Angel Band

Angel Band

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 thats 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 (getting close to 20) 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 “2 men come 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-me I say they were part of his Angel Band.

Hope you enjoyed the history-and the music!



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  • Reply
    Larry Petree
    June 23, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Beautiful singing and playing. I didn’t know until recent days that Pap had passed on. I love their singing. Yet, it will continue.

    • Reply
      Joyce P. Phillips
      August 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

      This just made my Sunday morning.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 8:51 am

    You know I love the music and listening to Paul and Pap’s singing!
    My Dad’s Angel Band visited him for several days before he went home to Jesus. Our preacher said he was seeing people from the other side. I never thought about them being his Angel Band. Until now.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for the song – and the story.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Tipper, your song and story touched my heart. But Don’s comment brought tears to my eyes.
    Don, I agree.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve heard about angels visiting the ill to depart soon very often. The husband of a neighbor of ours did almost the same as Papaw Wade above, talking about a man standing by his beside beckoning him to come along with him. A day or so later, he passed.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    What a beautiful and moving story. I myself can’t listen to I’ll Fly Away without crying my eyes out – by the way, Chitter and Chatter did a lovely version of that song, and your rendition of Angel Band is lovely too!

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    April 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Sorry, that should be Beautiful…not neautiful (Whatever that is)

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    April 16, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Beautiful story, beautiful music, and neautiful comments!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Love those old songs and your family version of it is spot on.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    April 16, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Tipper: love the song and how it was performed , blessings to all you folks who strive to preserve what has to be the most inspiring music i have ever heard. some day when my time comes i only hope those angles sing me home. thanks so much. k.o.h

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    April 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Great job on the harmony there, folks. I have sung this song from convention hymn books, the Christian Harmony, Southern Harmony and several other shape note books. Some call it The Land of Beulah It’s a great song which ever version you choose. And the higher the treble the better.
    Judy Mincey
    Calhoun, GA

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    April 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Oh I love this song and hearing them sing it .It’s so beautiful.. Your Papaw was a fine God- fearing man.. I loved hearing him preach.. When I was little I went with Daddy to hear him alot.. He and daddy were good friends back in the day..I know without a doubt he saw angels..I often wonder if daddy saw them the morning he fell dead in the yard..My neighbor saw him fall and he told us he looked straight up before he fell..Great post..

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    April 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    So sorry for the late post. That was truly a special story today. I do like the song very much, but it has a little different meaning for me now. Though I’ve heard stories of folks being visited prior to their passing, this brought it home a little more. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    We just watched “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” again the other night…I have the soundtrack and loved the movie…
    “Angel Band” is one of my favorites…The Blind Pig group did a great job on it and I loved Paps harmony…
    As for the angels in your grandfathers room, I believe he saw them…I have heard of them appearimg during times of stressful, dieing and praying…Both my parents saw their siblings/parents just before they past on…and it seemed to relive some of their suffering…
    I wonder why in the song, “Oh Death”, sung by Ralph Stanley..the person seems to cry out to let him be spared over to another day?…His angel band must not have been there at all…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Kat-I should have told the names of everyone who was there: Paul, Pap, Me, Chitter, Chatter, my nephews: Guitar Man and Mandolin Man-and our special guest-Mr. Matthew Cook.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Ed-yes that is Steves oldest son-Guitar Man. He was in from Yale on his spring break that day!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I really enjoyed the song. All the stories of angels gave me goosebumps. I truly believe and have seen evidence with my own eyes. What a glorious day when we all get to heaven to reunite with our loved ones.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    April 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I really enjoyed the rhythm, the musical instruments, and the words. Thanks!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    This was one of Mama’s favorites & was played at her funeral. She has been dead 10 months today.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    That was beautiful and so touching
    to hear the mandolin take over once in a while. Paul and Pap’s harmony is one thing I love to hear when things get so crazy.
    I remember one of my aunts when
    she was dying and I was afraid to
    go into her bedroom. But I could
    hear her talking to someone and
    there wasn’t anybody in there at
    the time. I believe she was
    talking to her angel…Ken

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    April 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Loved the video , thanks for sharing it. When my Mom passed away in 1994, all of us kids were at the house with her, I was holding her hand, just before she passed, she opened her eyes and reached out her arms and smiled, I knew she was seeing the Angels that were there to take her to Glory. Ten years later Dad joined her in Heaven, I was holding his hand when he passed, he shed a single tear, then passed on to join Mom and all the loved ones who had passed on before. I can’t wait until we can all meet again, never to part…I don’t fear death, have seen it up long as one is right with God, we shall have everlasting life .

