What is a Tune Hister?
This excerpt is from a church history written by Judge John A. Darsey. He talks at length about a “tune hister” — and we’ve never heard of such a thing! Have you?
“There was another local preacher, named Rev. J.R. Elder, the father of fellow townsman Roger Elder. He was the mightiest man in prayer this church ever knew. There were song books, but there were no notes, no flats, no sharps, no music staffs — every piece of music was in short meter, long meter or short meter. And J.H. Malaier was true. He rarely ever failed to hit the right key. We had preaching on Saturdays too. On Saturdays there were only a half dozen or more. Bro. J.O.A. Miller, Bro Malaier and myself and Bro Wayman and Uncle Bud Griffin and Uncle Billie Griffin et al — when ten o’clock arrived Bro Malaier would go in and pitch a tune then all the others would go in.
When Rev. F.D. Graham was sent to this work, which was then on the Hampton circuit, his first appointment was on Saturday. He came driving up not in an auto but in a buggy, promptly at ten. Bro Malaier was absent that Saturday and we were minus a tuner hister — Bro Graham read a chapter in the Bible, took a test and called for a song, but [no] tune hister, every body looked at your scribe so we dealed to risk, one eye at it, took a deep breath and pitched it about 2 octances (sic) too high. By the time we get half way in the song it was so high you couldn’t reach it with a ten foot pole.”
Thanks to the Internet and some good Baptist folks over in Tifton, Georgia — we know the answer now! It’s actually spelled HEISTER and pronounced “high-ster”. A Tune Heister was a song leader. Pure and simple!