Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bio of Charlie D. Tillman, gospel composer, in The Choir Herald

Short biography of Charlie D. Tillman, noted composer of gospel songs, found in the March 1947 issue of The Choir Herald.


A number of well-known gospel songs have been set to music by Rev. Charlie D. Tillman.  Mr. Tillman was born March 20, 1861 at Tallasee, Alabama, a son of Rev. James L. Tillman.  With few advantages for an education in the rural district where his boyhood was spent, the influences of his home in a Christian family and the travels of his parents as they held evangelistic services developed his love for music and at last settled his life work as a preacher and music leader in revival meetings.  He was a house painter for two years, then spent several years as a traveling salesman for a music company in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He sang comic songs on a traveling wagon advertising Wizard Oil, joined a male quartet as a tenor singer, and gave concerts.  All of this experience gradually led to his determination to devote his time and talents to Christian work.  He began his singing career in 1887, later established a publishing business in Atlanta, Georgia, and has edited more than a score of books, which have had a wide circulation, especially in the southern states.  "Life's Railway to Heaven", written by a railroad man, M. E. Abbey, and dedicated to railroad men, is sung to Mr. Tillman's music.  "The Old Time Religion" s one of his earliest songs, c. 1891.

It is said that while he and his father were conducting a tent revival meeting in Lexington, South Carolina, they lent their tent to the Negroes for a Sunday afternoon service, and that "The Old Time Religion" was there sung.  At the close of the meeting Mr. Tillman had the Negro song leader hum the melody, so that he could jot it down note by note.  Before this time the song had never appeared in print, but since then it has been published in many gospel song books and translated into many languages.  "The Old Time Power" has gained popularity for the reason that it is thoroughly scriptural.  A recent book, "His Praise", 1916, compiled by Mr. Tillman contains many of his pieces.  One of the songs of Mrs. Morris is there used with music by Mr. Tillman's daughter Jewel Dodge Tillman.  Another song by Mr. Tillman refers to prayer, "Unanswered Yet", and the chorus carries the assurance, "You shall have your desire, sometime".  "My Mother's Bible", beginning, "There's a dear and precious book", written by an evangelist, M. B. Williams, with whom Mr. Tillman was associated, has become very popular, as it recalls may incidents familiar in the homes of an older generation.

From online research, hopefully correct:

Charlie D. Tillman was born 20 March 1861 in Tallasee, Alabama, the son of James Lafayette Tillman and his wife Mary Fletcher (Davis) Tillman.  Charlie's paternal grandparents were David Ellison Tillman and his wife Rebecca (Douglas) Tillman.  Charlie's maternal grandparents were John and Mary (Portis) Davis.

Charlie married Annie, maiden name and parents unknown, in 1889 and had five children, one of whom was daughter Jewel Dodge Tillman, mentioned above.

If you have any corrections, additions or insights regarding the information presented above, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

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