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

    The young man in the blue shirt with white stripes playing the guitar on Pap’s left looks like your big brother Steve. Is he Steve’s son?

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 15, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Great Song, Great Job singing it. Pap’s Tenor Harmony as usual is spot on. Several years ago my wife suffered eight perforations in her small bowel, she was near the point of death several times over a three week period, after she healed she advised me “Her Angel” had set on the foot of her bed and watched over her. We both believe in these heavenly messengers.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    April 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Those fellows sound great! Such a favorite song in our family. This year makes TWENTY since we lost our dad. In my garden I planted a beautiful Carolina cypress tree to mark his 100 th birthday on FEB. 22, 2000. Now it has just about grown to the height of the giant oaks in our nearby forest area!
    Sweet memories! Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    April 15, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I’m with Pap — bluegrass does need another movie!! What a wonderfulrendition of a great old song of sadness yet hope. I look forward to angels surrounding me when that time comes.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

    The blacksmith and I LOVE this post, LOVED hearing Paul, Pap and the others sing and play it!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Your guys did a fabulous job on the song! I think I will go back and listen again…and again.
    Papaw’s story about the two men coming to him makes sense to me. I have heard similar stories and each time, I have chills running down my spine. I believe in the presence of angels here on Earth. Sometimes those angels are simply folks among us that are sent to help in our time of need.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Life is not cut and dry as in now you are living then you are gone. A gentle and loving God prepares us for this journey in ways that make it not as frightening. Also, occasionally, in this Appalachian area, I have heard of warnings where a friend or loved one would actually see a young version of the departed briefly.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    April 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Tipper, what a beautiful story of your Papaw seeing angels. I have heard similar stories from other people, and don’t doubt it a minute. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 15, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Papaw Wade hadn’t reached the end of his road. He had reach a chasm he couldn’t cross on his own.
    “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried”
    Not everyone will see angels. Papaw did.
    You really ought to find and listen to “Angels in the Room” by the Ruppe Sisters.
    Their Grandmother was also a Wilson.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    April 15, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I agree with Pap that Bluegrass does need to get them another movie. Great job with Angel Band…..

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    April 15, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Tipper, I do believe they were sent from God, the Bible will back this up. God gives us living “Grace” and he gives those who know him dieing “Grace”. I know a man who went to visit another man in the hospital, the one in the hospital was some of the other one’s wife’s family, he was at the point of death and all his life he was known for being a very mean person to everyone. While my friend was there visiting the whole time this Man would SCREAM get me away from the fire, pull my feet out of the fire, on and on and on, it unnerved my friend until this day because he new what it mint, and the testimony this man had left. So my point is I believe just as Steven in the bible was about to die God let him see Jesus standing on the right hand of God.. He’ll let us see what awaits us on the other side….Angels appeared unto many in the Bible… Wonderful story Thanks for sharing.. increases ones Faith….

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I have always loved that song and yes I beleive in angels. Those 2 men that your grandpa saw, I believe were angels that come to help him prepare to leave this world. Your family always does such a great job pickin and singin. After viewing the video made me wonder who else was there pickin too.

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    April 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Like your sound. And your Papaw told the truth, and you got the picture. A couple days before my beloved great aunt passed away, she awoke from her semi-comatose state, sat up, looked upward, and with a big smile said,”Mommy, I’m comin’ home.”

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Good day to you,Tipper—-well that song sure did float the memories in me for that was one of the songs we did every summer at our olde fashion camp-meetin’ and the title we know it as is O COME,ANGEL BAND. I think the gang did a wonderful job on it . There is song that is one of my favorites with the title of Beulah Land that again is found in our olde camp books—I am lucky to have one or two and now this past flood took the remainder so I hope that these olde songs are intuned in everyones memory…. and I do believe your Papaw was blessed with spirits of friends that have already crossed over….

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 15, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Tipper, that was beautiful but you need to tell us who your guests are.
    I guess all songs that stay around evolve over time with every generation and every new singer.
    I absolutely agree with you, those were angels come to help your Papaw pack for his coming trip.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Great story Tipper of both the song and especially your Papaw. I’ll have to go listen now to your version.

  • Reply
    Sandy Wilson
    April 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

    My daddy died in 1988. He also saw his angel escort. I totally believe they come to escort us to our heavenly home. Praise the Lord he sends them for our final journey.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 15, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I don’t think there were two angels in that room with your Papaw.
    There were three.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012 at 5:07 am

    I enjoyed the song. That was always a family favorite at our house. No, I don’t think the two men your Papaw saw that day were figments of his imagination; he was favored to see something only a few are permitted to see.

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