The Touch of God's Hand
The prairie sun sends down its ray
Bob said he wrote these verses in 1930 before the Sons of the Pioneers were formed; before he joined any group. (p. 6, Tumbleweed Topics Vol. 1 No. 10) It was not written for radio or a movie. Because it was not included in the 1934 Standard Radio Transcriptions, it leads us to believe that Bob had not yet written music for it. The song was registered for copyright on March 3, 1936. The Sons of the Pioneers recorded it for ARC in 1937 and the sheet music was published in their third songbook, "Songs of the Prairie Folio No. 3" 1937 by Cross and Winge.
As he so often does, Douglas B. Green says it best: "Bob Nolan had a strong spiritual side, and it expressed itself again and again in his portraits of the west as a holy place. Of the many spiritual cowboy songs he wrote, THE MYSTERY OF HIS WAY, LORD YOU MADE THE COWBOY HAPPY, HE WALKS WITH THE WILD AND THE LONELY, among others as great, THE TOUCH OF GODíS HAND is as fine an expression of the cowboy finding Godís grace in the wild and woolly west as has been written. Legend has it that Nolan wrote it on cocktail napkins in a tavern Ė inspiration, any songwriter will tell you, is where you find it Ė but whether this is fact or folklore, this song remains one of the most beautiful and expressive of his canon."
"Legend has it that Nolan wrote it on cocktail napkins in a tavern - inspiration, any songwriter will tell you, is where you find it - but whether this is fact or folklore, this song remains one of the most beautiful and expressive of his canon." (Green, "Stampede! Western Music's Late Golden Era", 1996)
It was also an exquisite portrait of the desert he loved, painted with words on the canvas of his heart. "After World War I, I came to the deserts of Arizona. The environmental change had a tremendous impact on me - from the backwoods of Canada to the deceptively barren deserts of Arizona. Actually, out there on that barren land there is more to see than in a forest, on a closer look. The desert is crowded with things to see, which inspired me to write "The Touch of God's Hand". (Bob Nolan to Edythe Jacobs, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy by Dorothy Horstman, 1973.
Jimmy Wakely (1949)
Bob's first view of the desert, in his own words.
TRANSCRIPTIONS with "The Touch of God's Hand"
Typed copy of the lyrics from the repertoire box.
LEAD SHEET: courtesy Jeff Conroy of Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, © 1936 by AMERICAN MUSIC, INC.
Songs of the Prairie Folio No. 3
Dean L Simmons Recordings
Rare mono 78 RPM Metal Acetate made special for Mary Lewis Jan. 22, 1947
Chords courtesy of Carlos Fiorelli
Teleways Transcriptions: #81 and 204
Lucky U Radio broadcasts courtesy of Larry Hopper:
12 December 1951.
Transcription Disc TR-141, 142
Smokey the Bear 1956: Show #2
1958: Show #2