Jimmy Helms

Although vocalist Jimmy Helms was born in Florida in 1944, he scored his hits and marked his career almost entirely in the United Kingdom. An early burning desire for music was fed during his years in the United States Army, where he played in the Fort Jackson Army Band. Switching from band to song and changing his home base from America to Britain after his stint in the service, Helms released his first single, "Ragtime Girl," on Pye records in 1963. He followed up with one more early single in 1969 when London released "If You Let Me." Neither managed to do anything, but they certainly helped build the forward momentum that pushed Helms to the spotlight during the '70s. Signing to Fly/Cube records in 1972, Helms released the well-received "So Long Love," but it was the following year's stunning "I'm Gonna Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse" that finally brought him the breakthrough he deserved. Produced by John Worth, the song was a Top Ten hit that spring. However, two further singles, "I'll Take Good Care of You" and "Jack Horner's Holiday," failed to match their predecessor's might, while the following year's I'm Gonna Make You an Offer album, recorded with a session band featuring former Affinity/Fancy member Mo Foster, similarly failed to do anything on the charts. Despite seemingly doomed to one-hit-wonderdom, Helms remained undeterred. Returning to his first label, Pye, he recorded the Songs I Sing LP and the single "Don't Pull Your Love" during 1975, while he was also in-demand as a guest on a number of other artist's releases -- Helms appeared as the kingfisher in Roger Glover's Butterfly Ball, while 1976 brought a role in Eddie Hardin's Wizard's Convention superstar album. Helms also contributed to early- to mid-"70s albums by Mick Greenwood and Scaffold spin-off Fresh Liver. In 1977, a link with renowned producer Biddu saw Helms release the "Black Joy" single and soundtrack LP (repackaged on CD in 2002). Continuing to move on and off the radar, Helms contributed to the soundtrack of the 1985 movie Water, and was also involved in the mid-'80s stage musical Time, performing several songs on the accompanying album. Still working heavily in sessions, Helms appeared alongside Madness, Then Jericho, and Deacon Blue, while his own next album, Speak, appeared (and quickly disappeared in 1988). But still that year represented the dawn of a new age for the soon-to-be completely revitalized musician. Partnering with Jimmy Chambers, George Chandler (ex-Olympic Runners), and production wizard Willy M, Helms became one-fourth of the late-'80s/early-'90s dance band Londonbeat. Driven by drum machines and produced by Martyn Philips, the band unleashed a huge string of successful singles in the U.K. from 1988 through the middle of the next decade. While their 1988 debut, "9 AM (The Comfort Zone)" and a 1991 cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" brought them mainstream success, nothing could touch the Helms-penned "I've Been Thinking About You." It would be that song that would give Helms his highest-ever profile, soaring to number two on the British charts in September, 1990, and kicking off a U.S. New Year in style as it rocketed to number one in February 1991, ultimately staying on the chart for nearly five months. A decade later, Helms still led a New Londonbeat around the U.K. oldies circuit. ~ Amy Hanson

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