Songwriter Series #2: Vep Ellis

Vesphew Benton “Vep” Ellis was a Church of God preacher who just happened to be one of the most prolific gospel songwriters of the middle of the 20th century.  He was one of the most significant figures of the golden era of the gospel singing conventions.  During his time as music director of the Tennessee Music and Printing Company, he was instrumental in the publication of the classic red-back Church Hymnal, a book around which I and a host of others grew up.  About a dozen of his songs were included in the redback, but some of his most well-know songs were not.  Vep Ellis seems to me to have been more versatile than many of his convention songwriting contemporaries.  His songs were not just fast-paced burners with counterpoints; many of his best songs were slower or mid-tempo, and many of them had lyrical quality that surpassed the standard for convention songs.  Here’s a look at some of the Vep Ellis songs in my collection.  What are some of your favorites?

Unique songs in collection: 26

Total songs (including duplicate versions): 62

Most common artists:

  • Gaither Homecoming Friends – 12

Songs recorded by 3+ artists (# of versions):

  • “The Love of God” (8)
  • “I Know He Heard My Prayer” (6)
  • “I’m Free Again” (5)
  • “When He Calls I’ll Fly Away” (5)
  • “Heaven’s Joy Awaits” (5)
  • “If Jesus Is There” (3)

Oldest recording: “At the End of the Trail”, Blackwood Brothers, 1953

Newest recording: “This Great Caravan Keeps on Rolling Along”, New Gospel Singing Caravan, Keeps on Rolling Along, 2011

Personal Favorites, with favorite version:

  1. “The Love of God”, Gaither Vocal Band, I Do Believe, 2000
  2. “I Know He Heard My Prayer”, Gaither Homecoming Friends, So Glad!, 1999
  3. “I’m Free Again”, Gold City, Camp Meetin’, 2002
  4. “Heaven’s Joy Awaits”, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Heaven’s Joy Awaits, 1987
  5. “I’m in a New World”, Greater Vision, Church Hymnal Series Volume 1, 1996