The Three Bells

Album: Town & Country (1959)
Charted: 6 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song documents three stages of the life of "Jimmy Brown" - his birth, his marriage, and his death. It was based on the French language tune "Les trois cloches" by Jean Villard Gilles and Marc Herrand. which was originally a hit in France for Les Compagnons De La Chanson and Edith Piaf in 1946.
  • The Browns were a family group from Arkansas - a brother and two sisters.
  • This was also a #1 Country hit. It led the chart for ten weeks, holding the record for the longest reign by a group (of at least three members) for nearly 56 years, until Little Big Town's "Girl Crush" racked up its eleventh week on the summit in 2015.
  • The English lyrics were written by Bert Reisfeld and first recorded by Melody Maids in 1948. The anglicized version was initially a hit in the US in the early 1950s for the Les Compagnons de la chanson without Edith Piaf.
  • The star of the story in the original French version was Jean-Francois Nicot. When the song was anglicized, Jean-Francois Nicot became Jimmy Brown. It was just coincidence that the Browns' male vocalist, Jim Ed Brown, had the same name as the song's character.
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Comments: 16

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: https://www.cmaworld.com/ {01-23-2019}...
    Maxine Brown Russell, who along with her family trio The Browns helped define an era while also taking Country Music to wider, more cosmopolitan audiences, passed away today, Jan. 21st, 2019, in Little Rock, Arkansas at the age of 87...
    “Maxine was a force to be reckoned with, and I’ll always remember her sense of humor,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “She and her siblings will forever be celebrated as one of Country Music’s most beloved trios"...
    The Browns’ smooth three-part harmonies, centered around Jim Ed’s rich baritone complemented by Maxine’s alto and Bonnie’s breathy soprano, lifted the soul and cut across genre lines to bring a more sophisticated sound to Country Music...
    Perhaps the most important vocal group of the Nashville Sound era, The Browns’ harmonies were among the most influential of the time, immediately influencing groups like the Beatles and the Osborne Brothers. And the trio’s take on what Country Music can aspire to be can still be felt decades later in the music of modern vocal groups like Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town...
    Maxine, Jim Ed, and Bonnie got their start performing at church and social functions as teenagers in Southwestern Arkansas. Maxine signed up Jim Ed for a talent contest on Little Rock radio station KLRA’s “Barnyard Frolic.” Jim Ed didn’t win, but he was invited to join the cast. Maxine eventually joined him on stage and the two found quick success as a duo, landing a spot on the popular and influential “Louisiana Hayride” in 1954 and recording “Looking Back to See,” a surprise hit that rose to No. 8 on Billboard’s Country chart...
    Bonnie filled out the trio by joining formally in 1955 and The Browns quickly scored another hit with “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow.” It was an exciting time for the siblings, as chronicled in Maxine’s autobiography Looking Back to See and famed author Rick Bass’ fictionalized account of their lives, Nashville Chrome. They found themselves on the road with good friend Elvis Presley early in their career and helped establish Nashville as Music City, USA, along with acts like Presley and the Everly Brothers. Together they all pushed the boundaries of popular music...
    The Browns signed with RCA Records in 1955, teaming with legendary producer Chet Atkins, and eventually recorded 250 sides with the label, including sizeable hits “I Take the Chance” and “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing.” They toured the U.S. relentlessly during this period and also went to Europe with fellow RCA acts...
    The Browns reached new levels of popularity with the recording of 1959’s “The Three Bells,”* a song originally performed by Edith Piaf in France. The song displayed The Browns’ willingness to explore folk and pop modes in their music and the public responded, making it No. 1 on the pop and Country charts. It even rose to No. 10 on the R&B charts, showing its universal appeal...
    The song and subsequent hits like “The Old Lamplighter” also proved widely popular and led the group to huge television appearance opportunities including “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “American Bandstand,” and “The Perry Como Show"...
    The Browns joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963. The trio, which was occasionally augmented by younger sister Norma, formally disbanded in 1967 when Maxine and Bonnie chose to retire to raise their young families...
    In 2015, The Browns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame...
    Maxine was predeceased by her parents, Floyd and Birdie Brown, sisters Bonnie and Norma, brothers Jim Ed and Raymond, and her son, Tommy H. Russell, Jr. She is survived by two children, Jimmy Russell (Mary) and Alicia Short (Curtis), six grandchildren (Caitlin, Daniel, Meredith, Eva, Patrick, and Katherine), and two great-grandchildren (Atlas and Aina)...
    May she R.I.P.
    * "The Three Bells" peaked at #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart on August 24th, 1959 and it spent seventeen weeks on the Top 100...
