No. 955



If you have ever heard and appreciated the song “Precious Lord” reported to have been written and sung by Tommy Dorsey, the big band leader, you will enjoy a story I read about it some time ago. There is an unusual twist to this story and I will tell it to you at the end of the column.
The story begins, “Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie, and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was the featured solo at a large revival meeting.
“I did not want to go. Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66. However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. When I got there and picked up my case, I had an uneasy feeling, but put it out of my mind.
“The next night in the St. Louis heat, the crowd called me back to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a small boy came up to me with a Western Union Telegram. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words, YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. When I finally got home, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy, yet that same night the baby had also died. For the next several days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice and I beat myself up unmercifully with words like, ‘If I had paid more attention to Him that day, I could have stayed and been with Nettie when she died’.
“The following Saturday evening a friend took me to Maloney’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head the words just seemed to fall into place. ‘Precious Lord; take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired. I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home’. This was the birth of the song, ‘Precious Lord.’
“Without a doubt, the Lord gave me these words and melody. He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to his restoring power. And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day when He will take me and gently lead me home.”
Now, here is the unusual twist that I promised to share regarding this song. While many people attribute the song “Precious Lord” to Tommy Dorsey, the big band leader, this is not true. From that era what many people do not know is that there were two Tommy Dorseys. Tommy Dorsey, the big band leader, was born Nov. 19, 1905, and was the brother of another big band leader, Jimmy Dorsey. Tommy, heavily sedated by sleeping pills following a big meal, choked to death on Nov. 26, 1956. On the other hand, Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Ga., on July 1, 1899, and there was a very easy way to tell them apart -- Tommy Dorsey, the big band leader was white, while Thomas “Tommy” Andrew Dorsey was black. They both made a real contribution to the music world.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)