January 1, 1973: Songwriter Jack Rollins Dies

Jack Rollins

Songwriter Jack Rollins died on New Year’s Day 1973 at age 66. The prolific composer wrote more than 500 songs but will always be remembered for two holiday favorites.

Rollins was born in Keyser in Mineral County in 1906. As a youth, he wrote poetry with his mother, who encouraged him to become a songwriter. He left home at 18 and worked in a glass factory, as a railroad baggage handler, and in a carnival. On the side, he started writing lyrics as a freelancer before joining a New York publishing company in 1948. The next year, he co-wrote “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” with Steve Nelson. The song sold more than a million copies.

Then, in 1950, he and Nelson penned “Frosty the Snow Man,” which was a big hit for Gene Autry. He and Nelson also wrote “Smokey the Bear” for the U.S. Forest Service. The character was originally known as Smokey Bear, but the composers added “the” to his name because it fit better musically.

Jack Rollins is buried in Keyser. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2011.