Appalachia Music Pap

Heaven’s Just a Prayer Away

Today’s post was written by Paul.



Here’s another song I found on one of the old reel to reel tapes of Pap’s. It’s from a radio broadcast but has no date written anywhere on it.

This is a song I first heard Porter Wagoner do, and it is an extremely hard song to sing, mostly because of the bass note that the singer has to hit on the word “just.”

Bill and Loraine, who comment on our Youtube channel sometimes, have a solid version of it here.

There don’t appear to be many versions of the song on YouTube, but you can find a drastically different approach to the song done by Porter’s TV partner, Dolly Parton.

It’s rare that Pap or his brother Ray either sang solo, because they focused on harmony singing, but somehow this solo of Pap survived, and I was glad to find it.

It’s interesting to me that Pap, who sang very high most of the time, seemed to have a harder time with another low note (on the word “heart”) than he did with the bass note on the word “just,” which he nailed completely (in my opinion).

At the time this broadcast was recorded, he was still learning and growing as a singer, and he would later become a much better singer. Had he sung this song in more recent times, he probably would have placed the song a couple of frets higher in E or F major so that the lower notes posed no challenge.

I like the unusual approach that Uncle Ray took to picking the kickoff and turnaround for the song: even though they’re doing the song in D major, I can tell that Ray is clamped all the way down at the 7th fret playing in G position, which gives it a small, crisp sound. That contrasts nicely with the unmistakable thud or boom of the bass strings on dad’s Dove.

Incidentally, the little boy who appears in one of the photos is my older brother, Steve. The Dove is one year older than him. 🙂 Anyway, I hope you enjoy this song. Maybe someone like Leon Estes will chime in with info about the writer and song publication date. The lyrics are below:

When you’re trying to reach Heaven,
Talk to Jesus every day.
For, He knows that you are coming;
Heaven’s just a prayer away.

If you’ll go to church on Sunday,
Get down on your knees and pray,
Give your heart and soul to Jesus,
Heaven’s just a prayer away.

You are just a prayer from Heaven,
As you travel life’s highway.
When you think that you can’t reach it,
Heaven’s just a prayer away.

If you’ll go to church on Sunday,
Get down on your knees and pray,
Give your heart and soul to Jesus,
Heaven’s just a prayer away.

I hope you enjoyed the song!


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  • Reply
    Dona DiBernardo Silver
    February 15, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Granny is right. Your dad was very handsome as well as talented. I love every kind of music. This was beautiful

  • Reply
    January 28, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Very nice rendition. You have done a great job saving and recording all of your family’s musical essence. As wonderful as it is to have all the ensemble music, having a copy of your Pap singing solo is really special. What a treasure!
    Our little church band used to play a version with the first verse done “country style” and then, after a short transition, the second verse done in a kind of jazzy version. We’ve lost 2 guitar players and a drummer so we are kind of starting over. Hope we can pick this one up again soon.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    January 22, 2019 at 3:17 am

    tipper I just love this song…its so beautifully sung with such heartfelt meaning.
    hope you are all well and warm….its verrrry cold here tonite in pa, only 2 degrees with below zero windchill.
    just think of spring….and the flowers.
    sending hugs and love to you all

  • Reply
    January 20, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Enjoyed listening …. I also went back and sang harmony with him,,,so fun 🙂

  • Reply
    January 20, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Such a wonderful song and I really enjoyed the old pictures. My aunt had kitchen chairs like those. The song made my Sunday, as it reminded me of my Mama when she was alive. We all swore she had a hot line to heaven!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2019 at 9:41 am

    That was beautiful and so nice to have the words. Second time I sang along.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 20, 2019 at 9:23 am

    I like how Pap sings Sundee instead of Sunday. That’s a mark of a real Appalachian. All our day names end in dee.
    My comments about the song are on Youtube if anyone cares to read them. My name there is Papaw.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    January 20, 2019 at 9:21 am

    What a lovely way to start off this Lord’s Day!Thank you. Pap is still blessing us and glorifying God.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 20, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I can hear a strain of Paul in his Dad’s voice. So glad you found this solo for you all to have.

    I am very ignorant about music but I lead songs at church. And oh, that terrible feeling when you know you’ve pitched it wrong and there is high or low coming up that you can’t reach. When it is high one squeaks. And when it’s low one croaks. Have to just be willing to mess up and shrug it off. If it is really off, it is best to stop and take another go at it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 20, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Beautiful, but so unlike Pap to be singing so low.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 20, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Pap at his purest. Thank you, Paul.

  • Reply
    Tom Hansberry
    January 20, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Wow wow wow Tipper. This is wonderful. Thank you

  • Reply
    Kathy Cheek
    January 20, 2019 at 6:42 am

    So beautiful! It reminds me of my childhood days also. I was raised around people that sang too. I also sang in church and at school. My family watched Porter Wagoner and Dolly also. This sure does bring back memories. Thank you for sharing. Your dad had a beautiful voice.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    January 20, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Loved it!

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