There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down: Three Days Left

Brother Claude Ely, 1953

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

There’s a straight line between Jonathan Edwards and Elvis Presley. There couldn’t be the second without the first. But, you don’t just jump from “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God” to “All Shook Up.” There’s more than one link in the chain, but my favorite perhaps is Brother Claude Ely.

Ely was a Holiness revival preacher who the phrase “rave on” could have been coined about. He was a big meaty guy with a gold tooth who wore his cowboy hat cocked to the side and his guitar slung across his back. He was the real thing and rode a circuit through Appalachia singing and preaching and saving thousands. Faith like his can’t be manufactured or made up.

When he was a boy he was diagnosed with tuberculosis which at the time was usually a death sentence. After a miraculous healing he sat down and wrote “There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down,” and promised a life to preaching the word. Instead he worked the local coal mines and fought in WWII. After his discharge he went back into the mines and in 1949 was caught in what should have been a fatal cave-in. He was spared a second time. No one needed to tell him again. The recording below comes from October 1953 and its hard to believe something this loose, this raw could have come out of a studio. It’s easy to believe that people freaked over him.

There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down

Brother Claude Ely doesn’t need a church decoding the bible mathematically. He wouldn’t understand the question are you ready? He wasn’t an Us vs Them kind of guy. He was a reach down and grab you by the scruff of the neck on his way up man. It doesn’t matter if you believe or if you don’t believe, Ely does enough believing for everyone.

The story pauses on May 7th, 1978 where in the front of Holiness congregation Ely sang “Where Could I Go But To The Lord” and halfway through suffered a massive heart attack and died. It was even recorded. Listening to his music sometimes I think if Jesus doesn’t come back soon Brother Claude is just going to take matters into his own hands and dig himself out of his own grave.

There’s a fine book written on the life of Brother Claude Ely by his great nephew Macel Ely rightfully titled “Ain’t No Grave.” Macel tells the story that at one of his visits to his Uncle’s grave he found a handwritten note reading:

“Dear Brother Ely, You sung it and preached it to us. I know one day you’ll come up out of this here ground.”

Post Script ~ One thing Elvis knew without question, one thing that never left him was source material. Below is a cleaned up Holiness number Elvis and the boys did in 1959 and below that is Ely’s dirt-under-the-nails version from 1953. Good stuff.

Elvis Presley “We’re Gonna Move”

Brother Claude Ely “There’s A Leak In This Old Building”


About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down: Three Days Left

  1. Jeff Silverman says:

    Brother Claude Ely was a great artist. I read the book and really enjoyed it. Thanks for this post. We need more artists like Brother Ely. Raw – Real – and Ready!

  2. Chris says:

    I was trying to remember where I’d heard of Brother Claude before, and then I did. Apparently “There Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down” was one of Gary Stewart’s favorites.

    • iaanhughes says:

      Nice link, I’ve not seen that before. I do love Gary Stewart though and I’d love to hear him singing There Ain’t No Grave. I doesn’t seem like he recorded commercially though, have you heard a version by him?

      • Chris says:

        No. I’d sure like to, though.

        Have you ever heard this? I don’t know that Grandma’s Roadhouse is quite the lost masterpiece some have made it out to be — sounds to me more like an Alabaman Guess Who than anything else — but you need to hear Gary singing “Drinkin’ Them Squeezins” (and you can, here. The owner of Delmore Records, Mark Linn, tells me he’s working on a compilation of unreleased Gary Stewart he hopes to have out in the fall.

      • iaanhughes says:

        I’ve heard of Grandma’s Roadhouse, but never put my ears on it. Drinkin’ Them Squeezins is definitely the best of the three tracks posted. I feel like it may show up on a Sunday morning show in the next couple of weeks.

  3. Bruce says:

    “its hard to believe something this loose, this raw could have come out of a studio” as a matter of fact it didn’t

    “[Syd Nathan of King Records]recorded Brother Claude Ely at a church revival via a wire that ran through the radio station WCTW out of Whitesburg, Kentucky. On these recordings Brother Claude and his guitar are backed by a rockin’ mandolin player whose name has been lost to time, and a female vocal group called the Cumberland Four.”

    This bit of info was stolen from a post on Brother Claude found on “The Hound Blog” It’s worth a read.

  4. Pingback: The Second Coming Redux; Yeats, Schulz and Me « The Real Mr. Heartache

  5. Pingback: Smush(ed) « The Real Mr. Heartache

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s