I recently acquired the 1977 Brentwood-Benson hymnal New Songs of Inspiration, Volume Ten, a seven-shape shaped-note edition containing 280 songs, 18 responsive readings, and five benedictions. Among the items in this book that I had not previously encountered was one that by its odd imagery caught my attention and interest. "The Great Speckled Bird."
So far I have located two possibly reliable sources on this, namely the Wikipedia page The Great Speckled Bird (song) and this thread at the Mudcat Café. On first looking at it I thought, "I know this tune from somewhere" but couldn't think where; was it an adaptation, sans refrain, of Red River Valley? But the above sources make It clear that the tune has received much more play with other lyrics (Country & Western is not my forte among the genres) and that my familiarity with the tune must stem from having heard but not particularly listened to one or both of those hit songs.
New Songs of Inspiration Volume X (the spine has "X", the front cover and title page have "TEN") simply calls the text "Traditional", and for the tune simply says "Arr. by W. Elmo Mercer", but carries a page copyright notice reading "© Copyright 1965 by Singspiration, Division of the Zondervan Corporation. All rights reserved. Used by permission." But the tune appears to be attested from the 1920s (and appears already then to be unattributed and traditional), and the text must be from 1936 or earlier since that was the year Roy Acuff made a hit recording of it, so I'm not sure on what grounds Zondervan claimed that copyright, unless it only has to do with W. Elmo's arrangement. And perhaps the "every color and race" segment? I have not been able to determine exactly what text Rev. Guy Smith actually wrote; the Mudcat post details some differences between the text given there and the Acuff recording, and there is no mention of the "every color and race" part.
Any information about the questions implicit in the foregoing, whether concerning the text, the tune, or the copyright, is eagerly solicited.
I am posting a PDF showing both text versions*, with a cheap NWC roundnote remake of the hymnal's music, and a MIDI file of it (using, appropriately I think, NoteWorthy's "Honky-Tonk Piano" instrumentation).
Leland aka Haruo
*i.e., the three verses from the hymnal, and the eight verses from the Mudcat, construed as four "doubled" stanzas. I have not actually listened (knowingly, anyhow) to the Acuff recording, which apparently (according to the Mudcat text notes) is of a different selection of verses. The metre is irregular, but basically just variants on 10.9.10.9D it looks like to me. The texts on the PDF are not perfect copies of their sources; when I add the song to the Hymnary (which I shall do eventually if you don't beat me to it) I shall pay more attention to the precise wordings and accidentals of the instances.