MUSIC, The song - PRECIOUS MEMORIES - The Tremendous Story Behind it!

The Tremendous Story Behind This Precious song!


The long and bitter Civil war was finally over. Young George Washington Wright - named after the great American general - could now take his lovely fiancee Cassandra Coley to be his bride. They were married and began to have children as soon as possible, to make up for the lost years of the Civil War.

Twelve in fact, was the number God blessed them with. The year was 1877.

The fifth child was a baby boy, whom they named Johnny. Johnny Wright. Times were very, very hard in those days for poor dirt farmers, and when Johnny was age two, his family moved to Limestone County Texas, to a little Community named "Box Church" where he attend the local school and grew up singing in the little local church.

His life didn't seem to be anything special. He grew up uneventfully and married his childhood sweetheart Fannie, Fannie Jackson. They were married in 1902 and set off traveling across the great state of Texas to seek their land and make their fortune. The fortune they never found, and rambled across Texas for many years from one little homestead to another, in the dry, dusty land.

As Johnny and Fannie moved here and there, the word came in 1909 that mother had died, his Precious Mother. Five years later his father died as well. Johnny's childhood had been full of singing as he grew up in his large family of twelve.

His mother was well known as a singer and his earliest memories were of singing together by her and his father of the songs of their youth. Though they didn't always have enough food to eat, they always had songs to sing . . . and somehow in the blessed sound of music, the poverty didn't seem quite as bad.

Now Johnny's Mother and daddy were gone. He would never hear - or sing with them again.

IN his sorrow, Johnny began to write songs, . . . songs about what he remembered from his childhood, and songs about what he knew best: God, family, struggle and hard-times. As Johnny moved through his own struggling life the songs he wrote grew to over 500. Most were never recorded, . . . never became known . . . and were never sung by anyone but Johnny.

Years after he buried his Mother and day, a new little baby boy was born to Johnny in his later years - becoming truly the 'Apple of his eye!' Evertt they named him and what a joy he brought into their home.

Ever so sadly, age age five, Evertt got diphtheria - and in spite of many prayers and a million tears - went to be with Jesus.

In his sorrow, Johnny turned his thoughts back to his childhood and that of his dead son . . . yet more and more toward his own coming death . . . as certain as the sunset. Johnny spent his long, hard, waning years . . . lost in his memories:

Precious Memories they were . . . they were almost all he had.

It was a cool autumn night . . . where everything was dying . . . all the leaves were off the trees and nothing in the future but the bleakness and hunger of a long cold winter. Johnny took his guitar, and journeyed deep into his memories . . . and in his soul he began to sing . . . and write . . . the most famous of his 500 songs . . . simply titled:

"Precious Memories"

Sure enough, Johnny's sad song brought love to the heart and a tear to the eye of all who listened carefully. It was printed in the 1920's by a company named Harbor Bells, by V. O. Stamps and published by the Stamps-Baxter Music Co. It listed Johnny Wright as the owner, but with no copyright date.

It was a great hit with common people everywhere.

Mr. Stamps promised Johnny a fortune for the song, and there was an agreement for Johnny Wright to get a royalty each time the song was recorded, . . . indeed Johnny would have made a fortune . . . but it never came . . . always one legal hassle or another.

Soon Mr. V. O. Stamps died, and his sons would not honor their dad's contract with Johnny Wright, and he had no money for lawyers to fight for his song. Just as World War-II broke out, the Stamps-Baxter Co. finally filed a copyright on "Precious Memories" in their own name - as was )and still is a practice by the powerful) they added one stanza to the end and claimed the whole song was theirs . . .

. . . knowing poor and tired Johnny Wright - now an aging, broken man, was too feeble to do anything about it. More years went by, and Johnny still struggled to make a living, never rising higher than a janitor of a local concern.

He always paused when he heard his song on the radio, with tears in his eyes and a mixture of joy and sorrow in his own heart. Sometime after the war, Johnny went to be with the Lord, . . . and his Mother and daddy, and his son Everrt.

After Johnny's passing, A cousin reported that but he only received $36 from the Stamps Publishing company, in their first and only payment.

Following is a little study by Johnny Wright about the song Precious Memories, what he was thinking, believed and why he wrote what he did. May it be a blessing to you and may you always think of poor Johnny Wright - and his broken heart from whence this beautiful song and melody came - when you hear - or sing - his song.

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The song explains why the memory of the righteous is blessed.

I. Stanza 1 says that precious memories are like unseen angels"Precious memories, unseen angels, Sent from somewhere to my soul--

How they linger, ever near me, And the sacred past unfold."

