Appalachia Music

Oh Why Not Tonight


Oh Why Not Tonight - An Altar Call song in Appalachia

Gospel music plays a major role in the culture of Appalachia. I’m not talking about music in relation to monetary terms nor successful performers, although more than a few country and bluegrass stars got their start singing in church.

My thoughts and beliefs come directly from my own personal experiences, but I feel strongly that my statements about the relationship between gospel music and Appalachia would be shared by most who grew up attending church in these mountains.

Even as a young child I remember being astounded by the power of songs of faith. There’s a palatable feeling that occurs when folks gather to lift their voice in worship. If you’ve never felt it, slip in the door of one of those little old churches scattered through out and listen as the choir sings and see if you don’t feel it too.

One of my closest childhood friends is named Sharon. We were in the same classroom at school and we went to the same church.

We liked the singing more than the preaching-as most kids are likely to do. We knew the page number of all our favorite songs and we’d anxiously wait to see if the song leader called out one that we loved to sing.

Down On My Knees written by Mosie Lister, The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming by Albert E. Brumley, I Want To Know More About My Lord by Lee Roy Abernathy, and Are You Washed In The Blood by Rev. E.A. Hoffman were a few of the upbeat songs we liked.

We had a love for the more lonesome gospel songs too. Songs like- Lord I’m Coming Home by William J. Kirkpatrick, Almost Persuaded by P.P. Bliss, Oh Why Not Tonight by Elizabeth H. Reed and J. Calvin Bushey, and Take My Hand Precious Lord by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey.

The lyrics of those old gospel songs I grew up with lend themselves to the culture of Appalachia. I’m not suggesting that they were all written here, most were not. But the strong recurring themes of God, Jesus, love, the cross, faith, death, blood, hell, rivers, long roads, toiling, snares, mountains, shining lights, rejoicing, happiness, joy, better times to come, dark valleys, and loved ones calling come fit perfectly in the mindset of most folks born and raised in Appalachia. I would go so far as to say the manner in which they were written, the words used, strike a chord with the language of Appalachia. Maybe in the same way the isolated nature of the region played a role in the continuity of our dialect it also helped folks hold on to the sacred songs of our past.

Paul has been uploading some of Pap’s older music to the Blind Pig and The Acorn youtube channel. He recently put up a few videos made from the first recording of The Wilson Brothers – Words of Life way back in the 70s. Take a listen to their version of Oh Why Not Tonight.

Hope you enjoyed the song! My favorite part is the way they say poor and of course Pap’s high tenor.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    shelia henning
    May 21, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    The images and memories aroused by this song are vivid for me! I can recall this song being sung during altar calls and revivals. I am thankful that the country church brought me to know the Lord Jesus Christ and my faith has been passed down to my children and now grandchildren!
    Blessings and thank you again for helping us remember!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I really enjoyed hearing this old revival song, and well done it was! Also, the old phonograph- such a pretty one, too. And some of your favorites were mine, as well, growing up. How lovely you had a friend to share these meaningful tunes with.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    March 26, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Dear Tipper, I loved this post. I know I can’t say what I feel in my heart, but there are so many connections between faith, family, church, and music in Appalachia. In my mind they can’t be separated. As others have said, the memories just come flooding back…

  • Reply
    Janice Chapman
    March 26, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I haven’t sung that song in years! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Great job! I know all of these songs except The Prettiest Flowers. I too usually get more out of the songs than the preaching. Seems like there are lots of so called preachers that can’t preach.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Great job! I know all of these songs except The Prettiest Flowers. I too usually get more out of the songs than the preaching. Seems like there are lots of so called preachers that can’t preach.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Great job! I know all of these songs except The Prettiest Flowers. I too usually get more out of the songs than the preaching. Seems like there are lots of so called preachers that can’t preach.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Great job! I know all of these songs except The Prettiest Flowers. I too usually get more out of the songs than the preaching. Seems like there are lots of so called preachers that can’t preach.

