His name may not be familiar, unless you're a fan of Christian music. Or follow Billy Graham's evangelistic work. ('Bev' has been a staff member with Graham since 1947.) What caught my ear, though, was his incredible range -- a deep baritone, he had one of the richest voices in the business. (Only Tennessee Ernie Ford could give him any competition.) He recalled, in a 2007 interview:
"One morning, there was a rap on my office door. I looked out and there was a tall young man with blond hair and we shook hands. He was 21 and I was 31. It was Billy Graham and he had traveled in from Wheaton College on a train just to say 'hello.' He said he listened to my morning hymn show called 'Hymns From The Chapel.' That's how we first got acquainted. I came into this work with Mr. Graham in 1947 after we had exchanged letters and talked on the phone. He said he wanted me to be his gospel singer. I thanked him but told him the only gospel singers I've ever heard about would sing a verse or two and stop and talk a while. 'Would I have to do that?' I asked him. He chuckled and said, 'I hope not.' With that, I said, 'Well, I'd like to come with you.' That was in November of 1947 and I've been with him ever since."
Sunday mornings, while we were getting ready for church, the Mama would often put on a George Beverly Shea record. I grew up to the smell of tube cinnamon rolls in the air, and the strains of "I'll Meet You in the Morning" or "The Love of God Is Greater Far:"
He was especially known for his rendition of "How Great Thou Art," though I prefer "I'd Rather Have Jesus," a song he helped write.
Learn more about George Beverly Shea here. An amazing man.Oh...and he's now 104.