Ten Favorite Number Songs: The Three Bells (#1)
By Four Walls
July 4, 2017 7:55pm CST
It's so great when there's a cool idea for a series of discussions centered around a theme. This number series idea was from @teamfreak16 . We have counted down our ten favorites with numerals in the title, and with the number's word spelled out in the title. And, out of all the time we've run concurrent series, we matched...twice. Obviously it was a great idea!! Thanks, Scott! Here's my number one song. #1: The Three Bells - The Browns One of the hallmarks of country music is family harmonies. You can go back to the 1920s with the Carter Family (A.P. Carter, his wife, and sister-in-law) or the Delmore Brothers (country's first brother duet). This hit a high point in the 1950s with the successes of Ira and Charlie Louvin, Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, and Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown. The Browns began as a duet, as little sister Bonnie was still in high school. Their hit, "Lookin' Back to See," was inspired by their youngest sister (who wasn't part of the group [officially, that is, although she did sub on personal appearances while Jim Ed was in the Army]) trying to explain something and repeating the words. It was a hit for them and several others, and their career took off. After high school Bonnie joined Jim Ed and Maxine in the group, but Army service for Jim Ed put a screeching halt to the band. Jim Ed's friend from back in their days on the small, independent Fabor label, Jim Reeves, kept the Browns' name on the lips of the RCA executives to ensure the trio wouldn't be dropped by the label. (Trivia: Reeves played rhythm guitar on the first Browns session.) While home on leave Jim Ed and his sisters recorded "I Take the Chance," which satisfied the public until Jim Ed finished his military service. Their first session after Jim's Army career would make or break them, because the winds of music had shifted dramatically in those two years, thanks to a guy from Mississippi who was coincidentally just beginning his Army service (Presley somebody....never heard of him ). No worries, though, because that recording session was for this song. "The Three Bells" goes back to the 1940s, but there's hardly anyone who associates this song with anyone except the Browns anymore. The production, in the throes of the Nashville Sound era, could have been horrid; instead, Chet Atkins used restraint. The backing vocals ring as they sing the "bong, bong, bong, bong" opening to the choruses (how's that for some onomatopoeia?). The song chronicles the life cycle of one boy in "a village, hidden deep in a valley." When he's born, and when he marries, "all the chapel bells were ringing" to celebrate, while "the little congregation prayed for guidance from above." When Jimmy Brown (just a coincidence that the male in the Browns' name was Jim Brown, although that may have played into the decision to record this song) dies at the end of the song, only one bell rings: "'twas farewell that it was singing." This song went far beyond popularity in country music. It made #1 on the pop charts as well, and was nominated for two Grammy awards. The Browns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Shortly after the announcement that they would be inducted Jim Ed died of lung cancer. At the induction ceremonies that autumn Bonnie Brown announced that she, too, had lung cancer (although she never smoked). She died in July 2016, two weeks before her birthday. Their music remains, a timeless celebration of family harmonies and terrific songs. This was the highlight of not only their career, but of the late 1950s. Thanks for reading. The Three Bells Written by Jean Villard Gilles and Bert Reisfeld Recorded by the Browns From Sweet Sounds of the Browns, 1959 Just a lonely bell was ringing:
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No, that's a Kinks song. And yes, I know some bands have covered it, but it is a Kinks song. I'm sort of surprised, because this was a massive hit (granted, before I was born, but still...) and really, the song they were known for.