In 1957, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) had three monster hits in a single year—one of which makes a comeback each Christmas season.
The first of the three was “Fraulein”, released on March 30. It told the story of a young man who had fallen in love with “an old German’s daughter/by the banks of the old River Rhine” while serving in the postwar occupation of Germany. Stone country, it went to number one on the country charts and an astonishing number thirty-six on the Billboard Top 100—sort of the “pop charts” back in the day.
A few months later, Helms released “My Special Angel.” More overtly pop in construction, and with backing vocals by the legendary Anita Kerr Singers, it went to number one on the country charts and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Top 100. It has proven over time to be the most durable of Helms’s mainstream hits; it was first covered by The Vogues in 1968 and has been in the repertoires of a number of groups ever since.
A few days before Christmas in that same astounding year, Helms released “Jingle Bell Rock.” Possibly because it was a holiday-oriented song, and a novelty tune at that, it didn’t make it to number one on its first release; it went to number thirteen country and number six on the Billboard Top 100. However, it was re-released during an additional five Christmas seasons and eventually became one of those songs that—well, it wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t hear “Jingle Bell Rock” at least once.
After those three monster hits, all within a nine-month period in a single year, Helms settled into a comfortable if mediocre career. He never had another major hit, and recorded his last album in 1987. He died in 1997 at the age of 63, and has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, although I think it’s about time the Country Music Hall of Fame added him to its roster.