Stuart (or Russ) Hamblen, Billy Graham, John Wayne, and Hamblen’s Song It Is No Secret–Mostly Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
The story of a Hollywood celebrity from the 1950’s named Stuart (some versions say Russ) Hamblen who was converted to Christianity as the result of a young evangelist who held meetings in Los Angeles. Hamblen is said to have showed up drunk at the evangelist’s hotel at 2am asking for prayer, but the evangelist refused to pray for him, although he invited him in to talk. As a result, Hamblen accepted Jesus and it turned his life around but he was rejected by Hollywood and went through hard times until a friend asked him if he missed his old life and Hamblen replied by saying “It is no secret what God can do.” The friend thought that was a good song title and Hamblen went on to write it and it became a hit. The story says the evangelist was Billy Graham and the friend who suggested the song was John Wayne.
The story of Stuart Hamblen, Billy Graham, and John Wayne is true but this account of it includes some misinformation.
Stuart Hamblen was a popular singer, songwriter, actor, poet, and radio personality from the 1930s through the 1950s. He was first a hit on radio but appeared in films with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne and wrote several chart-topping country songs. Some have called him radio’s first singing cowboy.
Billy Graham came to Los Angeles in 1949 for what became an historic evangelistic crusade. Graham’s long time associate and crusade song leader Cliff Barrows told TruthOrFiction.com that Graham’s appearance on Hamblen’s radio show was arranged as part of the publicity for the crusade, not because Hamblen wanted to poke fun at Graham. Although Hamblen was known for his hard living and drinking, he had been reared as the son of a Methodist minister and warmly welcomed Graham as a guest. It was at that interview that Graham extended an invitation to Hamblen to attend the crusade and he accepted. According to Barrows, Hamblen later contacted Graham at his hotel and asked to talk. The result was that he “surrendered his life to Christ.” He was not drunk and Graham did not refuse to pray for him, according to Barrows. Hamblen’s became the first publicized conversion from the 1949 crusade and contributed to the decision to extend the event, which lasted for 8 weeks and put Billy Graham on the map.
Barrows said that it was on a street in Hollywood that Hamblen later ran into John Wayne who asked him about the rumor around town that he’d changed his ways. Hamblen told Wayne that it was no secret what God had done for him and that he could do it for Wayne too. Wayne said it sounded like a song and suggested he write one. The result was one of Hamblen’s best known tunes, It is No Secret What God Can Do. It was a crossover song that is regarded as the first to have been #1 in the gospel, country, and pop categories. The original manuscript of It is No Secret is buried in the cornerstone of one of the Copyright Buildings of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
After his conversion Hamblen announced that he was going to devote his time to “serving Christ” and he started a new radio program titled The Cowboy Church of the Air which became nationally syndicated. A confrontation developed with his sponsors, however, when he told them that he would refuse to advertise alcohol. His much publicized departure from the program resulted in his being asked to run for President of the United States in 1952 under the banner of the Prohibition party. He accepted and ran fourth to Republican Dwight Eisenhower who was elected president.
Back in the 50’s there was a well known radio host/comedian/song writer in Hollywood named Stuart Hamblin* who was noted for his drinking,womanizing, partying, etc.
One of his bigger hits at the time was “I won’t go hunting with you Jake, but I’ll go chasing women.”
One day, along came a young preacher holding a tent revival. Hamblin had him on his radio show presumably to poke fun at him.
In order to gather more material for his show, Hamblin showed up at one of the revival meetings.
Early in the service the preacher announced, “There is one man in this audience who is a big fake.” There were probably others who thought the same thing, but Hamblin was convinced that he was the one the preacher was talking about (some would call that conviction) but he was having none of that.
Still the words continued to haunt him until a couple of nights later he showed up drunk at the preacher’s hotel door around 2AM demanding that the preacher pray for him!
But the preacher refused, saying, “This is between you and God and I’m not going to get in the middle of it.”
But he did invite Stuart in and they talked until about 5 AM at which point Stuart dropped to his knees and with tears, cried out to God.
But that is not the end of the story. Stuart quit drinking, quit chasing women, quit everything that was ‘fun.’ Soon he began to lose favor with the Hollywood crowd.
He was ultimately fired by the radio station when he refused to accept a beer company as a sponsor.
Hard times were upon him. He tried writing a couple of “Christian” songs but the only one that had much success was “This Old House”, written for his friend Rosemary Clooney.
As he continued to struggle, a long time friend named John took him aside and told him, “All your troubles started when you ‘got religion,’ Was it worth it all?” Stuart answered simply, “Yes.”
Then his friend asked, “You liked your booze so much, don’t you ever miss it?” And his answer was, “No.” John then said, “I don’t understand how you could give it up so easily.”
And Stuart’s response was, “It’s no big secret. All things are possible with God.” To this John said, “That’s a catchy phrase. You should write a song about it.”
And as they say, “The rest is history.”
The song Stuart wrote was “It Is No Secret.”
“It is no secret what God can do. What He’s done for others, He’ll do f or you.
With arms wide open, He’ll welcome you. It is no secret, what God can do….”
By the way… the friend was John Wayne. And the young preacher who refused to pray for Stuart Hamblin?
….That was Billy Graham.
* Hamben’s name was misspelled on the original email