Bobby Helms Biography

15 August 1933, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, d. 19 June 1997, Martinsville, Indiana, USA. Helms was something of a child prodigy, who was playing guitar and singing a mixture of pop and country on local radio at the age of 12, and from 1946-54, he regularly appeared on WWTV Bloomington. He made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry in 1950, having impressed WSM officials so much that they had him flown to Nashville to appear. He signed with Decca Records and in 1957, his recording of Lawton Williams’ ‘Fraulein’, his first US country chart entry, was a number 1 (even reaching number 36 in the US pop charts). The song stayed in the country charts for 52 weeks, which, according to Joel Whitburn’sRecord Research, is the second longest chart tenure of all time. The same year also saw him with two further hits, ‘My Special Angel’ and the original version of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’, both of which became million sellers and made the Top 10 in the US pop charts. The former, another US country number 1, managed a Top 30 appearance in the UK charts, but lost out to the Top 10 cover version by Malcolm Vaughan (Max Bygraves made the UK Top 10 with his version of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in 1959). Helms had further country/pop success the following year with ‘Jacqueline’, from the movieThe Case Against Brooklyn (the record also charted in the UK) and a US country number 10 with ‘Just A Little Lonesome’.

In the late 60s, Helms left Decca and recorded for Little Darlin’ but achieved no further major chart hits. Throughout the 70s and 80s, he continued to tour, often with his wife Dori and he released an album in 1989. He is still remembered because of seasonal appearances of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ but his last chart hit, ‘Mary Goes Round’, was on the Certron label in 1970. Interestingly, it was a cover version of Helms’ recording of ‘Schoolboy Crush’ that became the b-side of Cliff Richard’s first recording.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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