Vocalist / songwriter / guitarist / pianist / television host / entrepreneur

Born Jimmy Ray Dean, 10 August 1928, Plainview, Texas
Died 13 June 2010, Varina, Virginia

In the USA, Jimmy Dean was not only famous for his hits from the early 1960s, most notably "Big Bad John", but also for his brand of breakfast sausages and as a television personality.

Born into poverty on a farm in Texas, Dean was raised by his mother, who started him on a musical path when she taught him to play the piano at age ten. He went on to learn the guitar, harmonica and accordion. After leaving the Air Force in 1948, he put together a band, the Texas Wildcats, who became very popular on station WARL in Arlington, VA. In 1952 Jimmy signed with Bill McCallís 4-Star label and his very first single, "Bumminí Around", was a # 5 country hit in 1953. The song was later recorded by Ray Price, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis (duet with Merle Haggard on "Last Man Standing") and others.

Under the tutelage of country music impresario Connie B. Gay, Dean became a big name in broadcasting, on both radio and television. He hosted the regionally syndicated TV show "Town & Country Jamboree", which included Patsy Cline, Roy Clark and George Hamilton IV as regulars. In 1957 the show incarnated for a brief six months on the CBS network as "The Jimmy Dean Show". This led to a contract (as a singer) with Columbia, for which label Dean scored two pop hits in 1957, "Deep Blue Sea" (# 67) and the Christmas novelty "Little Sandy Sleighfoot" (# 32). But from there it was a long dry spell, chart-wise. Things improved after he started recording in Nash- ville with Don Law instead of in NYC with Mitch Miller. In 1961 Jimmy found a niche as a reciter of dramatic narrative, with "Big Bad John", his own composition. This narrative about a miner who dies while saving his fellow workers during a cave-in, spent five weeks at the top of Billboardís pop charts in November-December 1961 and two weeks at # 1 on the country charts (his first country hit since "Bumminí Around"). In the UK, "Big Bad John" reached # 2. The song was the subject of two parodies, "Tough Top Cat" by Marvin Rainwater and "Small Sad Sam" by Phil McLean, a # 21 hit. "Big Bad John" won the 1962 Grammy for best Country and Western performance and put Jimmy Dean firmly into the mainstream music business.

The follow-ups were two other recitations, "Dear Ivan" (# 24 pop, # 9 country) and "To A Sleeping Beauty" (# 26 pop, # 15 country). The saga of Big Bad John was revisited in "The Cajun Queen" (# 22 pop, # 16 country) and "Little Bitty Big John". "P.T. 109" , a song about President Kennedyís wartime heroism, returned him to the Top 10 (# 8 pop, # 3 country) in the spring of 1962. "Steel Men" (# 41 pop) told the sad story of the Second Narrows Bridge collapse (Vancouver, Canada) in June 1958, in which 19 ironworkers died. But after "Little Black Book" (# 29) and "Gonna Raise A Rukus Tonight" (# 73), the pop hits began to dry up, although Dean still scored a country number one in 1965 with "The First Thing Evíry Morning".

In 1963 Jimmy returned to network television with "The Jimmy Dean Show", which aired Thursday nights from 1963-66, on ABC-TV. He gave an early break to Muppet creator Jim Henson on the show, as well as bringing most of the top country acts of the day onto network television. Next he tried his hand at acting with a guest role on an episode of the hit TV series "Daniel Boone". The appearance struck a chord with viewers and won him a regular role from 1967 to 1970 as Josh Clements, Booneís friend. Other acting roles followed, and in 1971 Dean made his feature film debut in the James Bond classic "Diamonds Are Forever".

A switch to RCA brought him seven more country hits between 1966 and 1972. But he didnít have another smash (# 9 country, # 35 pop) until he finally persuaded Casino Records in 1976 to take a chance on "I.O.U.", a cloying spoken tribute to his mother that he had wanted to record since his Mitch Miller days.

Deanís business ventures had started in 1965 after he bought out a failing hog farm. With his brother Don he started marketing his own country breakfast sausage in 1969 and then became one of the largest grossing pork marketers in the country. He sold out to Sara Lee in 1984, but stayed on as chairman of the board of Jimmy Dean Meat Co. To the average US citizen, he is better known for his sausage and meat commercials than for his music. With his second wife, Donna Meade Dean, Jimmy co-wrote his autobiography, "Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham", published by Berkley Books in 2004.

In 2010 Jimmy Dean was nominated for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he was eagerly looking forward to the event. Unfortunately, he died (of natural causes) on June 13th, 2010, in Varina, Virginia, four months before the actual induction.

More info : http://www.biography.com/people/jimmy-dean-575760#the-jimmy-dean-show

Discography / sessionography : http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.cz/search/label/Dean%20Jimmy

Recommended CD :
Big Bad John (Bear Family BCD 15723). 26 Columbia recordings from 1961-62. Released in 1993. Liner notes by Colin Escott.

Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Fred Bronson, Margaret Jones.

YouTube :
- Deep Blue Sea : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwLgvfiOWW8
- Big Bad John : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVbHAEQzJ_w
- I Wonít Go Hunting With You Jake (But Iíll Go Chasiní Wimmin) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6Uq5VHGuPA
- The Cajun Queen : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djpDAnUATlg
- Little Bitty Big John : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss_WfnWym3o
- P.T. 109 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79pAw8ubhh4
- Little Black Book : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oQyNlYPNVU
- Steel Men : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gipzQr0k9zA
- Gonna Raise A Rukus Tonight : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tBYCsJESYU

Dik, March 2015

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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