Hymn Story: I’d Rather Have Jesus

George Beverly Shea is known for his strong, booming baritone voice.

He ministered alongside Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows, often singing right before Rev. Graham stepped to the podium.

Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea

One of his best known songs, was I’d Rather Have Jesus.

Bev Shea had been singing since he was a young man in the Wesleyan Methodist churches were his father was a minister.  He was forced to leave college and work in an insurance office as a young man, due to the family’s financial needs. But, that did not stop him from singing.  He continued to sing in churches and for Christian radio programs, which led to the unexpected offer of an audition in New York City.  He was offered a substantial salary and wide recognition for this secular singing position and prayed long and hard, in making this difficult decision.

Mrs. Rhea F. Miller

Bev Shea’s mother often would leave poems and quotes around the house that she collected, in order to spiritually guide him.  One Sunday, as Bev was preparing for the  morning service, he found a poem his mother had left for him.

The poem, written by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, was I’d Rather Have Jesus. He was immediately impressed with the words and so “deeply moved” that he began to compose music for the lines.

George Beverly Shea

That same day, he sung the song in his father’s church service.

When Bev Shea signed with RCA Victor, I’d Rather Have Jesus was chosen to spotlight their new singer.

Bev Shea commented, “Over the years, I’ve not sung any song more than I’d Rather Have Jesus,” but I never tire of Mrs. Miller’s heartfelt words.”

He allowed these words to guide and direct him as a young man, and we {the world} are better off for it.  Otherwise he may never have teamed up with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades and shared such a powerful message with the world in song.

I’d Rather Have Jesus became his musical “theme song” for audiences around the world.

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