The Sara/Craig thing is not the first public scandal involving country music stars, adultery and stuff being made public that shouldn’t have been. Gather round, boys and girls…I’m going to tell you of a scandal that went on here in Music City a long time ago that was every bit as public as this Sara thing.
In 1976, Jim Ed Brown was paired with a cute singer from Missouri (there’s some irony there…Sara is from Missouri) named Helen Cornelius. Jim Ed had had a very succesful career singing with his sisters (The Three Bells) and as a solo artist.
Jim Ed had been married for many years to Becky, a beautiful lady who taught most kids in the Brentwood area dance lessons. For many years, she was it in that area for dance lessons. (including this kid). They had two kids, one of them named "Buster" and that is no lie. Buster was a teenager during this time and his sister, being a year older than me, was about 10 or 11.
Helen had been married for many years to Lewis and they had three kids, who at this time, were teenagers. Helen had gorgeous kids. I mean, her two boys and daughter were just plain pretty.
Anyway, Jim Ed and Helen had a huge hit with a song called I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You. (It was really a good record) They had a few other big hits and naturally toured together. Jim Ed also had a tv show at this time that was syndicated called Nashville On The Road. Jim Ed was pretty doggone succesful during this period. He was very visible in the music thing and in Nashville.
Now, I went to the same church as the Browns. After all this Jim Ed/Helen success started, the Cornelius’s started coming to our church, too. We had lots of country music folk at Forest Hills Baptist Church back in those days. It was not odd or unusual to anybody when Helen and her family came there.
At some point, Jim Ed and Helen began an affair. I don’t remember now how long it went on or anything like that (amazingly, nothing on the internet about it. I’m doing all this from my own recollections) but ultimately, the spouses found out and all hell broke loose.
You have to understand, this was before the internet, and even before we had decent cable tv in Nashville. There was really no such thing as tabloid t.v. This story played out on the cover of The Tennessean and the late Nashville Banner and on the evening news. It was a humdinger of a mess. I can remember the front of the newspapers telling sordid details about Jim Ed and Helen’s thang. When I say "sordid", you have to take into consideration the time period. At that point in time, it was not normal to see stuff in the paper and on the news, in Nashville, about country music stars having affairs, their arguments, him throwing her stuff out of the bus, etc.
I can remember me personally, I was about 10 or 11 at the time. Even though the Old Man was knee deep in the music business, we were pretty sheltered from stuff… this was an eye opener. More than music business people…these were people I went to church with! I knew their kids. It was wild stuff.
Ultimately, Helen and Lewis divorced as did Jim Ed and Becky. I can remember during the post-divorce, Jim Ed coming to church on Wednesday and Sunday nights looking like hell. I didn’t understand a lot but I knew this was a man who had some rather large regrets. I can just see my dad standing out in the parking lot many nights talking to Jim Ed. They had been friends for many years and Dad had been through his share of marital discord and was a good one to go to for divorce advice.
The whole thing blew over and everybody moved on with their lives. The Browns reunited and are married to this day. Helen remarried and she and Jim Ed reunited onstage eventually. Every so often, Helen will be on the Opry with him. No doubt, Becky is not far away keeping her eye on things though. The sad part is Helen’s career never really recovered. Jim Ed had a lot more success pre-duo than she did so it really didn’t affect his career too badly.
The moral of this story is that this whole Sara thing will die down. It’s going to leave scars on a lot of people, as I’m sure the Jim Ed/Helen thing did. Just believe me when I say that situation was every bit as big a scandal at the time it happened circa 1980. Now, I can’t find one thing about it on the internet. Well, now there is something on the internet about it…thanks to me.