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Songwriter Walter E. ‘‘Jack’’ Rollins (September 15, 1906-January 1, 1973) wrote the lyrics to ‘‘Here Comes Peter Cottontail’’ and ‘‘Frosty the Snow Man,’’ two of America’s most popular songs. Rollins was born in Keyser. While growing up in Mineral County, Rollins cared for his mother who had glaucoma. They both wrote poetry, and she encouraged him to put his to music.

He left home at 18, working first at a glass factory in Pittsburgh and later traveling with a carnival. He also worked at Penn Station in New York, starting as a baggage handler. Rollins wrote song lyrics as a freelancer before joining music publishers Hill and Range in New York in 1948. In 1949, he wrote the lyrics to ‘‘Peter Cottontail,’’ with Steve Nelson writing the music. The song sold more than a million copies, with recordings by Guy Lombardo, Gene Autry, Dinah Shore, Roy Rogers, and others.

In 1950, Rollins wrote ‘‘Frosty the Snow Man,’’ with Nelson again supplying the tune. Now considerd a holiday classic, the song was first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950. Over the years, the song was recorded by many others, including Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and the Partridge Family. Larry Groce, the host of Mountain Stage, recorded a version of the song in 1976.

Rollins, who authored about 500 songs, also wrote ‘‘Smokey the Bear’’ with Nelson in 1952 for the U.S. Forest Service. The character was known originally as Smokey Bear, but Rollins and Nelson added the “the” to his name because it worked better in the song. Rollins also wrote for some big stars of the day, including George Jones and Eddy Arnold. The song he wrote for Hank Snow, “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” became a number one hit. Rollins spent nearly 30 years in Hollywood, moving to Cincinnati in 1965. He is buried in Keyser.

Rollins was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Last Revised on December 14, 2017


Sources

Douglas Imbrogno. Tracing Frosty's W.Va. Connection. Charleston Gazette, December 7, 2011.

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Jack Rollins." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 December 2017. Web. 21 September 2018.

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