Appalachia Music

Angel Band Come And Around Me Stand

Angel Band Come And Around Me Stand

The old song Angel Band enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after the success of the movie O Brother Where Art Thou and it’s soundtrack (Pap says bluegrass music needs to get themselves another movie). I was already familiar with the song having grown up hearing it in church and at home. But the movie introduced the mournful tune and words to many folks who’d never heard it before.

I wrongly assumed the song was an old southern gospel standard. Once I realized it wasn’t in any of the Hymnals I have, I went to my favorite place to search for song related information: The Mudcat Cafe.

Reading through the threads related to the song I discovered the song is much older than I thought. A forum commenter called Uncle Jacque offered this:

My earliest example of “Angel Band” appears in a late 19th Century Hymnal as “The Land of Beulah” and is noted “As sung by the late Bishop MORRIS”, credited to “Rev. Jefferson HASCALL 1860 – Wm. BRADBURY, by per.”

A few other threads also mentioned Angel Band was once called The Land of Beulah. Calling the song The Land of Beulah seems crazy to me, but I know well and good old songs are often called by different names depending on who it is performing them just like the words of old songs are also often changed depending on who’s doing the singing. For example when The Blind Pig Gang does Angel Band we change a few words here and there and even change the order of the verses. I’m guessing its because that’s the way Pap or Paul learned the song.

Give our version a listen and see what you think. On the day I filmed the song we had a full house for our Sunday afternoon pickin and grinnin in the kitchen session, you might even notice a new face (there are 3 more of us there, but not in the camera frame). Paul joked this would be our 3 mandolin 4 guitar and 1 bass version of Angel Band.

I’ve always had a special interest in Angels. I suppose that’s why I chose to paint them for so long. In the years since my Papaw Wade died (over 20 now) I never hear Angel Band that I don’t think of him. Its not that it was his favorite song. I don’t even know if he liked it. It’s the words in the song “Oh come Angel Band come and around me stand” that make me think of him.

Papaw had a prolonged illness before his death. He knew and we knew, that he was indeed nearing holy ranks of friends and kindred dear. During that time we all took turns staying with him. His bed was in the living room and was positioned where he could see down the road. One day when I was there he asked me who the 2 men at the foot of his bed were. I said “Papaw there’s nobody there” but he insisted there was.

When we asked him about the men he said “Two men came up the road, in the door, and stood at the foot of my bed and then went back the way they come.” We asked if they spoke to him? He said “I couldn’t understand them. They talked but their mouths didn’t move.”

Most folks would say the men were a figment of a sick man’s imagination. I say they were part of his Angel Band.

Hope you enjoyed the history and the music!


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in April of 2012. 

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  • Reply
    Bill Garren
    September 6, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    That song has always been one of my favorite they don’t play those songs in church much anymore and I sure do miss them I grew up on all the old songs they made me feel like the Lord is setting with me with his arms around me
    Thanks for sharing with us God bless you and your family

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    January 29, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    My uncle ‘Mar (Lamar) was a very gentle, kind man. I can’t ever remember him being loud or boastful. Some people called him plain. I adored him. We spent a lot of time together, especially at church. On Saturday night I would spend the night with him and aunt Flora. They would take me to church on Sunday. I would stand in the pew between them with one arm around his neck and the other around hers. The choir would sing “ANGEL BAND”, I felt so safe and loved. He went in for a minor surgery, and never woke up from the anesthesia. He passed peacefully in his sleep. I said that it takes a mighty pure soul to leave the world like that. I often wonder if he heard “THE NOISE OF WINGS”… God bless you all for bringing those memories back thru song and music.

  • Reply
    Grandma Cate
    September 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    This is an old song in my Mom’s family that I’ve always loved. We sang it just a trifle faster, but your version is lovely. Reading this today, I realize that on the day you posted this, I was having lunch in the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clinchport as part of a “Crooked Road” tour. Ralph Stanley & his wife came over to lunch with us & we all had a chance to meet & talk with them. Later, one of the groups that gave special performances for us sang this & I was able to sing along. Thanks for the serendipitous reminder!!

