Monday, June 11, 2012

Rev. Timothy Flemming - Jesus Is On The Mainline (Video, Lyrics, & Introduction Transcription)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post features a sound file of & lyrics to the Gospel song "Jesus Is On The Mainline" as sung on that occasion by Reverend Timothy Flemming. The lyrics to that rendition of "Jesus Is On The Mainline" is also included in this post, along with my transcription of Rev. Flemming, Senior's introduction to this song. Information about Rev. Timothy Flemmings, Senior and historical information about the song "Jesus Is On The Mainline" is also included in this post.

This is a companion post to "Telephone Central Songs From Gospel & Blues Traditions"

My thanks to the unknown composer/s of "Jesus Is On The Mainline". My thanks also to all those known and unknown people who have sung this African American Gospel song, to the uploader of this sound file, and to those persons quoted in this post.


Rev. Timonty Flemming - Jesus On The Main Line

Uploaded by TjmMinistries on Feb 7, 2010

Old Time Camp Meeting Songs


This sound file is from Rev. Timothy Flemmings Sr.: Old Time Camp Meeting Songs, Vol. 3 DVD (2007)

The telephone "mainline" is the central telephone number with which people can reach an operator who will connect them to any other telephone line in that area. In the context of this song, "Jesus is on the mainline" means "Everyone can talk to [contact] Jesus whenever she or he wants to".

This featured video starts with a 2:39 minute introduction by Rev. Flemming to the song "Jesus Is On The Mainline".

Here is my transcription of that introduction, with the congregation's responses given in parenthesis:

"Let's kinda go back to the old camp meetings where you had no music. You would pat your feet ("Yes sir"), and clap your hands, and sing out to the Top of your voice. As Loud as you can, just Let it out 'cause we didn't have no music then ("Yes"; "Let it out".)

We didn't have no piano. ("No.) If we had one, couldn't nobody play it. ("That's right".; "Yeah"; laughter)

We didn't have no air condition. ("Un hun") We hadda let up the windows ("Un hun") and had ah fan. ("Yeah"; "That's right".; "Yes sir".)

We didn't have no carpet on the floor. ("That's right".; "Yes sir".) Just an old hard wooden floor ("Yeah"; "Yes sir".) and no cushions on the pews. ("Yes sir".)

And I can remember when I was preachin in a little country church, there were wooden buildings. Didn't have no brick, walls[?] would be all in the ceilin. (Laughter. "Yes sir."; "Alright Rev." ; "Go preacher!").

And on homecoming day, look like the dogs came to church. (Laughter; Handclaps, "Right on!"; "Right on, have mercy!")

The dogs knew it was a Big meetin. ("Yes!"; "Preach!")

I never did see dogs till the third Sunday in August.
(Handclaps; Laughter, "Preach!")

It's strange, the dogs would go on and sit off in the bushes. (Laughter) And sit out there and just wait. ("Wait"; "Yeah") 'Cause they knew that the Table was gonna be spread.("That's right!"; "Preach it!")

We called it "Big Meetin". ("Big meetin.";
"Yes sir.")

And all the sisters would go out to the cars ("Un hun") and pull out their baskets. ("Yeah."; "Tell it, Preacher!") And all us got around the sisters car that had the best food. (Laughter; Handclaps; "Yeah."; That's right."; "He's preachin now".)

I'm talkin 'bout the best potato pie ("Alright!"; "Yeah"!) The best collard girls ("Un hun!"; "Yeah!")

We haaad Church. (Handclaps, "Alright!"; "Yeah!")

Wasn't nobody Ashaaamed.(Handclaps, "Yeah!")

Wasn't nobody lookin at others ("Yeah!") to see what they had on ("Yeah."). They came and they had church. And you know God's gonna Judge America ("Yeah!") because we have Forgotten about God since He blessed us. (Handclaps)

And for that reason I take you back ("Yes sir.") to the Old landmark ("Un hun")

[Begins singing "Jesus Is On The Mainline".]

In my opinion, this sound file deserves to be archived not only for the singing of "Jesus Is On The Mainline (with its old school foot stomping and double time hand clapping), but also for the introduction to that song.

(As sung by Reverend Flemming)

Verse #1
[Well] Jesus is on the main line
tell him what you want
Jesus is on the main line
tell Him what you want
Call Him up and tell Him what you want

Verse #2
Jesus is on the main line
Tell Him what you want
Jesus is on the main line
Tell Him what you want
Call Him up and tell Him what you want

[Using the same pattern]
Verse #3
If you sick and can’t get well

Verse #4
Jesus on the mainline

Verse #5
If you down and you can’t up.

Verse #6
Jesus on the mainline

Verse #7
If you sick and you can’t well

Verse #8
Jesus is on the mainline

Like other African American Spirituals & old time (pre-1950s) African American Gospel songs, the lyrics to "Jesus Is On The Mainline" and the order of that song's verses aren't fixed. The church congregation sung which ever verses the Spirit moved them to sing, in the order that the Spirit moved them to sing them, and for as long as the Spirit moved them to sing that song. That said, the verse "Jesus Is On the Mainline" was (is) usually the first verse, and was (is) usually the most repeated verse. And there appears to be a set order for the verse "He will come in a hurry" (which isn't in this sound file) and the verse "If you're sick and you can't get well" (which is in this sound file). "He will come in a hurry" is usually sung after and not before the verse "If you're sick and you can't get well".

"Reverend Timothy Flemming, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, For over 28 years, he has been the pastor of a congregation that has grown to nearly 12,000 people...

He received the prestigious Gospel Music Workshop of America Award for Spoken Word.

Upscale Magazine listed him twice as one of America’s greatest preachers."

From "Origin Jesus on the Main Line / ...Mainline"

RE: Help: Jesus on the main line
From:masato sakurai
Date: 12 Aug 02 - 01:26 PM

"According to Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943, 4th ed. (Oxford, 1997), "Jesus On the Main Line" (sung by (Mrs) Lillie Knox) and "Jesus On De Main Line Too" (sung by Plantation Echoes) were recorded by the Library of Congress, both in 1937. These seem to be the earliest recordngs."

Subject: RE: Help: Jesus on the main line
Date: 12 Aug 02 - 05:33 PM

"Makes sense Masato. I'm guessing that phones in the deep south probably weren't all that prevalent or used much by the workin' folks before that time."


Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Jesus on the Main Line, Tell him wha
Date: 28 Apr 01 - 01:04 AM

...."For a song with a similar theme have a listen to Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother* 'Telephone to Glory' (1929) Document DOCD-5105 which had been first recorded in a fiery version by Sister Mary Nelson in 1927. Paul Oliver has commented that such songs were part of a new trend in the 20s to find gospel images that 'related to contemporary society and linked the familiar to the holy' and that 'such familiarity with a personal God and a "direct line" to Jesus strongly appealed to working class worshippers who had little access to theological abstractions'. "

* The vocalists' name shown here is a correction made by Stewie on that same discussion thread.

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