titled “Covered Wagon Jubilee,” and “Stuart Hamblen and His Lucky Stars.” During this time he composed and recorded such Western hits as “My Mary,” “Golden River,” and “Texas Plains.”
Hamblen’s extensive movie credits included roles with such major stars as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne. Because he was known as an unruly brawler, Stuart was usually cast as the villain.
But all of that changed in 1949. At a small dinner party, Stuart met evangelist Billy Graham, who was in town to hold the historic Los Angeles Crusade. Stuart attended every service and at the end, accepted Christ as his Savior. And there was an immediate change in his life.
When he was told that his syndicated radio sponsor would start promoting alcoholic beverages, he refused. In turn, the show was abruptly canceled. So Stuart started another nationally syndicated show called, “Cowboy Church of the Air.”
With new inspiration, Stuart Hamblen began writing Christian songs that became international hits. Some of his best known songs include “This Ole House,” “Until Then,” and “How Big is God?” In 1955, Hamblen wrote and recorded “Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In)” with his wife and daughters. It quickly became a Top 10 song and was recorded by many other artists.
One day an old friend asked Stuart about the sudden change in his life. Stuart had gone from a broken-down drunk to an inspired man of God. What made the difference?
Hamblen responded by writing these lyrics:
“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, For I have news for you. 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.”
And it’s still true today. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)