The Great Speckled Bird (song)

The Great Speckled Bird (song)

"The Great Speckled Bird"
Song by Roy Acuff (1936)
Form AABA 12 bars
Writer Guy Smith
Language English
Recorded by Johnny Cash, Nokie Edwards and The Light Crust Doughboys
Performed by Nokie Edwards and The Light Crust Doughboys

"The Great Speckled Bird" is a hymn from the Southern United States whose lyrics were written by the Reverend Guy Smith. It is an allegory referencing Fundamentalist self-perception during the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy.[1] The song is in the form of AABA and has a 12 bar count. It is based on Jeremiah 12:9, "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour." It was recorded in 1936 by Roy Acuff. It was also later recorded by Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells (both in 1959), Pearly Brown (1961), Hank Locklin (1962), Marty Robbins (1966), Lucinda Williams (1978), Bert Southwood (1990), Marion Williams, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The tune is the same apparently traditional melody used in the song "Thrills That I Can't Forget," recorded by Welby Toomey and Edgar Boaz for Gennett in 1925, and the song "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes," originally recorded by the Carter family for Victor in 1929. The same melody was later used in the 1952 country hit "The Wild Side of Life," sung by Hank Thompson, and the even more successful "answer song" performed by Kitty Wells called "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" in the same year. A notable instrumental version is found on the Grammy Award-Nominated album 20th Century Gospel by Nokie Edwards and The Light Crust Doughboys on Greenhaw Records.[2]

The connection between these songs is noted in the David Allan Coe song "If That Ain't Country" that ends with the lyrics "I'm thinking tonight of my blue eyes/ And finding the great speckled bird/ I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels/ and went back to the wild side of life."

Both the song "The Great Speckled Bird" and the passage from Jeremiah may be a poetic description of mobbing behavior.[3]

Published Versions

The interpretation as it was meant, is of a mobbing of the false churches against the true Church, the Bride of Christ.

The Great Speckled Bird in these lyrics represents the body of Christ and the song speaks of the rapture of His Church before the Great Tribulation period.

1.What a beautiful thought I am thinking concerning a great speckled bird Remember her name is recorded On the pages of God's Holy Word. (The Church is identified and spoke of in the Bible)

2. All the other birds are flocking 'round her And she is despised by the squad But the great speckled bird in the Bible Is one with the great church of God. (The true Church is badgered to leave Her doctrine and become as the others)

3. All the other churches are against her They envy her glory and fame They hate her because she is chosen And has not denied Jesus' name. (The false churches, the religious, who have no Oil when He comes, are jealous of the Bride)

4. Desiring to lower her standard They watch every move that she makes They long to find fault with her teachings But really they find no mistake. (Other birds and beasts, false churches and God-Haters, mock and tempt her to become as the number)

5. She is spreading her wings for a journey She's going to leave by and by When the trumpet shall sound in the morning She'll rise and go up in the sky. (There will be a meeting in the air when The Father sends Jesus to meet His Bride)

6. In the presence of all her despisers With a song never uttered before She will rise and be gone in a moment Till the great tribulation is o'er. (While the wicked earth suffers the Great Tribulation, the Church will be in Heaven for the wedding. Then, will return to earth with Christ for 1000 years)

7. I am glad I have learned of her meekness I am proud that my name is on her book For I want to be one never fearing The face of my Savior to look. ("The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge", Those who are written in the Book fear Him.)

8. When He cometh descending from heaven On the cloud that He writes in His Word I'll be joyfully carried to meet Him On the wings of that great speckled bird. (The Church will rise up together to meet Him when he comes to rapture His Church.)

  • March 26, 1936 Aurora, Missouri 'Advertiser'
  • 1937 M.M. Cole Publishing Company, Chicago attributes music to Roy Acuff, words to Guy Smith.[4]


  1. ^ See "Radio: Opry Night," Time Magazine, Monday, Jan. 29, 1940. and Russell Moore, The Cross and the Jukebox: The Great Speckled Bird, Feb. 5, 2011.
  2. ^ and official records, The Recording Academy
  3. ^ JA Emerton (1969). "Notes on Jeremiah 12 9 and on some suggestions of J. D. Michaelis about the Hebrew words naḥā, ‘abrā, and ja jadă".  
  4. ^ Vance Randolph, 'Ozark Folk Songs' University of Missouri Press, 1980 ISBN 0-8262-0297-7 OCLC 6442634