Josiah Kelly Alwood penned “Unclouded Day” (also noted as “Uncloudy Day”) in 1879. The popular church hymn reached a national audience in the 20th century, thanks, in part to Mavis Staples’ soulful rendition in 1956. Since then, numerous cross-genre artists have recorded the song, including Eddy Arnold, B.J. Thomas, Don Henley, Leon Russell, George Jones, Brad Paisley, Marty Stuart, Brenda Lee, and more.
Let’s take a look at—and listen to—three versions of “Unclouded Day” by Willie Nelson, Randy Travis, and Johnny Cash.
Willie Nelson recorded “Unclouded Day” on his 1976 album, The Troublemaker. The Red Headed Stranger initially recorded the album in 1973 for Atlantic Records, but the label eventually canceled its release. Later, Willie signed with Columbia Records, which joyfully released his album of gospel standards in 1976.
The Troublemaker also featured Willie singing gospel hymns “In the Garden,” “Sweet By and By,” “Precious Memories,” “Shall We Gather,” and more. Willie’s version of “Unclouded Day” was released as a single, eventually becoming a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
After scoring more than a dozen No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, Randy Travis took a spiritual detour. Beginning with Inspirational Journey in 2000, Randy released a string of gospel/inspirational albums. Rise and Shine (2002), Worship & Faith (2003), Passing Through (2004), Glory Train (2005), and Songs of the Season (2007) followed. While Passing Through veered toward Randy’s traditional country stylings, he really didn’t get back to his mainstream country sound until 2008’s Around the Bend
Randy’s 2003 album, Worship & Faith, featured a 20-song collection of beloved worship standards, including “Unclouded Day.” Randy puts his baritone pipes on the tune during a live recording at the Orlando Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida.
Johnny Cash, accompanied by his mother on piano, performed “Unclouded Day” for a national audience in 1970 on his ABC variety show, The Johnny Cash Show. The Man in Black noted that “Unclouded Day” was the first song he performed in public when he was 12 years old. Johnny sang the hymn in his church in Dyess, Arkansas, in 1946—accompanied by his mother on piano.
60 years later, Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash, produced a collection of traditional gospel tunes on the 2006 album, Voice of the Spirit: Gospel of the South. John Carter included one of his father’s final recordings, “Unclouded Day,” on the album. Of course, Johnny had passed away a few years before in 2003.