Sunday, August 5, 2007

On My Father's Side

Unless you are both a bluegrass fan and a resident of the Washington, DC, area, you might not know that this region has a strong bluegrass tradition. In the 1950s, in fact, Washington was known as the “Bluegrass Capital of America.” Perhaps that would be less surprising if you recall that DC is right across the Potomac from Virginia.

One of our local public radio stations, WAMU, has been playing bluegrass for 40 years! At one point its bluegrass programming dominated weekday afternoons, but today it is relegated to Sundays.* Still, they manage to get in a lot of bluegrass on that one day! It starts at 1 AM with “Bluegrass Overnight,” and continues with “Stained Glass Bluegrass” at 6 AM. After a two-hour break for NPR news from 10 to 12, they return to bluegrass with “The Ray Davis Show” and “The Dick Spottswood Show.” On a typical Sunday I catch at least a little of each of these shows. (I'm listening to “Bluegrass Overnight” as I finish composing this post, late on Saturday night.)

Last Sunday I was listening to “Stained Glass Bluegrass” as I was getting dressed for church, and I heard a bluegrass gospel song I had not heard before. It was Felecia Shiflett’s song, “On My Father’s Side,” performed by the Village Singers. The song continued to run through my head for the next few days. With the help of Google, I tracked down the lyrics, the name of the songwriter, and this 30-second preview of the song by another performer. You will see that the lyrics are eminently appropriate to a blog called TWO NATURES.

On My Father’s Side
Felecia Shiflett

Just a young boy in the temple one day
Shared with the doctors, they were so amazed
Never had they seen one so young speak so swift
They asked him many questions, the conversation went like this

What’s your name, son?
On my mother’s side, my name is Jesus
But on my Father’s side, they call me Emmanuel
How old are you?
On my mother’s side, now I’m twelve years
But on my Father’s side, I’ve just always been
Where you from?
On my mother’s side, I’m from Bethlehem
But on my Father’s side, it’s New Jerusalem
What’s your plan?
On my mother’s side, I’ll be crucified
But on my Father’s side, in three days I’ll arise
And I’ll sit at my Father’s side

He was the Son of God, yet the son of man
And I can’t help but wonder how Joseph must have felt
Through an open door that day, he heard his son reply
He said: You see, I’m the King of Kings, that’s on my Father’s side


*Unless you have a digital radio, that is. WAMU’s digital channel 3 calls itself “Bluegrass Country.”

Thanks to “Stained Glass Bluegrass” host Red Shipley for providing the name of the group in response to my query.


Roland said...

On the web, I found three different spellings of the songwriter’s name. I went with the way her husband spelled it in his bio, even though it was not the most popular spelling. I also found multiple versions of the lyrics and sorta kludged together this version. If I ever find a more reliable source for either, I will correct it here.

Sara K. said...

Very interesting. I really like the lyrics to that song! And I had wondered about the predominance of bluegrass on the WAMU Sunday morning line up! -S

Ben Johnson said...

It seems to me several people have recorded that song. I can't remember who, but I think a "name" country singer of yesteryear was among them.

God bless,

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Anonymous said...

On My Father's Side is requested and sang at most of The Homestead Pickers performances. They are one of Silver Dollar City's (Branson, MO) resident performers. They have also recorded it on some of their CDs.


Sorry, if this is a repeat. System crashed just as I tried to publish the first time. B

Judy said...

Could someone tell me where I can purchase the written sheet music or the book it is in, so that I can play this song "On My Father's Side" on my piano or organ? Thank you.

Randy said...

Sheet Music here:
Keep On Singing Vol. 8

Judy said...

To Randy - Thank you very much for telling me where I could get the written music for "On My Father's Side." I really appreciated it. I also just finished ordering it. Thanks again. Judy

Roland said...

Here are a couple of good versions of the song on YouTube:

The Barn Again Gang

The Village Singers

Arimathean said...

I just updated this post. I still don't know the real spelling of the songwriter's first name, but Felicia seems to be the spelling most often associated with this song, so I changed it from Felecia. I also brought some of the lyrics into line with the way they are sung in the two videos on YouTube (both of those links are still active). But the source of the sheet music referenced by Randy is now sold out, and I could not find that volume elsewhere on-line (though I'll admit I didn't look very hard).

Anonymous said...

Her name is "Felecia Belinda Vining Shiflett Stephens" me...

Arimathean said...

Well, that sounded authoritative! Thanks, Anonymous - I just corrected the spelling of her name in my post.

Lonette Little said...

Felicia lives in Hampton, GA just outside Atlanta. Her husbands name is Aubrey Stephens.