The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion Containing a Choice Collection of Tunes, Hymns, Psalms, Odes, and Anthems Selected from the Most Eminent Authors in the United States and Well Adapted to Christian Churches of Every Denomination, Singing Schools, and Private Societies was first published in 1835 by William Walker (1809-1875) of Spartanburg, South Carolina. This book is an excellent source for music for later tune books.
The story most frequently told is that Walker and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Franklin White, each married to Golightly sisters, compiled the book jointly as coauthors. As the story continues, Walker traveled alone to Philadelphia, taking the manuscript with him. When the publication was released, White's name was not listed as an author. With the absence of White's name, White felt compelled to move his family to Western Georgia shortly thereafter. It is difficult to determine what really happened. What we do know is White later published The Sacred Harp, and Walker and White relied on the same sources to find tunes for their respective tune books. They also included tunes that were composed by one another.
Walker published a revision to The Southern Harmony in 1847 by adding 40 pages of tunes. Another revision was published in 1854. For this revision the tunes that were no longer in use were removed and new songs were added resulting in 32 additional pages. This would be the last revision of The Southern Harmony.
From this point forward, Walker would change his focus. Walker would be a proponent of the seven-shape movement, publishing The Christian Harmony in 1866. Many tunes from The Southern Harmony would find their way to this new book.
Four more editions would later be issued—all facsimile reprints of the 1854 revision. The Young Men's Progress Club of Benton, Kentucky, published their edition in 1939 with the assistance of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A first line index and an errata list (for those individuals who might want to correct obvious errors in printing) were added to the 1966 edition by Glenn C Wilcox and Charles L Atkins. The University of Kentucky Press published the next edition in 1987.
For many years, there has been only one all-day singing from this book: The Big Singing in Benton, Kentucky. This singing has been held on the fourth Sunday of May in Benton, Kentucky, since 1884.
McLemore, B. F. Tracing the Roots of Southern Gospel Singers, (Jasper, TX: B. F. (Bob) McLemore, 2005).
Walker, William. The Christian Harmony: in the Seven-Syllable Character Note System of Music; Being the Most Successful, Natural, and Easy Method of Acquiring a Knowledge of This Art; Saving to the Learner an Immense Amount of Time and Labor, Thus Placing the Science of Music Within the Reach of Every Person; Containing the Choicest Collection of Hymn and Psalm Tunes, Odes and Anthems, Selected From the Best Authors in Europe and America; Together with a Large Number of New Tunes, from Eminent Composers, Never Before Published, Embracing a Great Variety of Metres Suited to the Various Hymn and Psalm Books Used by the Different Denominations of Christians; Adapted to the Use of Singing Schools, Choirs, Social and Private Singing Societies: Also a Copious Elucidation of the Science of Vocal Music, and Plain Rules for Beginners, (Ashville, NC: Folk Heritage Books, 1994).
Walker, William. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion Containing a Choice Collection of Tunes, Hymns, Psalms, Odes, and Anthems Selected from the Most Eminent Authors in the United States and Well Adapted to Christian Churches of Every Denomination, Singing Schools, and Private Societies, (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1987).