Over 100 Years of History

In 1913, Elder C.H. Cayce published a songbook entitled “The Good Old Songs.” It was Elder Cayce’s intention that the “The Good Old Songs” would act as a bridge between hymnbooks and songbooks. At that time, most Primitive Baptist churches used hymnbooks, which contained poetry but not any music. Songbooks, on the other hand, had both music and poetry. Some even contained Rudiments of Music to give the reader the fundamentals of music and singing. It is hard for us to understand this now, but many considered songbooks as progressive. There were a few songbooks published before 1913, but the majority of the Old Baptists looked upon them with suspicion. Therefore, Elder Cayce decided that a crossover would be in everyone’s best interest.He included the music on some of the songs and others were not set to music but had musical notation as to what tune it could use: CM for common meter, LM for long meter, SM for short meter, etc. Some songs had the first line with the notes and the following stanzas listed below as text. This concept is what enabled our people to finally accept a songbook with notes on the pages.

Standing the Test of Time

However, there is much more to consider concerning “The Good Old Songs.” Below, I will list additional proofs as to the merit of this great book:

  • It contains more songs about the Cross of Christ than any other hymnal.
  • All the songs in the book but one contains a four-part harmony. Prior to this, most songbooks did not have the alto.
  • It retains the old style of harmony; some may find this more difficult to sing but to my observation, it produces the most majestic of musical sound.
  • It contains songs that would have been lost to history had not they been preserved in the book.

“The Good Old Songs” has seen very little changes in the book’s over one hundred-year history. To my knowledge, only two songs have been changed to better reflect what Old Baptists commonly believe. There have been two alternate books published:  a condensed version that contained the more commonly used songs and a tune-book that contained the text without the music. It has had hard and soft covers. It is mainly known for the maroon cover but there have been brown, green, beige, and blue.

Two years after publishing the book, Elder Cayce wrote in 1915: “We believe The Good Old Songs is the best song book on the market, and everybody who sees it has words of praise for it. It is composed of the greatest old songs and tunes that have been sung by our fathers and mothers for a hundred years or more, and there is not a jig tune or an unsound sentiment in the book. If you love to hear sound preaching in your church, why not use a song book that is free of unsound sentiment? How do you like to hear a good, sound sermon and then a rotten song right after it? Song service is part of the praise to the Lord for His goodness and mercy to poor sinners. Then isn't it right to sing the truth when you praise Him?”

Looking Towards the Future

Kind readers, I will leave you with a personal thought: “The Good Old Songs” has long remained my choice of songbooks. There have been moments when singing out of this book, in a congregation, or with only myself, where I was blessed beyond expression. There are songs here that so deeply describe the love of God, the suffering and triumph of Jesus Christ, the beauty of the church and the Christian’s experience. These hymns, with their words and haunting melodies, have brought me closer to my Savior. When something does all that, it is well worth preserving. 

In His service,

David Montgomery