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That Gospel Song

by Joshua Heston

He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.

A simple statement of faith. A revolutionary Christianity.

Joyce Reba Luttrell — Dottie Rambo — was born on March 2, 1934, in Madisonville, Kentucky.

She is remembered as a legendary songwriter, having penned upwards of 2,500 songs.

Many of those songs became Christian standards, recorded not only by Rambo, but by an eclectic list of the world's greatest and brightest talents.

Dottie Rambo would win a number of prestigious awards, including a Grammy in 1968 for her album It’s The Soul Of Me.

She was the classic American success story, rising from rural hardship to acclaimed greatness.

Despite this, Rambo presented a problem for traditional sensibilities — forcing many to look at Christianity in a very different way.

She could appear a controversial, tragic figure.

Dottie’s longtime marriage to Buck Rambo would end in divorce. She suffered devastating financial setbacks.

Rambo developed a passionate, irreverent style on and off stage.

Proud of her close working relationship with Governor Jimmie Davis (D, Louisiana), she wrote a support song for Ronnie Page (R, Tennessee) during his campaign.

Her family relationships — from an early age — might best be defined as dysfunctional.

Remembered as the greatest Christian songwriter since Fanny Crosby, Dottie Rambo didn't make church music for a staid, traditional America.

In her own words, “I love God's people, don't you? I love the sinners. Jesus was always getting into trouble sitting with the sinners. Scribes and Pharisees didn't like it. Ask me if He cared!”

And in the end, it is her music which continues to resonate as she wrote from her own hurts and trials — without condemnation.

She wrote that heaven waits for the believer, regardless of success, status, ethnicity, lifestyle or denomination.

She wrote of a revolutionary Christianity — an amazing grace — that allows for a personal friendship with God.

Never perfect, never pious, Joyce Reba Luttrell — that young Kentucky girl kicked out of her home at the age of 12 for becoming a Christian — would leave us with a simple message:

Jesus loves and Jesus saves, no matter what the rest of the world says.

Thank you, Dottie Rambo.


Select song list, Dottie Rambo:

What Earthly Reason
We Shall Behold Him

I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before.

He Hasn’t Lost His Touch
I Go To The Rock
Too Much To Gain To Lose

Sheltered In The Arms Of God.
Come Spring.

Mama's Teaching Angels How To Sing

In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul

Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome (In This Place)

The Church Triumphant
I Will Glory In The Cross
Remind Me Dear Lord

Behold The Lamb

Behold My Mansion (Next Door To Jesus)

Heaven Will Never Welcome A Sweeter Mama


Dottie Rambo on past church days...

Aren’t you glad we’re not living in the day when you couldn’t go to church and laugh?

’Bout drove me crazy! Some of the looks they could give you!

Watch this! This is the way they did:

Hey Bertha, did you see that woman sitting over there. Aren’t you glad she doesn't belong to our church?”

“All that make-up on... like Dottie Rambo. Ear rings. Diamond rings. Nose rings.”

No, I don’t have that. And then they’d say,

Did you see her laughing? What’s she laughing about?”

“Jesus didn't say anything about laughing. He talked about crying when He got Lazarus — Lazarus, Lazarus! — out of that grave. He cried!”

Well, so what?

When He looks down and watches us, He laughs! I'm telling you He does!

Sure He does. Well, what do you all want to hear....

Select quotes, Dottie Rambo:
April 20, 2008, Branson, MIssouri

Dottie Rambo on Dolly Parton...

Dolly [Parton] and I have been friends for, oh, my goodness, for a long time. I love to tell this story.

We were doing this show. She and I had been over in the corner talking about our childhood. She came from a big family. I came from 11 children. So if we all got together, we’d beat the fire out of each other!

Well, we were all poor.

And as I started out [on stage] — the mikes were live and she didn't care — Dolly just yelled out, “Hey Dottie! Before you went to school, did you have to hang out your pee blanket?”

She did not care. Afterwards, I said, “No I didn't! I never had one!”

What I meant was I never had a blanket!


Dottie Rambo on Porter Wagoner...

Porter Wagoner. He was a hoot, wasn’t he?

I loved that man. We were sitting in the studio and he said,“You know, Dottie, God has been good. I’ve had a miracle. I had an aneurysm in my stomach.”

And he said, “Dottie, we've both been sheltered in the arms of God.”

And I thought, Porter, did you have to just tear me up when you said that?


I can't stand pretty women.”


Dottie Rambo on her favorite songs...

[I've written] around 2,500 songs — something like that.

Mama had 11 kids. Half of ’em were ugly. Half of ’em were pretty. It is that way [with my songs]. I always call my songs my babies.

I’m so far behind in my songs. In my attachè case in my angel room, I don't know how many are in there — about 20 in there that need to be finished and some are just about there.


Dottie Rambo on writing...

We Shall Behold Him is one my favorite songs. The precious aspirations the Lord gave me. I was singing for a big Baptist tent revival.

My friend’s folks brought her car. It was about seven miles down the road. And she said, “You drive.”

And I was driving. The sun had gone down. I love the elements. I love the mountains. I love everything God has made, don't you?

All at once — these beautiful colors. And I thought, What is this? And I kept looking toward the sky. Kept looking, and all at once the tears started to flow....


Dottie Rambo photo plates

Credits: J. Heston. Location: Branson, Missouri • SOTO© Archive 04/20/08

Ozarks blue glass photo plates

Credits: J. Heston • SOTO© Archive 05/09/09
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May 24, 2009