Helms performing live in Belgium, in 2014
|Birth name||James D. Helms|
September 27, 1941 |
Florida, United States
James D. Helms was born on September 27, 1941, in Florida. His grandfather was a Black Seminole and a preacher. Helms discovered music when his aunt gave the family a radio, and went on to play trumpet in the school band. After high school he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he released his first single "Susie's Gone" on Sue Records in 1963. He played with the Carl Salle band and moved to Boston, where he worked as a sessions guitarist. In the early 1960s, he joined the US Army and played trumpet in the Fort Jackson Army Band.
After his service, Helms began to spend more time pursuing a music career in the UK. He released "Ragtime Girl" on Pye records and in 1969 he released "If You Let Me" on London. Neither of these early releases made much of an impact but helped to push Helms into the spotlight in the 1970s.
In Boston in 1970, Helms appeared in the Broadway musical Hair, where he played the character Hud. Reviewing his performance, Billboard Magazine noted "He projects a personality that is vital."
Helms signed to Fly Records in 1972, and released "So Long Love". However, he is best known for his #8 UK hit single, "Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse" in 1973. Later releases such as "I'll Take Good Care of You" and "Jack Horner's Holiday" did not repeat the commercial success. "I'm Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse" was written and produced by Johnny Worth.
Helms sang Elmer Bernstein and Don Black's title song for the 1974 adventure film Gold, starring Roger Moore. In 1974 he worked on Roger Glover's concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, performing "Waiting." The album also featured Ronnie James Dio, Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale, Tony Ashton and John Lawton. In 1976, Helms performed on two songs for Eddie Hardin's Wizard's Convention album ("Loose Ends" and "She's a Woman.")
1980s and 1990s
Helms worked on the soundtrack of the 1985 movie Water, and performed some songs on the album release of the 1980s stage musical Time. He worked as a session musician with Topper Headon, Deacon Blue, Madness, and other groups in this period.
Helms was often heard singing vocals on many radio jingles on Independent Local Radio stations in the United Kingdom. His voice was particularly prominent on the Alfasound produced ident packages for Pennine Radio, Radio Hallam and the Yorkshire Radio Network. Helms also voiced/sang the part of the Cilician pirate Isoricus on the track 'Trust Me', on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of Spartacus released in 1992.
In 1988 Helms, along with band members George Chandler (ex-The Olympic Runners), Jimmy Chambers, and William Henshall formed the band, Londonbeat. The band reached initial successful in the Netherlands, but quickly found a broader audience. The group's hits include "I've Been Thinking About You", "A Better Love", and "9 A.M (The Comfort Zone)", all written by William Henshall. The song "I've Been Thinking About You" written by Helms produced his highest-ever profile, reaching #2 on the British charts in September 1990, and #1 on the US charts in February 1991. It stayed on this chart for nearly five months.
Londonbeat went on hiatus in 1995, but in 2003, it re-formed as New Londonbeat with a line-up consisting of Jimmy Helms, Jimmy Chambers, Myles Kayne and Marc Goldschmitz. Signed to the German record label, Coconut, they released an album called Back in the Hi-Life, which featured re-recordings of "A Better Love", "I've Been Thinking About You", and with new tracks added.
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