The Three Bells

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"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 on the U.S. country and pop charts,[2] outperforming a competing version by Dick Flood. The version by the Browns also hit number ten on the Hot R&B Sides chart.[3] It was based on the 1945 French language song "Les trois cloches" by Jean Villard Gilles and Marc Herrand. The English lyrics were written by Bert Reisfeld and first recorded by 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 Édith Piaf and Les Compagnons de la chanson, who recorded the original French version, 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, and in Spanish, retaining the title "Jimmy Brown", by the vocal group Mocedades.

"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".

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",[4] 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 Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Sides 10
Australian Singles Chart 1
Norway VG-Lista Charts 6

Jim Ed Brown[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 29
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 22

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes[edit]

Chart (1965) Peak
U.K. Singles Charts 17

Brian O'Donnell[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
U.K. Singles Charts 71

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Show 11 - Tennessee Firebird. [Part 3], Big Rock Candy Mountain. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 59. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 88. 
  4. ^ "Naďa Urbánková - Zvony nelžou". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"A Big Hunk o' Love" by Elvis Presley
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
August 24, 1959 – September 14, 1959
Succeeded by
"Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny
Preceded by
"Waterloo" by Stonewall Jackson
Billboard Hot Country & Western Sides number-one single
August 31, 1959 – November 2, 1959
Succeeded by
"Country Girl" by Faron Young