  • Reply
    August 19, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Great song and as always a great performance by the BP Gang!

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    August 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    In shapenote tradition, which is older than gospel, Beulah Land or The Land of Beulah is the name of the tune. The words (Angel Band lyrics)may be much later than the tune which could be used to sing any lyric in a metrical pattern of 6,8,6,8. The tune and words have now been printed so many times they have become locked together. In earlier days tunes and words were more fluid.
    Come to the shapenote singing at Mountain Heritage Day in Cullowhee, NC. September 27 and we’ll sing it for you, shapes and four part harmony.

  • Reply
    José Luis
    August 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Dear TimMc
    You say that in the Bible only speaks of Angels Men, but you must think, and I say this with the greatest of respect, the Bible is not a military regulation, is something men began writing and compiling facts transmitted verbally several years after the death of Jesus. And the Lord, (everything he can), does not have to act like we mortals, the Lord can manifest itself in many different ways.
    Furthermore, it has always been said and written about the asexuality of Angels.
    And I can assure you, my dear aunt, chatted amiably with two girls, who were not known for her beings, as in the other beautiful stories told in this blog.
    I want to receive the most cordial greetings and my desire that the Lord will protect and keep for many years, José Luis.

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    August 18, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Love this song, usually hear it sung by Ralph Stanley. You and your readers may enjoy reading the books written by Peggy Ann Shifflett who writes about Appalachia. One of her books is called The Living Room Bed: Birthing, Healing and Dying in Traditional Appalachia.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2014 at 12:13 am

    One of Mama’s favorites. She requested it for her funeral. Beautiful & I cry every time I hear it.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    August 17, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    One of my favorite songs — and what a great story!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I didn’t get the Blind Pig e-mail
    today, so I just found it under
    “Recent Posts” on the right side.
    Anyway, I loved this song and the
    mandolin part made it Special.
    Shortly after this past Mother’s
    Day, my brother’s wife died from
    Cancer. She was on Morphine real
    heavy but one day she woke up and
    told her son to say hello to his
    dad, standing at the foot of her
    bed, waiting to take her home.
    (He had been dead for 5 years.)

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Love the song , why not show us some of your paintings ?

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Love the song , why not show us some of your paintings ?

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    August 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Love the song , why not show us some of your paintings ?

  • Reply
    Sue Simmons
    August 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Beautiful song Tipper, my mother loved it and it was sung at her funeral. Ask Pap if he knew a Lloyd wade in Tennessee, he was my Gran dad Thank you! I always enjoy the blind Pig

  • Reply
    August 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Very interesting story about the men at the Foot of your PawPaws bed,, I believe the Bible only speaks of Men angels, and I believe this is a good example and that it is Biblically backed, we see a lot of Women Angels on store shelves,,(not to say that Women are not Angels so to speak) but the Bible gives only mention of Men,, Example: Lot in Sodom mention the Men whom stayed with them, Gabriel, Michael.. very likely your PawPaw saw these men (angels) to help comfort him, before his journey.. Love the Music..

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    and Jose Luis, thank you for a beautiful testimony of experience sitting with a dying loved one.
    So terribly hard for us to let go of them, but so beautiful that they are in the beautiful realm of God!