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaNever knew till now about the origin of the song. I know that there is an old Everly Brothers song that was originally from France as well. such a pretty song and great harmony by the Browns.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm
    Country singer Jim Ed Brown, best-known as the lead singer of the Browns with sisters Maxine and Bonnie, died of cancer June 11th, 2015 in a Franklin, Tennessee hospital at the age of 81...
    Born in Sparkman, Arkansas, Jim and Maxine originally joined Ernest Tubb's radio show as a duo. Their "Looking Back To See" was a #8 country hit in 1954, the year before Bonnie joined to make them a trio... From 1954 to 1968, they charted with 21 country tunes, 13 of which crossed over to the pop charts, including "The Three Bells" (#1 pop and country-1959), "Scarlet Ribbons" (#13 pop, #7 country-1959) and "The Old Lamplighter" (#5 pop, #20 country-1960)...
    Jim began a solo career in 1965 and the trio split up two years later...
    As a solo singer, his biggest hit was "Pop A Top" (#3 country-1967), but he scored even bigger hits as a duo with Helen Cornelius, including "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You" (#1 country-1976) and "Lying In Love With You" (#2 country-1979)...
    They were voted the Country Music Association's duo of the year in 1977...
    Jim was the host of the Nashville Network's TV show, "You Can Be A Star!" from 1983 to 1989 and co-hosted the syndicated "Nashville On The Road" TV show...
    The Browns were elected this year to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Jim was presented with his induction medal in his hospital room five months early...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 8th 1960, the Browns performed "The Old Lamplighter" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    It was the trio's only other Top 10 record on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and at the time "The Old Lamplighter" was at #5 {for 1 week} and that was also its peak position on the Top 100, it had entered the chart on April 8th, 1960 and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #20 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart...
    They had five other Top 100 records; "Scarlet Ribbons" {#13}, "Teen-Ex"* {#47}, "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On {#56}, "Blue Christmas" {#97}, and "Ground Hog" {also at #97}...
    * "Teen-Ex" was the B-side of "The Old Lamplighter".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 14th 1955, the parents of Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Gladewater, Texas...
    Attending the anniversary party was a 20 year old Sun Records recording artist named Elvis Presley; at the time Elvis' "Baby Let's Play House" was at #12 on Billboard's Country & Western Best Sellers chart...
    In 1959 the Browns' "Three Bells" reached #1 on both Billboard's Top 100 and Hot Country Singles charts...
    R.I.P. to The King {1935 - 1977} and all three Browns are still with us; Maxine is 82, Jim Ed is 80, and Bonnie is 77.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaJim Ed Brown, Jimmy Brown. Coincidence. Interesting, two sisters and their brother. And, Jeff from Austin, TX, the Brown sisters truly WERE hot. The chorus sounds a bit like the previous major #1 folk hit, "Tom Dooley"! I have always loved this song.
  • Jim from Morgantown, WvMy real name is Jimmy Brown. I was 5 when this came out. I took crap my entire childhood because of my name. People gooned on me because of the football player, the soul singer and yes, this song too. It was always, "Hey! Aren't you the___ (enter your choice here). I always wanted a different name back then until I discovered I could close the conversation by replying, "No, he was named after me."
  • Mark from Jefferson City, MoDick Flood sounds like a name for a porn star.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAn artist by the name of Dick Flood also released this song in 1959; his version peaked at #23...
  • Karen from Silver Spring, MdThe song by Edith Piaf was "Les Trois Cloches."
  • Glenn from Dyersburg, TnWhat a wonderful song. It makes me think of my family and the simple country upbringing that we all had. It's hard to believe that this song is 50 years old. WOW. Jim Ed and his sisters voices flowed like gold. I'm sure he is very proud of this song. It holds a very special place for me.
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InJim Ed Brown also had some success as an actor.
  • Jeff from Austin, TxThose Brown sisters were hot back in the day.
  • Walter from Antwerp, BelgiumMr Pearce is wrong, I'm afraid. This song was first introduced in French on Swiss radio as 'Les Trois Cloches' by its author Jean Villard, better known as Gilles, as early as 1939. Shortly after WWII in 1946, it was recorded for the first time by Edith Piaf with Les Compagnons De La Chanson. Later on, there were two English translations: 'The Three Bells' (1948) and 'While The Angelus Was Ringing' (1949), of which the first one was the most succesful, especially in the Browns' version.
  • Dan from Sterling, VaJim Ed Brown's sisters were Maxine and Bonnie.
    The song went to #1 on 8/3/59 for 4 weeks on the Billboard Top 40.
  • Homer from Versailles, IlJim Ed Brown of The Browns still performs this regularly on The Grand Ole Opry.
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