This song was based on a French song called Les trois cloches, which was a hit in 1946. The group Melody Maids had an English translation hit with it in 1948. The song tells Jimmy Brown’s life story in three parts: birth, marriage, and death.
I love coincidences, and this song has a fun one. The vocalist of The Browns was James Edward Brown aka Jimmy Brown. He is best known as Jim Ed Brown.
The Browns were a singing family of two sisters and a brother from Arkansas: Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed. Jim Ed was the middle kid with Maxine the oldest.
|Bonnie and Jim Ed in back – Maxine in front|
The Browns disbanded mostly because Jim Ed pursued a solo career Over the years, they did get back together for occasional appearances and to record a gospel album. In March 2015, the Browns were honored with inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jim Ed died in June 2015, Bonnie in June 2016, and Maxine in January 2019.
Here are a few of the many artists who recorded The Three Bells.
- Floyd Cramer
- Chet Atkins
- Tommy Dorsey
- Guy Lombardo
- Ray Charles
- Roy Orbison
- Andy Williams
- Leon Russell
- Andrew Sisters (They change up the lyrics.)
- Johnny Cash and the Carter family
- Allison Krauss & Union Station
- Sha Na Na (No joke. It’s on YouTube. It’s delightfully corny—guaranteed to give you a chuckle.)
Here are The Browns at the Grand Ole Opry singing The Three Bells on July 16, 1965.
Until next time,
Stay in contact with Kaye—