Unusual First Lines

Songwriters are always looking for creative ways to make a song memorable. Second only to a memorable title is a memorable opening line, and Southern Gospel has quite a few memorable opening lines. These four particularly stand out:

  • “Bring me my books and my overcoat”
  • “I can’t bear to stay in this house alone”
  • “Somethin’s happenin’, folks are going crazy”
  • “War is on the front page”

So, just for fun … how fast can you all name the songs that begin with these memorable lines?

And what are some of the other most unusual first lines in Southern Gospel?


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115 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I know #3, but stumped on the others.

  2. The most unusual (to me) opening line I can think of right now is “Build an ark! Head for the open water!”

    • There’s also “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention,” but Cathedrals nuts like you and me would get it and the one you mentioned right off!

  3. Here’s one: “Sayin’ hello (hello)…hello (sayin’ hello)” πŸ™‚

    • Yes, that one definitely deserves a place in this discussion!

    • Gold City – “Hello in Heaven”?….

      • Yes, sir!

      • I always enjoyed the Freemans version better.

      • Yeah I think most folks will remember The Freemans’ version over the Gold City version. Probably their biggest hit to date…

  4. Of course with me being the huge Kingdom Heirs fan that I am the “Something’s happenin’ folks are goin’ crazy” is from “Where’s John” featuring the one and only Jeff Chapman!!

    • I knew you’d get that one! I suspect you’d get several of the others, too, if you thought about them for a few minutes.

      • LOL! I know and it is frustrating me because I can’t think of them right now! I’ve still got taxes on the brain!! πŸ™

      • Can’t blame you!

  5. “Well, they call me the undertaker. I’m the last one to let you down.”

    • Good one! I’ve heard it before – Eric Bennett’s voice, perhaps? – but I can’t place it right now.

      • Yes Daniel that is “The Undertaker” by Eric Bennett off of their “Love Came Calling” album I believe.

      • Ah, yes! That’s it!

  6. A man was being buried, placed in another’s grave. That one sounds unusual… Something Going on in the graveyard.

    • Yes, that one is. πŸ™‚

      • This is the first one that came to my mind, too. Funny that someone else would think of it being as it is such an obscure, older song!

  7. Is “War is on the front page” the song that Jerry Martin sang with the Dove Brothers “A Little Good News?”

  8. Bring me my books……the martins, Timothy’s burden.

    • You got it! I thought that one would be the hardest!

  9. “War is on the front page…” is from a song called “No News is Good News”….i believe that was done by The Cathedrals??

    • You got it! Since it was a Cathedrals song – from the ’90s, no less – I was wondering how long it would take!

      • I believe that it was written by Dianne Wilkinson.

      • Yes, indeed!

  10. I got Timothy’s Burden, but that’s it.

    • I thought that would be the hard one!

      Turns out that a Cathedrals song is the one that’s the last holdout!

      • I’ll admit to using a Google search for this one….”With Him” by The Cathedrals from waaaayyy back….in like 1976

      • You got it! (Or should I give Google the credit?) πŸ™‚

      • With Him, by Tracy Dartt – the same guy who wrote God on the Mountain and another old hit by the Cathedrals, The Last Sunday.

      • Yes, sir!

  11. Actually, the google search led me to this site….

  12. Popular song…but, “I walked by the tomb of Budah, looked inside and saw his bones” could catch one a little off guard.

    • I think that opening line plays no small role in why it’s a great song!

      • Correct. For context completely explains the first line, but it is an interesting first line. Great song.

      • Agreed!

  13. “Just a tiny little boy stood in tears on a busy street corner…”

    • Gold City- can’t recall the official name- take me to the cross and I’ll find my way home….

      • “Show Me the Cross” off their Standing in the Gap CD. It was the first song I remember knowing it was Mark Trammell singing it and that if I ever sang baritone I would want to do it like him.

  14. Two little boys were staring at the candy on display…..

    • “I Would” by Daryl Mosley, sung by Ronnie Booth on his self-titled CD. Good song!