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    March 26, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I carry those old Christian Harmony shaped-note songs in my memory and heart just like you carry these old gospel tunes. I have to admit I have never heard Why Not Tonight before today, but I sure enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    The Folks at Martin’s Creek made me feel like Family last night. When Tipper, Chitter and Chatter, and Paul took the stage first, they sung a lot of my Favorite Songs. But it was Paul’s older brother that impressed me the most, having Prayer, and talking about the need for Communities getting together and enjoying Gospel Music. Steve is April’s dad and she is the other Indian Princess.
    An 81 year old man approached me at the ending of the singing and wondered who I was and how did I know about this gathering. He was a Chastain and I knew one of his boys who runs an Auto Parts Store in Andrews.
    I noticed the Pressley girls and Paul yawning, guess they weren’t use to staying up that late. And after the singing I got to talk with Cindy and Tipper and the girls. It was a Wonderful night! …Ken

  • Reply
    Phyllis S
    March 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Enjoyed the music and your post also. Thank you.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve told many song leaders that we learned theology from the old songs and very little from the “7/11” praise songs. (That’s 7 words sung 11 times.)

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 26, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Tipper, you left a little of your soul showing in today’s post.
    I have been listening to “O Why Not Tonight?” since it posted. Probably a hundred times or more. My comment on it is on the video. It’s way down at the bottom because I think I was the first one.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    March 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Thanks to you, I spent Sunday morning singing old hymns. Jan

  • Reply
    Jerry Finley
    March 26, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Beautiful. Thanks. Wonderful way to start my day.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 9:15 am

    I loved the song, but I love Pap’s version of any song.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Beautiful! I love how the music goes from generation to generation.
    You guys did a great job singing at the community center last night. I could feel Pap’s presence.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    March 26, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Tipper, I agree with you 100%. The first songs I knew were gospel songs both from church and hearing my grandma and great uncles singing. Even now, I spend a great deal of time reading lyrics written by Charles Wesley.
    You can pack a lot of teaching in a little song. And, more importantly, it is something that becomes a part of you and you can take it with you anywhere.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    March 26, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Oh Tipper, those songs you mentioned are familiar to me, too. We sang many of them, although I grew up in Ohio. They are songs which are sung by people who truly love Jesus. I miss them. Even though I’m still in church each Sunday, and attend an “evangelical” service, we tend to sing more songs without verses and they are known as “choruses”. They also have good messages, but they’re not like the old-time hymns I knew as a much younger person. Indeed, THANKS for the memories. Blessings to you on this Lord’s Day!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Well written post. You explain the lure of the old gospel songs well . The Wilson Bros did a great job, as usual.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 26, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Memories from my childhood came pouring over me as I listened to that song. I was back in my preteen years sitting in church on a hot summer night during revival. That song was a standard altar call song and one that made us young folks who had not yet made the move towards salvation squirm in our seats because you feel like you have a bullseye taped right between your eyes and everyone in the amen corners is looking straight at you. All of the songs you mentioned are familiar to me and I associate them with my youth and growing up in the small churches of Appalachia. Although my worship style has changed over the years to a more contemporary style I still love to hear the old songs. I have always been moved by music in church, more so at times than the actual sermon.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    March 26, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Almost all of those songs are familiar to me. Oh Why Not Tonight and Just as I am were popular alter call songs. I remember the night when I took that first step towards the alter our small church’s singing group we simply called ‘The Girls’ (three women from the holler and my cousin, a daughter of one of them, played the piano) were singing That’s All Right. I love the old songs.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 26, 2017 at 8:22 am

    So familiar and with such fond memories. ‘O Why Not Tonight’ was a favored altar call song in revivals. I remember our church hymnal “Heavenly Highway Hymns” available in “shape notes only”.
    When it’s right, when people know what they are singing about and can feel it, they “put their heart into it” and somehow that is felt by the hearers. The whole becomes both greater than and a thing apart from its pieces.
    Can you imagine what the song of the redeemed will sound like ?

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    March 26, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Gospel music is one thing that sticks in the memories forever. My best friend is now in the hospital dementia unit. As children we sang most of the songs you mentioned. It is amazing how during church service she can sing every word of the old standards but cannot remember what she had for lunch.
    The Lord’s word in song soothes the soul
    when she seems to get confused and a bit agitated I just hum ” In The
    Garden” and she calms right down.
    I did ask her if she remembered Sitting around a campfire as teenags singing
    and she said no yet she still remembers all those words.
    Amazing what those old familiar words can do.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2017 at 5:50 am

    I first met you in Feb 2010, when I posted… you commented on it. for years I commented and then had to cut back, but I have been reading most of your post and I follow your girls on FB…
    this song is one of my most favorite from my childhood. all the songs you listed were sung over and over except the one about pretty flowers. do no know that one. I just flipped back in time while listening to Why Not tonight? I always sang the second part as alto with daddy singing tenor… thanks for the memories

  • Leave a Reply