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Bobby Helms and His Number-One Debut Single “Fraulein”

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In February 1957, the freshly signed Decca artist Bobby Helms took over the country genre with his chart-topping debut single “Fraulein.” The track, which was written by Lawton Williams, dominated for four weeks and went on to stay for the full 52-week stretch, which was one whole year. Thus, it is the sixth-longest song to spend over 50 weeks on the chart. 

But that wasn’t its only feat, as it also managed to chart over in the pop category, peaking at number 36. 

Meaning Behind the Song

According to Mike Nichols of Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Fraulein” was credited with reviving the national interest in country music. At the time, the genre was slowly integrating into a whole space of pop with no distinguishable musical boundaries. And WBAP radio host Bill Mack echoed that, saying that the bottom dropped out when Hank Williams died in 1953. “‘Fraulein’ got us going again.”

As the story goes, the song’s writer, Williams, was born to a fiddle-playing sharecropper. But the hoe didn’t really fit him, so he traded for a hoedown and started performing locally. He wrote music while in the Army and recorded it in the late 1940s, but that didn’t pan out for him. 

And then, one day, he wrote what would be immortalized as one of his greatest songs. 

The track was inspired by a short-lived romance with an old German’s daughter (a fraulein, referring to any unmarried German-speaking woman) he met during World War II. He was stationed in Houston then while his Fraulen was far across deep waters in Germany. Then, in 1948, he got over her and married Jeanette Crews. 

And the rest is history: Bobby Helms recorded the song, and it became a massive hit. It was even named the 1957 Country Song of the Year at the Billboard and Cashbox Awards. In the same year, Decca labelmate Kitty Wells recorded a song response titled “(I’ll Always Be Your) Fraulein,” which earned a Top 10 position on the charts. In 1960, three years after he released the song, Helms dropped a darker follow-up version, “Lonely River Rhine.”

The track also became artists’ favorite, inspiring a string of covers over the years. A few of the notable singers who recorded their renditions were Hank Locklin, Willie Nelson, and David Allan Coe

Check out Bobby Helms’ “Fraulein” in the video below. 

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