‘Farther Along’: Moving Versions of the Hymn by Dolly Parton, Elvis & Merle Haggard

by Jim Casey
(Photo by Frank Mullen/WireImage)

“Farther Along” has been a church-time favorite for more than 100 years. While its authorship is disputed (at least four men lay claim to penning the tune), the earliest known instance of “Farther Along” is in 1911’s Select Hymns for Christian Worship and General Gospel Service.

Over the years, “Farther Along” has been recorded by a number of country artists, including Hank Williams, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Bill Anderson, Roy Acuff, Brad Paisley, and more. Let’s take a look at—and listen to—three versions of “Farther Along” by Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt), and Merle Haggard.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley recorded “Farther Along” on his 1967 gospel album, How Great Thou Art. The 13-song offering included gospel standards “By and By,” “Farther Along,” the title track, and more.

While nominated for 14 Grammy Awards (3 wins) during his career, Elvis copped his first Grammy for Best Sacred Performance in 1967 for How Great Thou Art. In fact, Elvis earned three Grammy Awards during his career—but all three were in the gospel categories. He won Best Inspirational Performance in 1972 for “He Touched Me.” And Elvis won the same category in 1974 for a live version of “How Great Thou Art.”

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton joined forces with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt on the 1987 collaborative album, Trio. The 11-song collection featured the harmonious trifecta covering traditional songs like “Rosewood Casket” and “Farther Along,” as well the Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him” and more.

Trio won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Group/Duo in 1987. In addition, the Platinum-certified Trio won the ACM Award for Album of the Year in 1987. It also won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year in 1988. Of course, the album spawned 1999’s Trio II.

Merle Haggard

On May 1, 2001, Merle Haggard released two gospel albums, Cabin in the Hills and Two Old Friends. Both albums were created with his road band, The Strangers, at his own Tally Studios in Palo Cedro, California. And both albums were released on his own Hag Records. The latter was a duet album with gospel veteran Albert Brumley, Jr.

On Cabin in the Hills, Merle expressed his renewed faith with gospel standards like “Farther Along,” “Life’s Railway to Heaven,” and more, while Two Old Friends featured a Western swing interpretation of “I’ll Fly Away,” originals like “Old Rugged Shoes,” and more.