The Three Bells

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"The Three Bells"
Single by The Browns
from the album Sweet Sounds by The Browns
B-side "Heaven Fell Last Night"
Released 1959
Format Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM
Genre Contemporary folk
Length 2:47
Label RCA Victor
Songwriter(s) Jean Villard Gilles & Bert Reisfeld
Producer(s) Chet Atkins
The Browns singles chronology
"Would You Care"
"The Three Bells"
"Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)"

"Would You Care"
"The Three Bells"
"Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)"

"The Three Bells", also known as "Jimmy Brown" or "Little Jimmy Brown", is a song made popular by the Browns in 1959.[1] The single reached number one in the U.S. on Billboard's Hot C&W Sides chart[2] and the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[3][4] outperforming a competing version by Dick Flood. The version by the Browns also hit number ten on Billboard's Hot R&B Sides chart.[5][6] It was based on the 1945 French language song "Les trois cloches" written and composed by Swiss artist Jean Villard Gilles. It was later on arranged by Marc Herrand. The English lyrics were written by Bert Reisfeld and first recorded by the Melody Maids in 1948. The song was a major 1952–53 hit by Édith Piaf and Les Compagnons de la chanson. The song documents three stages of the life of "Jimmy Brown"—his birth, his marriage, and his death. The Browns' male vocalist, Jim Ed Brown, coincidentally had the same name as the song's character.

Recorded versions[edit]

Among the many musicians who covered the song are Tina Arena, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Ken Parker, Ray Charles, Nana Mouskouri, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash & the Carter Family, Floyd Cramer, Daniel O'Donnell, Chet Atkins, Elaine Paige, Sha Na Na, Andy Williams, and Alison Krauss & Union Station. It was also recorded in Dutch as "De drie klokken" and "Bim bam", in Italian as "Le Tre Campane" by Schola Cantorum, in Spanish, retaining the title "Jimmy Brown", by the vocal group Mocedades, and in Corsican by I Campagnoli.

"The Three Bells", also known as "The Jimmy Brown Song", was also recorded for Decca Records in 1951 by the Andrews Sisters, the World War II boogie-woogie group of sisters: Patty, Maxene & LaVerne. While it did not prove to be the big hit that Billboard predicted it would be for the Andrews Sisters, it was nonetheless a very moving, harmonious rendition, in which the trio was accompanied by Gordon Jenkins' orchestra & chorus. The German title was "Wenn die Glocken hell erklingen".

Gene Summers and the Four Stars were performing "The Three Bells" as early as 1954 at all their concerts. Summers released a "live" version of the song on his 2013 CD "Taboo!".

Jim Ed Brown, one-third of the Browns, released a cover in 1969.

In 1974, Naďa Urbánková recorded a Czech version, with her own lyrics, as "Zvony nelžou",[7] translated, "The bells never lie".

The song was parodied by the Barron Knights as "The Chapel Lead Is Missing" on their 1978 LP Night Gallery.

With lyrics in Swedish by Britt Lindeborg, Kikki Danielsson covered the song in 1979 on her debut album, Rock'n Yodel, as "Och vi hörde klockor ringa", translated "And we heard bells ringing".

Chart position[edit]

The Browns[edit]

Chart (1959) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Sides 10
Australia 1
Flanders[8] 13
Germany[9] 19
Netherlands[10] 4
Norway VG-lista[9] 6
UK - New Musical Express[11] 6

Jim Ed Brown[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles[12] 29
Canadian RPM Country[13] 22

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes[edit]

Chart (1965) Peak
U.K. - Record Retailer[14] 17

Daniel O'Donnell[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
UK Singles Chart[15] 71

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Show 11 - Tennessee Firebird. [Part 3], Big Rock Candy Mountain. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library
  2. ^ "Hot C&W Sides", Billboard, August 31, 1959. p. 56. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  3. ^ The Browns - Chart History - The Hot 100, Accessed September 23, 2016.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 59. 
  5. ^ "Hot R&B Sides", Billboard, August 31, 1959. p. 57. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 88. 
  7. ^ "Naďa Urbánková - Zvony nelžou". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  8. ^ The Browns - The Three Bells, Ultratop. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  9. ^ a b The Browns - The Three Bells, Accessed September 23, 2016.
  10. ^ The Browns - The Three Bells, Dutch Charts. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  11. ^ Browns - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Hot Country Singles", Billboard, August 30, 1969. p. 46. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Country", RPM Weekly, Volume 12, No. 8, November 10, 1969. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  14. ^ Brian Poole and the Tremeloes - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  15. ^ Daniel O'Donnell - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Accessed September 23, 2016.

External links[edit]