The Originals: Jesus Is Coming Soon

The Originals: Jesus Is Coming Soon

Last year, I published several articles in a series titled “The Originals.” This series offers your eyes a history lesson and provides your ears an opportunity to hear the very first recording of a classic song.

Today, our spotlight shines on the hit “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” I say “hit,” because this song was perched at the very top of the first airplay chart published by the Singing News in January 1970. The Oak Ridge Boys, Inspirations, Florida Boys, and Downings shared in the honor. Initially, the chart focused on the song more than one particular artist, so if more than one artist was receiving significant airplay for the same song, several artists might be listed. “Jesus Is Coming Soon” would remain on top in February and March, then return for another three month reign at the top in June, July, and August.

“Jesus Is Coming Soon” carries a copyright date of 1942. It was written by R E Winsett when the entire world was at war. “Troublesome times” were here, indeed.

Image1The song was published, and a few groups here and there may have sung it, but it mostly went unnoticed. Winsett never knew his song was destined to be an all-time hit. He passed away in 1952 at the age of 76. The song initially found life through a group called the Shelton Family of Pickens, South Carolina.

In a Facebook post in October 2013, Sandra Shelton wrote:

In the late 1960s, my sister’s piano teacher picked out a song for her to learn the chords. My dad, with his keen ear for music, loved the song and knew it was special. We were in Mark V studio recording “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” and the Inspirations were there and heard it. They liked the song too. I wrote down the words myself and gave it to them.

The Inspirations recorded “Jesus Is Coming Soon” at Mark V (of course it had to be later), and somehow, guess this one for yourself, our record was held back and the Inspirations’ record came back first. The Oak Ridge Boys recorded it and on it went. The song went to number one.

If you’ve read the book What A Wonderful Time: The Story Of The Inspirations, there’s a different account claiming they were the first to record the song after George Shelton said they probably wouldn’t record it (pp. 65-66). Several historians I’ve questioned have confirmed that Sandra Shelton’s account is accurate, however.

Sandra’s brother, George Shelton, Jr., also spoke with me at length about the recording. It is his opinion that the record label wanted to push the Inspirations’ version, so they delayed the release of the Sheltons’ recording. This not only gave the Inspirations a head-start, it also meant the Mark V Records product code would imply that the Inspirations’ version was recorded first.

Many other groups recorded “Jesus Is Coming Soon” over the next two years. This was not uncommon in the 1960s. If a group heard a great song and saw it getting a great response, they’d put out their own version.

The original version by the Sheltons was released on an LP titled Heart Felt Gospel.

Enjoy:

If you’d like to hear another version, there are plenty. Check out this list of more than 50 artists who have recorded “Jesus Is Coming Soon” over the years, courtesy of sghistory.com, MusicScribe’s sister site!

Category Audio, History

David Bruce Murray

<p>David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray’s Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.</p>

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4 Comments

  1. Tad Kirkland
    Reply January 13, 13:20 #1 Tad Kirkland

    I haven’t heard every version, but my favorite by far that I’ve heard is The Lesters.
    I grew up on and still LOVE the old Shelton recordings. They were very under appreciated from what I can tell.
    This actually brings up a bigger question for me. Would SG have a greater impact today if multiple groups recorded the same songs again? Would we go back to more impactful songs like Sheltered In The Arms and Because He Lives instead of 1 month #1 songs that no one remembers a few years later because radio is over-saturated with songs. This actually seems to be happening in the Praise & Worship genre with multiple artists recording the same songs. The only way I could see this happening is if the top tier groups and record companies made this decision.




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  2. David Bruce Murray
    Reply January 13, 13:55 #2 David Bruce Murray Author

    My personal favorite is the full throttle arrangement the Happy Goodmans did in 2000.




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  3. Scotty Ray Searan
    Reply January 13, 22:29 #3 Scotty Ray Searan

    My favorite version of Jesus Is Coming Soon was the Sheltons, next The Oak Ridge Boys 1969 studio version and the Happy Goodmans. The Inspirations never did impress me with this song.




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  4. Michael H. McIlwain
    Reply January 22, 17:05 #4 Michael H. McIlwain

    I’m glad David mentioned the Goodman’s 2000 version. I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I agree it is a great version. I think I will pull it out and play it. Thanks, David! Also, I like the Shelton’s version. The Oaks’ version has always been my favorite, but part of the reason is the lineup that recorded it is my favorite Oaks’ lineup.




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