Everett Lafayette Helms was born in Petersburg in 1876, the eldest child of De Lafayette and Mary Helms. By all accounts Everett was a typical small-town boy, well-known in the community his family had lived in for generations.
In 1897 Everett married Nellie Jane Krutz, the pixie-like daughter of local merchant and banker. They started a family and attended the Petersburg Christian Church. Everett taught Sunday School, rising to the position of “Superintendent of Sunday School.” He often played Santa Claus for the church Christmas party.
Around 1916, Helms spent leisure time tooling around the county in his “Hub touring car,” still quite a novelty in Boone County at the time. By trade, Everett was a barber, a craft that kept him constantly in public view of his community; his shop sold cigars and became a hangout for Petersburg’s men. Business was good.
For a few years, Everett served as a deputy clerk of courts in Petersburg. His goal in this role was to get a record number of local young men to file marriage licenses. This was an indication that Helms was more than the car-guy who held court at his barber shop; Everett was a romantic.
While still a high school student, he placed an ad in the paper which ran for several issues. In it he asked readers for help in finding his lost “music sack.” It’s unclear if he ever found it, but it may have contained his earliest compositions. Everett Helms was on track to becoming a published composer of romantic songs.
Shortly after his marriage, he published a song titled “My Pretty Blue-Eyed Nell” which was mentioned in the Boone County Recorder as “another beautiful song” published by Helms. Though not his first, this composition was clearly an homage to his bride. He continued to compose songs, probably more as a labor of love than a vocation, though he did sell copies of the sheet music. In 1906, his song “Sweetheart Edna Riley” gained more than local popularity. On page one of the paper, there was a claim that the song, which was distributed by a Chicago publishing house, was being “sung all over the world.”
Helms’ romantic songwriting didn’t seem to slow down over the years, but his originality in coming up with titles may have. In 1920, he obtained two separate musical copyrights: the first for “Sweetheart I’m So Lonely” another for the similarly titled “Sweetheart I’m So Blue.” Everett died at only 45 years old from a sudden stroke in 1922. His widow, Nellie, never remarried.
Hillary Delaney is the Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library