Larry Hamblen and Jerry Hamblen
(cousins in the flesh, brothers in the Lord)

by Jerry Hamblen
 

Larry pastors Jesus First Church, Eagar, AZ
Jerry formerly pastored Open Door Community Church of Shingletown, California

    For years, even back as far as my early childhood when I, (Jerry) was taking piano lessons, I  enjoyed the "musical discipline" of improvisation--making up melodies and chords. I think my mother didn't consider it a "musical discipline"; for I vaguely remember some disparaging comments from her about my "pecking around on the piano." "Driving her crazy" would probably have been more accurate.

    Since then, it has been enjoyable and relaxing for me to sit down at the piano and create melodies or re-harmonize hymns. For Music Theory class in 1976, I did compose some tunes; but only one had lyrics, and those were taken from a poem in a Child Craft book. It wasn't until January 19, 1994 that I made a serious effort at writing a Christian song, including the words and music.

    I went home from midweek Bible study that night with some concepts from Hebrews 8:7-8 ringing in my mind.  God's first covenant, the Law of Moses, was "faulty", not because there was anything wrong with the Law but because of man's inability to keep the Law. A cross-reference I used was Romans 7:10 "And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death." Perhaps I used the cliche: "People don't break God's Law; God's Law breaks people."  I sat down at the piano, and created my first Christian composition, His Artistry At Work, the first line of which begins "The Law of the Lord had broken my soul, I could not live up to His righteous goal." In the next few days, I completed the lyrics and put the melody down on staff paper by hand, a slow job. I sang the song at Open Door Community Church in one of our Sunday evening services. But that's as far as it went.
(Other than being introduced by a church member to computer software enabling me to produce printed sheet music was professional in appearance.)

    A short time later, I wrote another song, Remember Me, a communion song. We used it soon at Open Door during a communion service. As I played through the first verse, the elders distributed the bread. Then I sang the first verse, and, at the close of that verse, we ate the bread.  The music key moved up a half step, and I played the second verse while the elders distributed the cup. Again, at the close of the verse about the cup, the congregation partook of the cup. I then added the closing verse. It turned out so well that I distributed some copies to the pastors at one of our local Conservative Baptist Association fellowships. I also sent a copy of the song to "cousin Larry."

    Until that point, Larry was not aware of my improvisations on the piano; and I had no idea he was a poet. He liked my song, and, by return mail, sent me several of his poems. And that's how we began collaborating on music.

    Larry had been writing poetry for some time. He had even tried to get the worship leader at a former church he had pastored to put some of his poems to music. But nothing had come of it; so Larry's file of poetry had just kept growing larger. We had plenty of material to work with.

    Composing a musical score for Larry's poetry and entering it into the computer by hand was a slow, tedious process. Since music could also be played into the computer program using a MIDI keyboard--a faster process, I borrowed a keyboard and began learning how to link the MIDI keyboard with the computer and Music Time. When we found out how much the MIDI keyboard hastened note entry, my wife and I bought a digital piano (May 21, 1995). I learned to create music on the digital piano, save it as a MIDI file on 3 ½" computer disk, transfer it to the Music Time program, and edit the file for top-class sheet music.

    I do not remember for which of Larry's lyrics I first composed music. Larry's wife, Leigh, and my wife, Carol, both have musical abilities and have offered many suggestions to improve our music.  By the end of 1995, we had published a book containing our first 24 songs.  We ordered one hundred copies, and Larry sent one to the Library of Congress for copyright.  Our names were registered in the Library of Congress. AWESOME!

    Somewhere in the phone calls between Larry and me, the name Hamblen & Hamblen Music was suggested; I do not remember by whom.

    I also made digital piano tracks of arrangements for these 24 songs, recorded them on tape, and then overlaid it with my own voice.  Several church members asked for copies, which I sold for $2. It was not a "studio-quality" tape, but several have expressed how much they have enjoyed it.

    Larry developed an interest in seeing if any of the major music distributors would be interested in our music.

    Larry began to sell his half of the 100 books we published ourselves; but he also gave books to people who might distribute our music.  I did likewise. Between the books sold and the books given away, we probably just about broke even.

    I took a copy with me to a Maranatha Music workshop and gave it to "Mother Maranatha", but received not even so much as a rejection slip (no criticism).

    At Larry's urging, I sent a copy of the book and tape to Genevox Music, the music publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. On July 11, 1996, Genevox wrote a letter to me expressing interest in publishing "Reign in this Heart of Mine" in "Let There Be Praise"--a collection of 12 new praise and worship choruses released every three months. Carol and I couldn't believe it! It wasn't certain, but it surely sounded good to us.

    I believe I received that letter on Tuesday, July 16th. Carol and I were excited; but I couldn't call Larry because he and Leigh, had left home in Coronado and were in Ripon, California, headed for our house on Wednesday. I was so elated I barely let them in the house Wednesday before I told Larry I had a letter I wanted him to read. He read it and thought I had made it up, color print and logo and all (You never know what computers can do these days). It took a few minutes before I could convince him it was real.

    Well, "Reign in This Heart of Mine" was published in April, 1997. WOW!  We were told that First Call was the singing group that made the vocal track. The packet included the tape, the sheet music, and masters for duplicating the words onto transparencies for overhead projection.  We've sent our music to about 20 other music publishers--publishers who will accept unsolicited manuscripts, and so far only "Reign..." is our only song to be published.

    Larry sold or gave away all his copies of our book. I sold or gave away all but about  ten.  As we have made song sheets of our music and used them in our own congregations, a few visitors have taken the music to their own churches.

