Born in Bloomington, Indiana into a musical family, Helms began performing as a duo with his brother, Freddie, before going on to a successful solo career in country music. In 1956, Helms made his way to Nashville, Tennessee, where he signed a recording contract with Decca Records. The following year was filled with successes. Helms' first single in 1957, titled "Fraulein", went to No. 1 on the country music chart and made it into the Top 40 on the Billboard
Hot 100 chart. Later that same year, he released "My Special Angel", which also hit No. 1 on the country charts and entered the Top 10 on Billboard's
pop music chart, peaking at No. 7.Released just a few days before Christmas 1957, his song "Jingle Bell Rock" was a big hit. It also re-emerged in four out of the next five years, and sold so well that it repeated each time as a top hit, and became a Christmas classic still played to this day. It took five years for the song to become a second million-seller for Helms. It reached No. 6 on the Billboard
Hot 100 and spent 21 weeks in the chart. The record gained gold disc status. Accounts that Helms wrote and recorded the song with Hank Garland seem to be apocryphal—ASCAP and Allmusic list the writers of the song as Joseph Beal, Joseph Carlton, James Ross and James Boothe.Helms continued touring and recording for the next three decades. His pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.Helms spent most of his later years living just outside of Martinsville, Indiana, until his death from emphysema and asthma at the age of 63 in 1997.He was portrayed by actor Brad Hawkins in the 2007 film Crazy
.Another record by Helms was "Schoolboy Crush", which was a hit in the UK. It was released in the USA on June 23, 1958 on Decca. The same song was then covered by UK teen star Cliff Richard about the same time as the UK release.