An in-depth examination of the music of the 78 era.
14 October, 2010
"Stand By Me" - Sister Clara Hudmon
Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Two: "Stand By Me" performed by Sister Clara Hudmon. Recorded in Atlanta on December 12, 1930.
There is little biographical information on Sister Clara Hudmon, at least pertaining to her early life. She was born in 1903 had been a member of J.M. Gates' Atlanta congregation. She made her first recordings for Okeh in 1930, including this version of "Stand By Me."
While still a teenager, Hudmon married Rev. T.T. Gholston shortly after the death of his first wife. The marriage caused a scandal and the couple relocated to New York City where Hudmon recorded a celebrated version of "When The Saints Go Marching In" in 1932. After divorcing Gholston, Hudmon left the Baptist church for a Pentecostal sect. Hudmon received a major break in her career when she headlined at Radio City Music Hall during a program of gospel music. She was nicknamed The Georgia Peach, a name under which she recorded during the 1940s and after. She became one of the foremost gospel singers of her generation, along with such figures as Mahalia Jackson and Sallie Martin. Hudmon died in 1966.
"Stand By Me" is a hymn written by the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley. Tindley was a Methodist minister and an influential composer of sacred songs in the early 20th century. Among his compositions are "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today," "We'll Understand It Better By and By" and "Take Your Burden to The Lord and Leave It There," all of which were recorded numerous times during the 1920s and '30s. Tindley also wrote "I'll Overcome Someday," which was later adapted into the Civil Rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome." Tindley influenced a generation of Gospel songwriters, including Thomas A. Dorsey.
When the storm of life's a ragin', Stand by me. When the storm of life's a ragin', Stand by me. When the world is tossing me Like a ship out on the sea, Thou who rulest winds and waters Stand by me.
In the midst of tribulation, Stand by me. In the midst of tribulation, Stand by me. When the hosts of hell assail And my strength begins to fail, Thou who never lost a battle Stand by me.
In the midst of persecution, Stand by me. In the midst of persecution, Stand by me. When my foes in battle array Undertake to stop my way, Thou who saved Paul and Silas Stand by me.
When I'm growing old and feeble, Stand by me. When I'm growing old and feeble, Stand by me. When my life becomes a burden And I'm nearing to the Jordan, Oh the Lily of the Valley Stand by me.
"Stand By Me" is the first real gospel song to appear on volume four of the Anthology ("Mean Old World," while recorded by a gospel quartet, makes no mention of God or Jesus and offers no comfort). It is a rollicking, uptempo number that would fit right in with the material found on the second disc of "Social Music." Hudmon is accompanied by a chorus consisting of Sisters Norman and Jordan and Deacon Leon Davis (who likely sings the wordless bass part here) and a piano played by an unknown hand. More than joining Hudmon in the singing, Norman and Jordan contribute spoken asides and shouts of encouragement, likely intended to recreate the church atmosphere.
I have read rumors to the effect that "Stand By Me" was performed by Bessie Smith under a pseudonym. Frankly, I've seen no evidence to support this theory. Hudmon doesn't sound a bit like Smith to my ears (their vocal styles are completely different). It was a common practice for black musicians of the 1920s and '30s to record both sacred and secular material, and such musicians did sometimes record religious material under an assumed name (on the theory that religious listeners would not approve of blues musicians, who played "the devil's music"). Both Charlie Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson participated in this practice. However, when Jefferson and Patton performed religious songs, they still sounded enough like themselves to make their true identities obvious. This theory sounds more like wishful thinking more than anything else...
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Here's dwCrooner performing a version of "Stand By Me" in the style of Elvis Presley. He does a pretty good Elvis, too!
I've always resisted posting videos that don't include an actual live performance of a song, but I'll make an exception here. This is a version of "Stand By Me" performed by Elvis Presley himself. This recording was assembled by YouTube user navelstreng from unreleased takes and remixed. This is a gorgeous performance that deserves to be heard...