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Davey Crockett's Violin

Davey Crockett’s Violin

            Yesterday a rather serendipitous moment occurred. My wife and I had a busy day going from Teddy Klein’s funeral in Tomball to further ministry in downtown Houston. One of the blessings of our kids being grown is that I often am able to have my wife by my side whenever and wherever I go. After taking care of our business, we were caught in a deluge. The rains became so fierce that we felt justified in pulling into the garage at the Houston museum for a brief respite. So while there we thought we would enjoy the featured “Texas Exhibit.” We were fascinated by certain artifacts such as Sam Houston’s walking cane and his single ball revolver where he had actually hand scribed “S. Houston” on the wooden grip. We were also intrigued by one of the knives used by Jim Bowie at the Alamo. The most captivating piece of memorabilia that survived the Alamo was the violin owned and played by Davey Crockett. There it was mounted behind the glass in relatively good condition considering it had been carried all the way from Tennessee to Texas in what would be at best a challenge to keep in good condition, let alone in tune.

            The Mexican commander, Santa Anna ordered “no quarter” to the defenders of the Alamo. With this order the Mexicans drew closer to the walls and the buglers played, “El Degüello.” Degüello is the first-person singular present tense of "degollar," a verb meaning "to cut the throat." More figuratively, it means "give no quarter.” It signifies the act of beheading or throat-cutting and in Spanish history became associated with the battle music, which, in different versions, meant complete destruction of the enemy without mercy. One historical source says that at this very moment when the Mexicans taunted the defenders, Davey Crockett took his violin and defiantly played “The Tennessee March.”

            As my wife and I had supper and came to the close of our day, I kept thinking about Davey Crockett’s violin, or as some of his comrades would more appropriately call it, fiddle. Here is a legend in his own times – a multiple term United States Representative, an Indian fighter, a bear hunter, the epitome of the American frontiersman and hero, but on a very important note, a violinist. It is documented that Davey Crockett would play his violin for the residents of the Alamo frequently. Not unlike the Bible figure who first owned the name “David,” he too mustered faith with his stringed instrument. So my coonskin hat is off to one of the heroes of our great country and state, Davey Crockett, who reminds us of the important role of music in our life. Why is it so important?

1. Music is incorporated in worship.

            Have you ever wondered why we start our church services off with music? The Psalmist declared, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). We are to begin our worship by praising the Lord and this is best done to the accompaniment of music. King David ordered the Levites to appoint people to make sure music is played in their worship: “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy” (I Chronicles 15:16). Music in worship is not optional or to be considered mere pre-service warm up or background filler. Oh no! Music is a central part of our worship to the Lord. Upon dedication of the Temple we read, “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying , For he is good; for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD.” (II Chronicles 5:13). The result of the musical act of worship was nothing less than phenomenal, because the result is found in the next verse: “So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (II Chronicles 5:14). God’s presence was so manifested that the priests could no longer stand; they were kneeling in the presence of a holy God! 

 2. Music relieves stress.

              David’s debut in front of King Saul was not the killing of Goliath by the hand of the young sweet psalmist, it was his musical prowess. In I Samuel 16:17 it says, “And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.” Enter David our hero. An evil spirit by God’s permission tormented Saul and we see that Saul was affected in three ways, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (I Samuel 16:23). It affected Saul physically, for Saul “was refreshed.” I have observed doctors performing open-heart surgery and every time, the doctors had music playing while they operated. Whenever I have had extensive dental work, our dentist’s assistant places earphones over my head and tells me to pick out my music. Music affects us physically. Secondly, the Bible says Saul “was well.” Music affects us emotionally. Many a time I have been in a service when a certain song was performed and I have witnessed people weeping, smiling or shouting. What is happening? Have you ever been driving down the road and suddenly the song your spouse and you courted with comes on and moisture begins to form in the corner of your eye? When I walked our oldest daughter down the aisle, my brother-in-law sang, Butterfly Kisses; there was hardly a dry eye in the room. Music affects us emotionally. The Bible finally says, “and the evil spirit departed from him,” showing us music affects us spiritually. The evil spirit literally left tormenting Saul as David’s music comforted him. No matter what the size of the crowd, if we have church, we have music. Whether in a massive church sanctuary, a home or a prison, when we minister in spiritual matters, we have music.

              During the seize of the Alamo, two ladies who survived and were eyewitnesses said when there was a lull Davey Crockett played his violin while his friend, John McGregor from Scotland played his bagpipes.  The men’s morale was lifted when this music was played. Music affects us. 

3. Music lives beyond this life.

            At every funeral I perform or attend there is always music. I have often heard people say something like this, “This was my grandmother’s favorite song….” As we stand beside the graveside, it is not unusual to hear taps played or a bagpiper skirl a haunting melody. It is only fitting, because when a person goes to heaven, they are going to a place filled with music. When our Lord was born, there was a host from heaven that broke out in an angelic choir with these words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).  How can we miss statements like these, “…the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps…” (Revelation 5:8). “…And I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps” (Revelation 14:2). “…And them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God” (Revelation 15:2). A trademark of the residents in heaven is they are making music. It appears one of the few things we take in life beyond the grave is our musical appreciation.

            I would not be the least surprised if some of you in my age bracket have been reading these words while humming to yourself, “Davey, Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.” Music stays with us…it eclipses time. It takes us back, it leads us on. Today let music bring you closer to God as we have assembled ourselves in His house.