“Frosty the Snowman” might not have come to life in West Virginia, but the man who created Frosty did. Walter E. “Jack” Rollins, born in Keyser, West Virginia, co-wrote the widely known children’s song in 1950.
And while Frosty’s inspiration might not have come from his youth beneath the snowy peaks of the Allegheny Mountains, Rollins’s inspiration as a song-writer certainly did, according to journalist Douglas Imbrogno.
While growing up in Mineral County, Rollins had to care for his mother, who had been blinded by glaucoma. She wrote poetry, and so did he, Rollins’s grandson James Busemeyer recalled.
After hearing her son’s poetry, Imbrogno says Rollins’s mother suggested he might put some of his words to music.
“It was her who said ‘Maybe you ought to put some music to it’,” Busemeyer said of his grandfather. “She always encouraged him quite a bit. He felt very close with her.”
Yet Rollins didn’t engage in full-time song-writing until after age 40 while he was working as a baggage handler in New York City.
Rollins there met Steve Nelson, with whom he won fame a year before publishing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.”
Rollins afterward moved to Hollywood, where he wrote the lyrics for the US Forest Service’s campaign for “Smokey Bear.” Rollins added the ‘the’ in “Smokey the Bear” as he was otherwise unable to fit “Smokey Bear” into the lyrics.
“Frosty the Snowman” was first covered by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950 and afterward by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and a host of other crooners.
“Mountain Stage” host Larry Groce recorded a version in 1976 for one of his Disney children’s records.
Rollins died in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1973, at age 66, and is buried in the Queen’s Point Cemetery in Keyser.