Music in the Air by Mark Ward is a chronological history/biography of gospel radio from its start in the 1920’s up to present day. Along the way, there are short life stories of radio’s great evangelist like Percy Crawford and Jack Wyrtzen, the very first Southern Gospel quartets, The Statesmen, Stamps and Back to the Bible Quartet ,and finally, stories behind the classic songs of that era written by Stuart Hamblen, Albert Brumely and many more writers who‘ve penned songs that are favorites today.
If you are interested in the early days of radio and how it operated, this is the book for you. Ward does an excellent job of tracking down an accurate and clear account of what was happening in those times. Out of all the categories featured in this book, the one that I found most interesting was how some of the churches favorite songs were written and by whom they were penned. This book is single handedly responsible for my enjoying a particular CD in my collection of hymn recordings on a new level. Why? Because now I know about the life of the writers and how they came to write the soul stirring lyrics that have endured even until now. It surprised me that some of those hymns were written not that long ago, because I had thought they came from the 1800’s! (Speaking of the hymn “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul.”) On the other hand, I learned that some songs I‘ve grown to love came from this era and learning that enriched my enjoyment of that hymn. One of those songs is called “Until Then.” Previous to reading this book I did not know that Stuart Hamblen had written it…or some of my other favorites like This Ole’ House and First Day in Heaven. Learning about the writers who penned those lines made the book all the more interesting to me!
There is a lot of information in this book. Because of that, I would say it leans a little on the “hard reading” side – each page is packed with material! But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The quality is excellent and very instructive. Many sections of the volume read like a novel – describing the personal lives of the evangelist of that time, while others were very technical – taking time for a detailed account of why things happened the way they did and how radio worked. For the time that must have been spent in the research for this book and the clarity in which it was written, I give it 5 stars.