Behind the Song: Just a Little Talk with Jesus

Just a Little Talk with Jesus is one of those songs I love to warm up with when sitting down to play the piano. Many quartets love to sing this song and have fun with it.

The song was written by Rev. Cleavant Derricks, pastor of a small African-American church in Alabama.

Rev. Cleavant Derricks

Cleavant Derricks was born On May 13, 1910 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

He wrote Just a Little Talk with Jesus in the midst of the Great Depression. We do not know the exact circumstances and the accounts I’ve found vary from writing the song for his church to being inspired when he discovered $5 on the street he was sweeping.

What is known is that his church members needed new hymnals. Money was already tight during these difficult times, but the church was in terrible need of new hymnals.

During the 1930s, Rev. Derricks is said to travel the southeast to many churches where he performed his songs and many others.

Rev. Derricks found a publisher, Stamps-Baxter, and contacted them. He stated he needed hymnals and did not have the money to purchase them, while offering a bargain. Would the publisher accept his song to provide hymnals for his church?

The publisher reviewed his song, not wanting the majority of them, but there were two songs they agreed to purchase. One of these songs was Just a Little Talk with Jesus.

Just a Little Talk with Jesus was published by Stamps-Baxter Music Company in 1936.

Rev. Derricks is said to have received fifty hymnals in exchange for the rights to his song.

Within just a few years the song had become one of the best loved southern gospel songs.

Rev. Derricks pastored churches throughout Tennessee and also a church in Washington, D.C.

Rev. Derricks went on to marry and have a family. His twin sons became actors.

One report says that in January 1975, he was in need of money and approached Canaan Records in Nashville. He admitted he was gun shy from not writing songs in so long but asked if he could publish some songs. Canaan Records confirmed his identity and they recorded several demos and albums with Rev. Derricks.

He died on April 14, 1977 and is described as an “unassuming, quiet, meek black man who was very likable and easy to be around. He seemed to be pleased enough that his music had found a wide acceptance as payment enough.” He wrote over 450 songs throughout his life.

Two other well known songs written by Cleavant Derricks are “We’ll Soon Be Done with Troubles and Trials” and “When God Dipped His Love in My Heart.”


The writer of Just a Little Talk with Jesus lived in near poverty while his song rose in popularity #songstory Share on X


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