by Ramona K. Cecil
One of the things I most enjoy about Christmastime is the music. From the sublime to the silly, songs of the season surround us, and I love them all. While beloved carols warm our hearts and feed our souls with both reverent and joyful proclamation of Christ’s birth, other, less exalted tunes are simply meant to make us smile.
Jingle Bell Rock is one of those fun holiday ditties. Over the last half-century, the tune has become a classic “sound of the season.” So I was more than a little surprised to learn that the artist who first released it hailed from a little Indiana town less than fifty miles from where I live.
In the fall of 1957 country music singer Bobby Helms released “Jingle Bell Rock,” a holiday dance tune composed by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe. A modern take on the original song “Jingle Bells” written a century earlier by James Lord Pierpont, “Jingle Bell Rock” became an immediate hit and shot Helms to overnight stardom. By Mid-December of 1957, “Jingle Bell Rock” was a favorite dance tune on Dick Clark’s teen music television show, American Bandstand.
Born into a musical family in
in 1933, Robert Lee “Bobby” Helms
left the duo act with his brother in 1956 to strike out on his own. In Helmsburg, Indiana ,
he signed with Decca Records. His first two releases in 1957; “Fraulein” and “Special
Angel,” both went to number 1 on the country music charts. But it was Jingle
Bell Rock that would make the Hoosier artist a household name. Helms performing
and recording career spanned three more decades with dozens of other titles to
his name. Though he never again enjoyed the success of Jingle Bell Rock, his
work has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee .
Bobby Helms lived his entire adult life in Nashville, Tennessee ,
not far from the town where he was raised. He died of emphysema in 1997 at the
age of sixty-three. Martinsville, Indiana
Now a grandmother in my sixties, I can’t remember a Christmas season when I haven’t heard “Jingle Bell Rock” played numerous times. Over the past forty-nine years, the song has been performed and re-recorded by a plethora of singers including Brenda Lee and Bill Haley & His Comets.
This year, as always, I’m once again enjoying listening to Christmas tunes on the radio and over stores’ sound systems as I shop. And, as always, my ears perk up when my favorite tunes like “O Holy Night” and “The Holly and the Ivy” are played. But now that I know of its Hoosier connection I may have another tune to add to my favorites, and might even find myself humming along to “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of
Check out her website at www.ramonakcecil.com