The roots of The Three Bells go way back. Back to 1945 where we find Jean Villard Gilles’ Les Trois Cloches, the French composition it was based on. Gilles, a Swiss of origin, is credited with writing it, but the song became famous only when performed by Edith Piaf during the same time period. Three years later the lyrics were translated into English by Bert Reisfeld – a lyricist known for his foreign song adaptations (he’s also credited with It’s Oh So Quiet).
The Browns were just one of the groups that sung The Three Bells, but no doubt the most successful at doing so. Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Maxine Brown and Bonnie Brown can be associated with the trademark Nashville Sound, although their music also combines elements of folk and pop. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about their version is that the name of the song’s protagonist – Jimmy Brown, whose life stages from birth, to marriage and to death are narrated in the lyrics – shares both names with the The Browns’ lead singer. You could say the match was made in heaven.
The Three Bells spent 4 consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by Santo & Johnny’s Sleep Walk.