In 1938, a group of American citizens were hoping to help make America great once again through a complete refocusing of this countries deadening morals; calling themselves the Moral Re-Armament, led by American minister Frank Buchman, he and his initiates of change took America and much of Europe by storm, well into the 60s and beyond.
Utilizing what they believed to be the Four Absolutes—Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness and Absolute Love—while true, those are great tenants to live by, many former members of this religious spiritual group—including famed actress Glenn Close—have gone on to call the MRA a cult, one that attempts to control every aspect of its members lives.
So is it really any surprise that in 1962, mere months before Beatlemania hit the States, that the Oklahoma Publishing Company crawled into bed with the Moral Re-Armament movement, even going as far as to sponsor a 45-record by the International Chorus for Moral Re-Armament (out of New York City) simply entitled “Songs of Oklahoma.”
I found this vinyl 45 in a random pile of neighborhood garbage, surrounded by stacks of harlequin paperbacks and infertile pantyhose; blissfully protected in its plain white wrapper, after a first listen, I immediately began to search for clues as to who and what this exactly was. While there is plenty online about the Moral Re-Armament cause, I couldn’t find anything about this particular record.
Reaching out to a few record collectors locally and nationally, as well a contact at the Oklahoman, all came up nil; it was a piece of aural history better left forgotten, I suppose. A mostly acrid mess of re-written Oklahoma history lessons that forget to mention little things like, you know, the Indigenous people and so on, each song is sung in a deep timbre by an unknown male lead, as well as a chorus of more feminine refrains behind him.
On side one, the faux-triumphant “Oklahoma City” features lines about how colonists “pitched a thousand tents” where that “empty prairie lay.” It also proclaims great faith in our “cattle yards and skyscrapers,” which is mostly new to me. Meanwhile, track two really goes out of its way to find great things to sing about in “Lawton for Me,” as it’s mostly about an army pal that liked to brag about “all the rabbits he shot” while living in Lawton.
On the weaker flipside, however, this record features a treacle-filled eight-minute medley of tunes about, in order, “Ponca City,” “Enid,” “Okmulgee,” and “Bartlesville.” Sorry, Tulsa—not sure why you guys didn’t make it.
Coincidentally enough, in the late 60s, the Moral Re-Armament movement decided to get into the hep swing of the now groove by sponsoring the with-it sounds of Up With People. But, even their toe-tapping positivity couldn’t match the progressively bizarre MRA and its new leadership under J. Blanton Belk, so they decided to leave around ’68, taking their anti-hippie message with them, playing the Super Bowl five times from 1976 to 1986.
The MRA is still around today in broken pieces, mostly across the country with a different name; it seems the only relic that remains from that trying time is this record, with all songs written by Herbert E. Allen and D.F. Stevenson. I have copied both sides and put it on the YouTube link above, so if any Lost Ogle readers have information about these municipal nightmares, comment below.