"I'd like to tell you about the strangest secret in the world."
Thus begins "The Strangest Secret," a spoken-word piece that predates Rhonda Byrne's The Secret
by 50 years.
Nightingale was what some would today call a success coach. Others would call him a motivational speaker or a self-help guru. The more cynical-minded would call him a con man or BS artist. It really depends on one's perspective on personal growth and positivity.
Whatever title you give him, Nightingale made his mark on American history. He was a radio personality that took to heart Napoleon Hill's maxim "you become what you think about." Hill was another self-help icon who penned Think And Grow Rich
, which is still widely read today and is one of the best-selling books of its kind ever published.
Nightingale, who came from abject poverty and spent a part of his childhood living in a Great Depression tent city, applied Hill's wisdom to his own life and to various fields. He made a success out of himself in radio and then branched out to other endeavors.
Eventually, he wound up spreading his gospel of positive thinking during weekly motivational speeches that he gave to the sales force of his insurance agency. He then got the idea to record his speech so that it could be played while he was on vacation. This sounds absurdly arrogant today, but it was apparently very well received by his employees. They not only ate it up but even spread word about it with such enthusiasm that people outside the agency started asking for copies.
Nightingale got together with his friend Lloyd Conant to form the Nightingale-Conant Corporation, through which he mass-produced and distributed the album. The first pressings note Waco, Texas, as the home of production. The business still exists today, decades after Nightingale's 1989 death, now based in Wheeling, Illinois.
The album was a runaway success and is still in circulation today, having been remade many times. Nightingale was a commonly recognizable figure right up to his passing in 1989.