Bobby Helms (born Robert Lee Helms in 1933 – died in 1997) was an American country singer, born in Martinsville, Indiana from a musical family. He started his musical career performing with his brother Freddie. Helms forged to become a country singer and so went to Nashville, Tennessee. After his single “Fraulein” went to #1 on the country chart during the 50s music scene, Helms went on to achieve the peak of success with “My Special Angel” and most especially “Jingle Bell Rock” which was a top Christmas hit for the next few years – it’s now an enduring holiday classic. Helms went on to record and perform in the next three decades before retiring and living his last years on the outskirts of his birthplace. He died in 1997, after a bout of lingering illness. He was 63 years old.
Helms’ early life and career
Robert Lee Helms was an American country singer known professionally as Bobby Helms. Helms was born August 5, 1933 in Bloomington, Indiana. His talent was naturally inherited from his musically-inclined family. Helms’ first singing performance was in his father’s Fred’s Monroe County Jamboree where his brother Freddie played guitar; the two brothers eventually formed a duo. They later became a regional attraction as The Helms Brothers but had a short-lived career. He later went to Nashville where he got a job singing background vocals on a recording session led by another country singer-songwriter Ernest Tubb. In 1956 Helms went solo, and later that same year he landed a record deal with Decca Records through Tubb’s recommendation.
Helms at the peak of his career
In 1957, Helms released his debut single, “Fraulein” which was a flop in January 1957 but became a chart-topper on the country chart the following April. The song also made to the Top 40 in July of 1947. The following year, he released another single “My Special Angel” which also made to the top spot on the country charts and on the Billboard pop music chart, reaching at #7.
Still with Decca, Helm’s next release was the Christmas song “Jingle Bell Rock” which was released two days before Christmas Day in 1957. The single was a big hit; it went up to #6 on the pop chart and stayed for twenty-one weeks. Since it was a popular holiday song, it re-entered the charts four times more (in 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1962). “Jingle Bell Rock” rose to become one of the Christmas favourite staples of all time. It was the second million-seller for Helms which took five years to reach the volume of sales. The song also received a gold disc award.
Helms released two singles in 1958 — “Just a Little Lonesome” and “Jacqueline.” They were a failure in some charts.
Helms continued to tour and release numerous singles for the next three decades. He was also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame for his substantial contribution for the genre.
On June 19, 1997, Helms passed away due to emphysema and asthma in Martinsville, Indiana where he spent most of his later years. He was 63. He may be gone but his songs will always be remembered especially by oldies music fans.