  15. One of my favorites is “At this hour, there are reports from literally thousands of cemeteries..” (Left Behind- Steeles)

    “Put me down; my family gave up hope and put me down” – “Put Me Down” (Hinsons)
    “Call me a dreamer, but I call it mine.” – “Call Me Gone” (Hinsons)
    “For the life of me I cannot find a reason..just why a royal King would leave his throne.” – “For the Life of Me” (Susan Whisnant) *This one sounds strange because the first part is sung before the second half. Radio listeners would find this intriguing.

    • “Call Me Gone” was one of the first ones that came to my mind for this post.

  16. Wellllllllllllll, Don’t you know that it’s high.

    • I think you have to go through the first several lines before that one makes sense! πŸ™‚

    • SING IT RAY!!!!!!!!!!

  17. “Turn just a little to your left…”

    • The Cross Has Won Again (?) At least, that’s my instant reaction. Now to see if I’m right!

  18. Cross Has Won Again
    -Larry Gatlin

    • I always think of the Kingsmen rendition!

      • I am pretty sure Chris is thinking of their version as well (lol). IMO one of the best songs the Kingsmen ever recorded. I think we sometimes forget what a great songwriter Larry Gatlin was/is.

  19. “Like Onesimus I ran away…”

    “Go plead with your mother were the words of Hosea…”

    • The second tune is “I’ve Come to Take You Home” by the Isaacs/Crabb Family. Not sure about the other, though.

      • I’m with you there. I thought of #2 right off and still haven’t placed #1.

      • Well, there’s only one Bible book that talks about Onesimus a lot, and according to you, there’s only one song based from that book, so… πŸ™‚

      • Well… I can’t find any others. And I’m not sure I was the one to find that one! πŸ™‚ But that doesn’t mean that I say that there are certainly no others! πŸ™‚

  20. As earthly men we are worried about the prices that surround us, were lined up at the station buying gas we can’t afford.

  21. “It was at a little front porch sale, she stopped to look around…”

    • Two Shoes – Inspirations! Got that one immediately. Not so some of the surrounding ones!

  22. A Farmer and a teacher,a hooker and a preacher

    • Three Wooden Crosses – Randy Travis

  23. I saw two little feet,walking in my footsteps

  24. Here’s one of the all-time notable ones: “The marketplace is empty, no more traffic in the streets…”

    • Yes, sir – pretty much everyone could guess that one correctly, but it still deserves its place in the list.

  25. “I have seen the ruined lives…”

  26. “‘Register here,’ the sign reads in the parlor…”

    • Earth’s Loss, Heaven’s Gain -Singing Cookes

  27. Pretty easy one

    I was driving around down south Louisiana
    Stopped in a town called Galliano

    • I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em – Gaither Vocal Band!

  28. Here’s a new one that’s getting attention on KWFC radio here in the Ozarks:

    “Got up this morning, kissed my boyfriend goodbye……”

    • We must have hit “submit” at the same time! LOL

    • Proud of that song – – my wife Jennifer wrote it…


  29. I don’t know how a man can go from here up to the moon

  30. Another great topic, Daniel. There’s a song out right now called “You Might Have Heard Of Me” by a wonderful Christian Country Gospel group from Laurel, MS called Stubborn Love. The first time I heard this song on the radio, I was totally caught off guard. The first line is “Woke up this morning, kissed my boyfriend good-bye.” I’m sure I gasped in shock, because unless my ears deceived me, it sure sounded like the girl in this song had spent the night with her boyfriend. Turns out, after listening on, she had! It was a story about the woman at the well. LOL! It’s a great song, and I was drawn in by that first line that caught my attention—certainly not the average opening line of your typical gospel song, but a very effective one, I must say.

    • Hmm. I guess that’s one way to get a song attention! Wow.

      • Well, to be honest, righteous indignation quickly turned to conviction right in my car. For you see, at first I was appalled that our gospel station would stoop to playing a song about “a woman with a live-in,” but the more the song developed and the subject was revealed, not only did I find myself appreciating the clever way it was so well- written, it also caused me to bow my head and ask for forgiveness for being so quick to judge. What if God had judged the woman as quickly as I did that first line of the song? I’m so glad He showed her mercy and gave her Living water. The more I live, the more I realize 1) how very, very human I am, 2) Jesus probably would not have hung around us Christians much if he were living as a human on Earth today, and 3) how very, very thankful I am for grace and that He loves me in spite of myself.

