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Heavenly Aeroplane

[ Roud 7384 ; Ballad Index R660 ; Mudcat 589 , 25735 ; John S. McConnell, ca. 1920]

The Watersons sang John S. McConnell’s hymn Heavenly Aeroplane on their 1977 LP and 2007 CD Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy. It was also included in 2004 on the Watersons’ 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

A Holy Roller jewel of the 1930s, what they call a “brush arbour hymn” in the backwoods districts of America. Itinerant evangelists of a kind too modest to use a big tent might select a clearing near a spring and get helpers to build a “tabernickle” consisting of a framework of poles roofed over with leafy branches and lit by kerosene or petrol lamps. Advertisements seen at mountain filling stations as recently as 1976 say: “Please come and bring a carload of unsaved”, or “Talk it up, pray it down, take it in, sing it out.” What gets sung is a mixture of standard hymns filled out with punchy choruses and more or less local compositions of touching naivety. Hymns using symbols from the world of mechanical transport have a venerable enough lineage. The long-lasting favourite Life’s Railway to Heaven was widespread on broadsides in both USA and England in the mid-nineteenth century. A more recent success is The Christian Automobile (“When you get on the road to glory, Satan’s going to try to flag you down.”) Vance Randolph prints a version of Heavenly Aeroplane in his Ozark Folksongs, Vol. IV. His manuscript copy has the note: “Feb 19 1935, Watts, Okla.”

Suzie Adams and Helen Watson sang Heavenly Aeroplane on their 1977 album Songbird.

Note: A 1937 recording by the Early Sons of the Pioneers (Okeh 05725) on Youtube lists their band member Bob Nolan as the author of this song.


The Watersons sing Heavenly Aeroplane

Oh, one of these days around twelve o’clock
The whole wide world will reel and rock
The sinner will tremble and cry for pain
And the Lord will come in his aeroplane

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, you thirsty of every tribe
Get your ticket for an aeroplane ride
Jesus our Saviour is coming to reign
And take you to glory in his aeroplane

Oh, talk of rides in automobiles
Talk of fast times in motor wheels
We’ll break all records as we upwards fly
For an aeroplane joy ride in the sky

You must get ready if you take this ride
Leave all your sins and humble your pride
Furnish a lamp both bright and clean
And a vessel of oil to run the machine

When our journey’s over and we all sit down
At the marriage supper with a robe and crown
We’ll blend our voices with a heavenly throng
And praise our Saviour as the years roll on

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard.

The music for Heavenly Aeroplane.