A. We may not know precisely what they do or how they do it, but the Bible does teach that angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation, so they may play a part in helping us to remember things from the past that could help us: Heb. 1.14

B. In any event, it is certain that God does want us to remember what we have been told by others about the history of God's workings among mankind: Deut. 32.7

C. Thus, the sacred past can unfold as we remember all the marvelous works that God has done: Ps. 105.5

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II. Stanza 1 says that precious memories of parents can help us"Precious father, loving mother, Fly across the lonely years,And old home scenes of my childhood In fond memory appears."

(Grammar--subject verb agreement--here should require a little change:

And the home scene of my childhood In fond memory appears."We don't say, "The scenes appears.)

Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections changed this stanza to read:"Precious Father, loving Savior, I will love them through the years;

In the vineyard I will labor Till my blessed Lord appears."

A. Surely children are to honor their father and mother: Eph. 6.2

B. Furthermore, it is good to remember the instruction of our parents: Prov. 1.8-9

C. And as we remember the old home scenes of our childhood, we can be thankful for having been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: Eph. 6.4

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III. Stanza 3 says that He has revealed the truth to us

"In the stillness of the midnight Echoes from the past I hear;Old time singing, gladness bringing From that lovely land somewhere."

Again, Ellis Crum made some changes in the third and fourth lines of this stanza:

"Saints are singing, brethren bringing Lessons from the Book so dear."

A. The stillness of the midnight is often a good time to clear one's mind for the sacred memories of the past: Ps. 16.7

B. Some of those memories may be of "old time" singing by the saints in which teaching and admonishing occurred: Col. 3.17

C. Memories of the songs that we have sung or heard sung through the years can help increase our desire for that lovely land somewhere in which the redeemed of all ages join in the sweet redemption song: Rev. 5.8-10

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IV. Stanza 4 says that He gives us hope for the future

"As I travel on life's pathway, Know not what the years may hold;As I ponder, hope grows finder, Precious memories flood my soul."

A. As we travel on life's pathway, we do not know what the years may hold: Jas. 4.14

B. However, if we follow Jesus, we do know that we have the hope of eternal life in heaven: Col. 1.5, 1 Pet. 1.3-5

C. Therefore, as we continue our journey, precious memories may help sacred truths unfold as we see God's will working in our lives and grow in our understanding of His plan: Eph. 3.18-19

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CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of how precious such memories can and should be to each of us:

JOHNNY'S COMMENTARY:

"Precious memories, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul;In the stillness of the midnight, Precious memories flood my soul."

Let me say now that I have always had a sentimental nature, and the older I get the more nostalgic I become because of the increasing number of "precious memories" that I have experienced. It does not take much reminiscing to bring a tear to my eyes nowadays.

However, I have wrestled with whether "Precious Memories" is a suitable song for worship or not. It is not really a psalm, a devotional song that discusses some feature of the nature and work of God as do the Old Testament Psalms; nor a hymn, a song of praise to the Lord; nor a truly spiritual song, one that deals with some aspect of the Holy Spirit's revelation in scripture.

Some have categorized it is "sanctified nostalgia."

Many of our books have omitted certain stanzas, especially either two or three, and as noted Ellis J. Crum has reworded those two stanzas in Sacred Selections, in an apparent attempt to reduce the sentimentality.

At the same time, there is nothing necessarily wrong with having "precious memories," and as I grow older I am fast reaching the conclusion that it may be part of God's providential plan to use such memories of the past to help draw us closer to spiritual realities in our lives.

It is undoubtedly upon this basis that so many brethren have found comfort in thinking about, and singing about, those "Precious Memories."

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Precious Memories became a very popular song through the years with many brethren that might be construed to talk about the memory of the just has been

"Precious Memories" (#464 in Hymns for Worship Revised and

#397 in Sacred Selections for the Church

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord's church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ,

"Precious Memories" appeared in the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will S. Slater;

the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons;

the 1959 Hymnal edited by Marion Davis;

the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater;

and the 1965 Christian Hymnsongs and

the 1973 Great Inspirational Songs both edited by Albert Brumley.

Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church,

the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and

the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise, all edited by Alton H. Howard;

the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard;

the 1992 Praise for the Lord, edited by John P. Wiegand;

in addition to Hymns for Worship, and Sacred Selections.

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The text was written and the tune was composed both by John Braselton Fillmore Wright,

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COPYRIGHT (c) 1977 Cambridge Theological Seminary

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