    When our book was published, I registered our songs with CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.)--an organization that offers a license to churches, for a minimal fee, allowing that church to use copyrighted music and lyrics in their worship services. When I told Larry I was registering our music with CCLI, he wasn't impressed. I ultimately signed five contracts with CCLI, one for the U.S., and the other four for other CCLI organizations in foreign countries.

    In March, 1997, Hamblen & Hamblen Music received a letter from CCLI stating that the royalty amounts for our songs did not exceed $10, and they wouldn't send us a royalty check until we were over $10. Guess we had a few cents royalties from the times we had used our music in our own churches. Oh, well . . .

    In April, 1997, our first royalties for "Reign in This Heart of Mine" came from Genevox Music. The tape and packet was not suppose to ship until April, but they had shipped 6 in March. Larry and I each got checks for 40¢. Let's see. That's 40 divided by 6. That's between 6 and 7¢ per unit. Whoopee. I don't think we could afford to resign our churches and go on the road with our music!

    The BIG week thus far came in August of 1997.

    On August 20th, at 11:15 a.m., "Reign in This Heart of Mine" was played over Christian radio station, KVIP, which reaches Northern California and Southern Oregon. Again, WOW! We had submitted a copy of the professional tape to the station for review about two months earlier. They liked it, and converted it to CD (their music format). I was at the church office when Carol called our church secretary, Ruth, to tell her it was on the air; but Ruth had already noticed it. She paged me, saying, "Come in here!" Ruth never talks that way. I responded, "Just a minute." She followed up with, "Come in here this minute. Your song is on the radio." Needless to say, I quit what I was doing and walked quickly to Ruth's office.

    Just three days later, on Saturday evening, August 23rd, Kary and Todd (our daughter and son-in-law) told us their pastor had discovered "Reign..." in the fall issue of Let's Worship, a Southern Baptist magazine containing worship ideas.

    The surprising thing to us is how 100 the books we published (or the song sheets that visitors to ours or other churches have taken home with them) have travelled as far as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan,  (according to the CCLI report).  All glory to God.

    April, 1998, saw our second book printed. It contained 34 new songs plus the 24 from our first book, and this time we had 150 copies printed. Larry has been to a number of conferences with big name music people, and he has distributed to them about 60 copies.

     For Father's Day, 1998, my daughter, Krystal Luaces, created a simple web page for us. Since then, I have been working to expand and improve our website, and to get our music on the site via MIDI files. Ultimately, we hope to have all our music on this site and make it available to the glory of God. Since the website began, we have enjoyed visits to it from 52 foreign countries: Canada, Germany, the UK, Antigua/Barbuda, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.

   During the first quarter of 2000, I used Paint Shop Pro to make graphics files of our sheet music, and now sheet music for all of our songs (about 80) is available free on our website.  Our only request is that churches with a CCLI license report the usage of our music to CCLI during their reporting periods.

  We had been wondering why we could not get better listings with the major Internet search engines.  In September, 2000, I discovered that they do not "like" (read that, "will mostly reject") websites with sub-domain addresses like ours: "http://www.shasta.com/jhamblen1."  We needed our own domain name.  David Lassiter, a member of Larry's church in Coronado at the time, had registered a domain name, "http://www.singpraises.com," 18 months before and had put a re-direct link on that site to Hamblen & Hamblen Music.  When we discovered our need for our own Internet domain, Larry asked David, and he graciously consented to give us the domain name.  So, as of late September, Hamblen & Hamblen Music has moved to our own domain: "http://www.singpraises.com" -- thanks to God and thanks to David.

    We have been privileged to grant permission to three parties to use our music on CDs: Ray Richards of Ontario, Canada,  recorded our song, Cross Over the River, on a CD he gives to friends and the seniors he ministers to; Larry Summers of Florida, and "His Lighthouse Quartet" used Cross Over the River, and We Will Shine On; and, to Kelly Witter of Oshkosh, Wisconsin who used "Before the Lord, My Praise Shall Rise, on a CD she and Rebekah Schaalma, Robert Hammond, and Elizabeth Marcy were producing, with the proceeds going for Hurricane Katrina relief.  Wonderful!  PTL.

    Well, now -- it is 2007, and several years down the road -- some things have changed.  I, Jerry, have been mostly disabled by a 24/7 migraine headache over the last four years.  That's the reason why in May, 2006, after 16 wonderful years, I stepped down as Senior Pastor of Open Door Community Church in Shingletown, California -- the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!

    I have seen many doctors from various disciplines, have tried a host of medications, as well as seeing alternative specialists and trying alternative treatments -- all without any significant improvement.  You name it, we've tried it.

    Prayer for me has spread from our church to literally thousands of people.  Our church even went through a time of fasting.

    My wife Carol and I continue to seek to know God's will for our lives.  It may be that God is preparing a way for me to devote more of my time to writing new music, though the 1-2 hours a day that I can be productive leaves little time for music.  Just daily living itself remains a significant struggle for me.

    Early in 2007, I improved the quality of our online sheet music by making it available in PDF format.

    Well, it is now 2010, and we've added some features to our webpages.  Now we are presenting our songs in a couple of different keys for piano and/or guitar.  We are also making lead sheets.  Our guestbook has some 700 entries from all over the world.

    That just about brings you up to date on Hamblen & Hamblen Music.  Thanks for stopping by our website and for reading our history, such as it is.  All glory to God!!!!!!!!

Jerry Hamblen (2/22/2010).