George Beverly Shea
An insurance man who switched from insuring lives to showing people how to insure their souls, George Beverly Shea is known around the world as “America’s Beloved Gospel Singer.” To Bev Shea, every hymn he sings is a testimony – to the saving power of Christ, and to the singer’s faith in Him. This approach accounts for his reverent treatment of “old favorites” among Gospel hymns as well as newer compositions which carry this message. He has been heard throughout the United States and Canada, in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. Seven networks carry his solos in the famous “Hour of Decision” broadcasts, while shortwave radio sends them around the world. RCA Victor has released more than a dozen LP albums of his recordings.
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the son of a Methodist minister, Bev did his first public singing in the choir of his father’s church in that city. Later, he sang with the famous Houghton (N.Y.) College Glee Club. After leaving Houghton, he worked for nine years in the Head Office of Mutual Life of New York, but continued his music study and was heard over WMCA and WMGM. Mr. Shea auditioned for radio networks but refused two offers that would have required the singing of non-religious songs because he had dedicated his life to the service of Christ. Later, at the invitation of the late Dr. Will Houghton, President of Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, he joined the staff of the Christian station, WMBI, as announcer and soloist.
In Chicago he studied under Gino Monaco, who had been recommended to him by John Charles Thomas. Bev composed the music for “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” one of his best-known solos. Mrs. Rhea H. Miller had written the words, and the singer’s mother had left a copy of them on the piano, where Bev found them. He has never altered the tune which he composed at that time. It has become a favorite with millions and the permanent testimony of his own faith. Other songs written by Mr. Shea are “The Wonder of It All,” “Sing Me a Song of Sharon’s Rose” and “I Love Thy Presence, Lord.” Mr. Shea was for a time a soloist on “Club Time,” second oldest hymn program on commercial radio and carried for eight years over the ABC and Armed Forces Networks and many independent stations.
When Billy Graham, then pastor of the Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois, started his “Songs in the Night” hymn program, he recalled his enjoyment of Bev’s singing and obtained him as soloist. Later, Mr. Shea became the soloist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. Since 1947, Bev Shea and cliff Barrows, choir leader and radio program director, have been the musical nucleus of both the Crusade services and “The Hour of Decision.” Ably supporting them are Tedd Smith at the piano, with Don Hustad or John Innes at the organ. The tall singer whose resonant voice is known and loved by millions, is noted for the simplicity of his faith and the clean-cut nature of his code. To Bev Shea, compromise is unthinkable. Every word he sings must tell the story “of the Christ Who Died for me.”
A man of deep sympathies, he will listen endlessly to the troubles of others and dismiss his own with a word and a smile. He makes his home with his wife and their son and daughter in Western Springs, Illinois. When traveling, as he is most of the time, he finds relaxation in wiring and assembling a three-manual electronic organ, the parts for which he carries in an attache case.
Ottowa, Ontario, Canada
- “I’d Rather Have Jesus” (composer and psinger)
- “The Wonder of It All” (composer and singer)
Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, and the rest of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team
George Beverly Singing “I’d Rather Have Jesus”
George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art”