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Hoosier Made ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ Hit, But Few Know It

Bobby Helms

Photo: Daniel Robison

Bobby Helms memorabilia adorns his son's home in Martinsville. Due to sensitivity to lights, Helms began wearing an eye patch on stage later in his career.

The song “Jingle Bell Rock” is ubiquitous this time of year, as has been since it first hit the airwaves in 1957. But few know who made the song a hit. Bobby Helms was born in Bloomington and lived in Martinsville his entire adult life. Some say the choice of living in southern Indiana cost Helms the kind of recognition that’s usually afforded to someone who sold more than 120 million copies of a single song. He played music until his death in 1997, but 40 years after he hit the top of the charts, he passed away with minimal fanfare. Now, as his song again plays on radios, in department stores and films, his children are trying to earn him the recognition and enshrinements usually afforded to other monumental hit makers. WFIU’s Daniel Robison has more.

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