Several hours have passed since HELEN CORNELIUS stepped offstage with a final beaming smile and
a heartfelt, "thank you, God bless you" in response to the encore called by her overflow Midwestern fair audience.
BEHIND HER: three weeks of performances, enthusiastic crowds, endless autograph lines, scores of media interviews, and the explosion of a few thousand camera flashes freezing forever in motion Helen's trade-mark, high-energy showmanship. AHEAD: somewhere down the long highway in Nashville, and a few days of fine-tuning rehearsal with Jim Ed Brown, to sharpen the reunion concert performances of one of country music's most successful duet teamings.
Hannibal, Missouri is the proud birthplace of one of America's greatest literary genius', Mark Twain. Somehow, Hannibal didn't suspect that a humbly born little girl would grow up in its' midst to become one of country music's brightest talents. Performing as a child with her sisters and winning a number of local talent contests (including on the national scale, a trio of wins on "The Ted Mack Amateur Hour" in 1970), set the stage for what was to unfold.
It was her songwriting that initially swung open the doors along the corridors of Nashville's Music Row. By the mid-70's, Helen had songs recorded by a number of major artists, including the Oak Ridge Boys, Reba McEntire, Jeannie C. Riley, Connie Smith, Charlie Louvin, Melba Montgomery, LaCosta,Dottsy, to mention a handful. While it was her writing that first won her major credibility, it was the voice that RCA Record executives heard that won Helen Cornelius her first major recording contract in 1975. With it, history was about to be made. At the suggestion of her producer, Bob Ferguson, Helen was teamed with Jim Ed Brown for the first time on record in June of 1976 with the now country standard, "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You", a song discovered by Chet Atkins.
Upon release of the duet, the song quickly climbed to the top of Billboard's Country Top 100, remaining #1 for multiple weeks and holding the top spot in a number of major markets for as much as four months. Helen's teaming on record with Jim Ed Brown was also furthered by Helen being named the Most Promising Female Vocalist by Music City News. Following this win, the West Coast based Academy of Country Music gave her their prestigious nod in the "Best New Female Vocalist" category. As a duet, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius capped their year in 1977 with a win of the coveted CMA Awards for "Vocal Duo of the Year", "Single Of The Year", and "Album of the Year".
Over the next four years, Helen's teaming with Brown on records, as well as on the road, led to their own popular weekly television series, the syndicated "Nashville On The Road", with co-hosts Jerry Clower and Wendy Holcombe. They went on to enjoty twelve more Top 10 singles - the majority reaching Top 5 or Number 1 status. "Morning Comes Too Early", "Fools", "Lying In Love With You", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", and "Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye" among the songs that offer recorded treatment of their unique vocal blending.
In 1980, Helen embarked on her own solo career and immediately began touring with Conway Twitty as his opening act for the next two years.
Noted theatrical producer, William Fegan, taking careful ote of Helen's natural onstage dynamics and crowd-pleasing ways, signed her in January 1984 to play the lead role in a road show revival of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun." As Annie, playing opposite Dave Roland, Helen took steady aim on yet another dimension of her talents; acting. Helen and the road company that also featured her "Southern Spirit" musicians attracted packed houses, standing ovations, and rave reviews during a run that took them into 64 cities, often performing as many as three shows per city. Upon closing, Helen had added a very prestigious notch to her career credits. It was a success that would give her the confidence and desire to continue to "stretch" into new areas of her talent reservoirs.
On the heels of closing in "Annie Get Your Gun", Helen shifted gears to tour with The Statler Brothers on their sell-out concert series for the next two years along with the demands of her own individual concert dates. Notes from major reviewers caught the impact of what was happening. As one reviewer deftly pinpointed..."Helen Cornelius has grown into a performer who can walk on stage, grab a crowd, and hold it, right where she wants it...in the palm of her hand."
In 1988, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius teamed up once again for a reunion sold out tour. In 1991, ready for a new challenge, Helen opened a dinner restaurant in Gatlinburg, TN., "Nashville South", where she performed nightly through 1996.
In 1997, Helen joined once again with Jim Ed Brown to perform in the Eagle Mountain Theater in Pigeon Forge, TN, along with Con Hunley. "I loved that show, and having great voices surrounding the blend of Jim Ed and myself was such a pleasure."
Continuing in the theater presentations, Helen then became part of The Grand Ladies show in Branson, Mo., whicvh opened in April 2000. This show featured many of county music's best known female performers. Helen performed nightly in this show until June of 2003 when she resumed her touring schedule.