Bobby Helms was a teenage singing star who went on to rise to national prominence in the late 50's. He put up two songs that managed to reach the pop top ten, one of them a well known Christmas tune, and had even more success on the country charts.
He was born in Bloomington, Indiana (home of the University of Indiana) in 1933 as Bobby Lee Helms. He had a talent for singing and a father with some show business connections. Bobby appeared on his father's television show in Bloomington, and he sang at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville at age 17. In 1956, Decca signed him to his first recording contract. He also recorded a song titled Fraulein that cracked the country chart, rose to number one, and remained on that chart for a year.
In 1957 Bobby recorded My Special Angel for Decca and in addition to its success in country music, where it was a number one hit, it went top ten as a pop hit and served to introduce him to fans of top forty radio. Fraulein crossed over to the pop charts at about the same time, settling in at number 36.
He had one big hit remaining in 1957. Helms worked with legendary Nashville guitarist Hank Garland and together, they recorded Jingle Bell Rock, with the Anita Kerr Singers providing background vocals. The song entered the pop chart just a few days before Christmas that year and was an immediate hit, reaching the number six chart position. It proved to be a perennial Christmas favorite, and made the top 100 pop again in December of 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1962. Jingle Bell Rock is still played on many radio stations every year as the Christmas holiday approaches.
Bobby also had a number of country hits in the late 50's and early 60's, including Borrowed Dreams, Jacqueline, New River Train and Lonely River Rhine. He appeared as himself in the 1958 motion picture The Case Against Brooklyn and also showed up on television shows, such as Ed Sullivan's Toast Of The Town, Jubilee USA, and Dick Clark's American Bandstand. In the late 60's and the 70's Bobby was still recording and had some minor hits on a variety of labels.
Bobby's Jingle Bell Rock can be heard in the 2001 film Vanilla Sky. He is portrayed by actor Brad Hawkins in the 2006 motion picture Crazy -- a film about the life and times of Hank Garland.
In later years Bobby Helms suffered from asthma and emphysema. He died in Martinsville, Indiana in 1997. Many music fans identify him most closely with his perennial favorite -- the fourth most requested Christmas song -- Jingle Bell Rock.
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