  • Reply
    José Luis
    August 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Tipper, beautiful song and beautiful story, I will tell you and the friends of the Appalachians, a similar story.
    About 8 or 10 years ago, my Aunt Angela, was in the last stages of cancer, admitted to the Central Military Hospital in Buenos Aires.
    My cousin (Col. (R), Artillery like me), was by his side as we took turns being with her, as you were telling in your story.
    My cousin left the room a few moments to do a procedure at the hospital, and when he returned, (before my aunt who always kept in a state of drowsiness), received wide awake and smiling, and said, “A few minutes ago when you went out, came two beautiful girls, blonde, blue-eyes and we talked very kindly “,words or so.
    My cousin, went out immediately and called the sergeant in charge of the floor nurse, and asked how it was possible that would allow girls to enter the room, if the visits were restricted !, and the nurse told her, Sir, did not you get mad, is not the first time that Angels come to warn patients that their journey to heaven is about to start, then my cousin, (not convinced), he went back down the hall to the room and found his mother, my aunt, with his rosary in his hands, like sleeping … but, in reality, it was a moment that she had died.
    With all my love I told this absolutely true story for you, Tipper, and all friends of the Appalachians.
    God Bless, José Luis.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    August 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    My husband a short time before he died said he had seen his father standing with his arms outstretched. His father had been dean for many years.
    My Mother, after she suffered a brain aneurysm and was brought back from death lost her short term memory. Later when we had to tell her that her parents were dead, and had been for many years. she said, “They can’t be. I just talked with them.”
    I love the image in the song of my loved one being taken to a better place by a band of angels. Lovely post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I won’t try to be a hog and keep posting. I listened again, and just have to say that I love that mandolin sound.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Memories swept over me as I watched and listened to your wonderful family all together playing and singing Angel Band. In my younger days I visited a family a great deal, and all of them seemed musically inclined. One or more of this large family always playing guitar, banjo, or singing. One of them played a banjo with amazing talent, and as they sometimes say “he could tear up a banjo.” The result has been that I love banjo music. He had a good opportunity to play with a name band, but he would never leave his beloved mountains, and talent shared with very few. It makes me wonder about all the hidden jewels within our mountains who go undiscovered.
    Working in the medical field for many years, I have witnessed some amazing departures of saints. I know it is real when a dying soul describes who they are seeing, and tells us when he gets there he will ask the Lord to bless us all. And then he is gone… Oh yes, there are unseen messengers or angels to ease our journey–and maybe the Lord!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 17, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I loved this post before and now as well. They never grow old to me. “Angel Band” is one of my favorites. I have to admit that I was introduced to the song from the soundtrack “O Brother Where Art Thou”, yes, I loved that movie too!
    Tell Pap we do need some more movies with blue grass music in them!
    In her last hours Mother was seeing someone against a wall in her living room hospital bed. We thought it might be the out door light reflection from a couple of pictures near her bed. That night we removed them to another wall.
    The next day she was still seeing someone. She once said she thought it was her sister, another time her Mother…Both had passed years before.
    Thanks Tipper loved the song rendition.
    PS…Happened to catch Paul and someone playing Blackberry…I loved it. Now then, that song is a finger exercise.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

    So beautiful! This is a new song for my ears. I enjoyed the fact that five men presented it. Love it for my Sunday morning ears. Enjoyed the history, also.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2014 at 9:37 am

    These days my Mom often sees people we don’t see. Usually we can make a connection to a reflection in a window, a cabinet door, or something else – the person whose reflection we think she sees will wave while she’s staring at the reflection and she will laugh and laugh. Several times, we haven’t been able to figure it out, or she will signify someone who’s gone on before – – maybe her angel band is gathering.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    August 17, 2014 at 8:53 am

    One of my favorites. I have heard the “church” version all my life but recently only play the folk/bluegrass version. Thanks for reposting this. Good version, singing and backup.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    August 17, 2014 at 8:42 am

    By far and away the best rendition I’ve heard! And regarding the angels, a young neighbour of mine died of cancer a about a month after I led him to the Lord. I visited him a few days before he died and he told me a man came and sat on a chair near the foot of his bed each day and he didn’t know if it was an angel or Jesus himself. I asked him did he say anything and he told no, but he just sat their looking at him with a loving smile.
    Bless you

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 17, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Tipper, those two men came to see if he was ready to go. I bet when he was they came back for him. It’s funny that you are looking at your Papaw’s August birthday. Friday, August 15th was the one hundredth anniversary of my mother’s birth. I have to consider August was a good month since you and I were born then as well.
    The song is lovely and you are the Angel. All those pictures you painted were self portraits….even the angels wearing combat boots!

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