      • Yup, a song that grabs your attention right away. Several are quick to judge the song, and listeners have called in, not really paying attention to the message.

        Just think of all those other stories in our Bible that we’d be quick to judge on… what great love, mercy and compassion our Christ has!

  31. Hey Daniel,

    These topics like this are really educational for me as far as getting caught up on such great songs and artist. Being out of the loop for 20 years then jumping right back in over the last 18 months is a shock to my system. I really appreciate everyone’s input on these and other topics you come up with I have managed to catch up on a lot by reading your blog. May God continue to bless your efforts here and all who are involved.


    • Joe,

      You’re welcome! Of course, I try to do a fair amount of serious commentary, but fun topics like these on occasion are, well fun! πŸ™‚

  32. If you going to Chicago, or even out to Fargo there’s a million ways that you can get there…

  33. Not sure how strange this one is but I think it’s different…

    “Every time I look at the morning paper…”

    • It’s certainly different. I can remember the melody on that one, but I can’t place the song just now.

    • That’s the Collingsworths’ “I Know”.

  34. Well, this is “plumb pitiful” as we say down South, Daniel. I knew “War is on the front page” was one of mine, and I knew it was on the “Raise the Roof record”. Couldn’t think of the title! Don’t you think I would have remembered if I had spent a little more time (hahaha)????

    • Oh, my! That is funny! πŸ™‚

    • I can understand how, if you’ve written hundreds or thousands, they could start to run together.

  35. “Lock me up in a prison, and throw away the key…”

    • That I Could Still Go Free – Hinsons

      • The Hinsons had a lot of good opening lines – “Some lawyers can win and the doctor can heal…” One of my favorites was “Well I was headed for my mail box, met the landlord on the way…”

  36. No one got this one:

    I don’t know how a man can go from here up to the moon

    • I’m Glad I Know Jesus – The only version I have personally heard is from one of Signature Sounds first table projects back when Taco was still there. I always liked Tim’s solo line in the middle of that one! “…I’ve never been the saaaaaaaame” (if memory serves)!

      • Correct on all accounts.

  37. Another very recognizable song, but could fall into the catagory of unique begininning: “Their chains were fastened tight down at the jail that night.”

    Listening to Pandora and heard that song. Reminded me of this post…

  38. I got Timothy’s Burden first thing, but when we were kids my parents played that “Martins: LIVE” cassette in the car all the time. I think I can still sing all the songs on it. Great song, Timothy’s Burden is. Thanks for the reminder πŸ™‚

    • I don’t have the live version of that song! But I love the studio version.

  39. My favorite first line is, “You may say it’s none of my business” from Greater Vision’s ‘I Want To Know That You Know.’ πŸ™‚

  40. The most awkward Christmas intro/opening line is Jeff & Sheri’s tune, “Hay Baby.” That one may just get my vote for the most awkward opening line ever.

    • I know this is an older topic, but this one just popped into my head recently

      “The oceans give up all the dead that are in them….”

  41. Here’s one of my favorites: “I first met his Mama, when she was just 19; couldn’t say for certain who the father was.”

    • Is that the Christian Davis song “Raise Him Up”?

      • Yep! That song definitely sounds a bit strange at first…really hits you hard by the second verse though.

      • It’s definitely unusual, but seems to work very will with the approach he has for that project.

  42. Another good one: “A farmer cannot be successful without the rain, and it can’t rain without an overcast sky.”

  43. I seem to be doing this alot but I just had another thought about something that fits perfectly into this older discussion. This has to be one of the most shocking and unusual opening lines to a southern gospel song.

    “Satan knew my Grandma well….”

    • Yes, that one is one of the all-time most memorable opening lines. πŸ™‚

      The song started out as a Bluegrass song, with a Grascals version before Three Bridges cut it.