“Crying in the Chapel” is a song written by Artie Glenn for his son Darrell to sing. Darrell recorded it while still in high school in 1953, along with Artie's band the Rhythm Riders. The song was rejected by Hill and Range Songs and Acuff-Rose Music. The song was eventually published by Valley Publishers which also released the single featuring Darrell Glenn. It became a local hit and then it went nationwide. The original version of the song (Valley 105) was issued in May 1953. The song became one of the most covered of 1953. Darrell Glenn's original recording reached number one on the Cash Box charts (where all versions were amalgamated) and number six on Billboard. Darrell Glenn's original version also hit number six on the Billboard pop singles chart and number four on the Billboard country and western chart, Rex Allen's number eight, Ella Fitzgerald number 15, and Art Lund reached number 23.
A recording by June Valli with orchestra directed by Joe Reisman was made in New York City on June 11, 1953. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog umber 20-5368 (in USA) and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog numbers HR 10007, N 14105 and CS 14. This was the most successful pop version on the Billboard charts, reaching number four after charting for 17 weeks beginning August 1, 1953.
On October 31, 1960, Elvis Presley cut a version of the song with plans to put it on his RCA gospel album, His Hand in Mine. Three takes were recorded, but neither Elvis nor The Jordanaires, who provided background vocals, were satisfied. Eventually it was decided to shelve the recordings and move on.
On April 6, 1965, “Crying In the Chapel” was issued on RCA's “Gold Standard Series.” It became Elvis' first million seller since “Return to Sender” in 1962 and his greatest chart success over a six-year span. The single hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and topped the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks. It was later included as a bonus track on Presley's 1967 gospel album, How Great Thou Art.
Presley's version also was a huge hit in Great Britain where it spent two non-consecutive weeks at number one.
In April, 1968, the vocal trio The Wailers, featuring Bob Marley on lead vocals and guitar, Rita Marley (replacing Bunny Wailer) and Peter Tosh on harmony vocals, backed by Rastafarian nyabinghi percussion group Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus recorded an adapted version of the song in Kingston, Jamaica. Its lyrics were adapted from the Orioles' version by Rasta leader Mortimo Planno, who also produced and pressed the single entitled “Selassie Is the Chapel”, the first ever Rastafarian song recorded and released by Marley. The song is thus meaningful to Rastafarians as its lyrics were modified in order to affirm the divinity of Haile Selassie as the born again Christ.
Only a few hundred copies of the single were pressed on a blank label at the time, making it a much sought-after rarity for decades. It was finally reissued and documented on CD on the album Selassie Is the Chapel (JAD Records, 1997), as part of the Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967 to 1972 series produced by Bruno Blum and Roger Steffens. A vinyl single was also released by JAD in 2002. The recording was reissued on that single along with the original Mortimo Planno-voiced flip side, Rastafarian cult song “A Little Prayer” as well as on the 2002 four CD Marley Rebel anthology set released in France only and deleted in 2003. A “Selassie Is the Chapel” remix produced by Blum, with a contribution by The Wailers, was released on the European Rastafari label in 1998 (and the Jamaican Human Race label a few years later) as “War/Selassie Is the Chapel”. They feature a virtual duet between Marley and Ethiopian emperor Selassie in medley style. This duet version single hit number one in the UK Echoes magazine in April 1998. A dub version entitled “War/Selassie in Dub” was released on the flip side. A later Jamaican DJ version by Joseph Cotton entitled “Conflicts” was released on the Rastafari label in 2009.
More than 50 artists have released a version of “Crying in the Chapel”.
The black R&B group, The Orioles, recorded a cover version of the song which became a major success in 1953. The Orioles' version went to number one on the R&B chart and number eleven on the pop chart. It was included on the soundtrack album for the film American Graffiti.
Arne Alm wrote the Swedish lyrics. Raya Avellan and Yngve Stoors Hawaiiorkester recorded “Klockorna i dalen” in Stockholm on October 10, 1953. The song was released on the 78 rpm record Cupol 4780.
Ken Griffin recorded a version in 1953.
Lee Lawrence recorded a version which peaked at No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart in 1953.
Ella Fitzgerald released her version of the song on the B-side of her 1953 single “When the Hands of the Clock Pray at Midnight” (Decca 28762).
Johnny Burnette included it on his self-titled 1961 album.
Little Richard recorded a version in 1963 for Atlantic Records, which became a “Regional” hit on the Billboard Charts.
Carol Fran recorded a version in 1964 for Port Records.
The Platters recorded a version in 1964 for Mercury Records.
Santo & Johnny included the song on their 1964 album In the Still of the Night.
In 1965, the Argentinian vocal group “Los 5 Latinos” with Estela Raval on the leading voice, recorded a Spanish version of the song, entitled “Llorando en la capilla”, included in their album “El Show. Vol. 2”.
In 1966 the Venezuelan singer Mirtha Perez made a local hit of this song in her first album as soloist, Mirtha Solita, entitled “Llorando en la capilla”, with arrangements by the director Jose Gay and using as background vocals the members of group “Hermanos O Brien”, after, Las 4 monedas.
Don McLean recorded a version of the song on his Homeless Brother album (1974).
Allies, a Christian rock band, recorded a version of the song on their album Long Way From Paradise (1989).
Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge recorded the song for their 1994 Acapella album.
Karel Gott recorded a Czech version of the song, called “Cesta Rájem”.