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The average man on the street would most likely recognize Jimmy Dean from the line of smoked sausage that bears his name, but prior to entering the pork products business, Dean was a successful television personality and a country hitmaker noted for his half-spoken narrative songs. Dean was born near Plainview, TX in 1928 and grew up poor, often working on farms as a boy to help make ends meet. His mother taught him piano starting at age ten, and he went on to pick up guitar, harmonica, and accordion. He joined the Merchant Marines at age 16, and after two years he enlisted in the Air Force, where he first performed publicly with a band called the Tennessee Haymakers. The Haymakers played venues near the Washington, D.C., base at which Dean was stationed, and when he left the service in 1948, he remained in the area and formed a new group called the Texas Wildcats. He eventually scored a record deal with Four Star, and his first hit, "Bummin' Around," reached the country Top Ten in 1953.
During the mid-'50s, Dean hosted a local television show devoted to country music, giving important early exposure to regulars Patsy Cline and Roy Clark. The show proved popular enough that CBS offered him his own national program in 1957, though it wasn't as successful. In the meantime, Dean signed with Columbia, and when his show was canceled, he recorded a series of singles for the label that didn't get much attention. That all changed when he recorded the self-penned "Big Bad John" in 1961. Establishing Dean's flair for spoken narratives, the song went to number one on both the pop and country charts. He followed it with a string of popular singles in 1962: "Dear Ivan," "Little Black Book," and "P.T. 109" (the latter about John F. Kennedy's war exploits in the South Pacific) all made the country Top Ten, and the latter also made the pop Top Ten. Meanwhile, "To a Sleeping Beauty" and "The Cajun Queen" reached the country Top 20; all of Dean's hits from this hot streak charted at least in the pop Top 40.
In 1963, Dean returned to television as the host of his own daily variety show on ABC. Roger Miller became a regular, helping to jump-start his career, and the show also helped introduce America to another talent: puppeteer Jim Henson, whose regular appearances made Rowlf the piano-playing dog the first Muppet to become a household name. The Jimmy Dean Show ran until 1966, by which point Dean had switched labels to RCA; he returned to the country Top Ten that year with "Stand Beside Me," and placed several more minor chart entries through 1971, leaving off with "Slowly," a Top 40 duet with Dottie West. In the meantime, he developed an acting career, appearing as a regular on the TV series Daniel Boone during the late '60s, and landing the part of reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte in the 1971 James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever.
Dean had invested most of his showbiz earnings in hog-farming concerns, and founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Company in the late '60s. His sausage recipes soon turned into a popular mass-market product, and while he accepted the occasional guest acting role on TV during the '70s and '80s, he spent most of his time focusing on his burgeoning business. He recorded a bit more for Casino in 1976, landing a final Top Ten country hit that year with "I.O.U.," a narrative tribute to his mother. Dean eventually sold his meat company to Sara Lee Foods, but remained its TV spokesman until he was let go in a less than amicable split during 2003. In the years thereafter, Dean was in semi-retirement at his estate outside of Richmond, VA, where he died at age 81 on June 13, 2010.
Wikipedia:This article is about the country music singer. For other uses, see Jimmy Dean (disambiguation).
Jimmy Ray Dean (August 10, 1928 – June 13, 2010) was an American country music singer, television host, actor and businessman. Although he may be best known today as the creator of the Jimmy Dean sausage brand, he became a national television personality starting on CBS in 1957. He rose to fame for his 1961 country crossover hit "Big Bad John" and his 1963 ABC television series, The Jimmy Dean Show, which also gave puppeteer Jim Henson his first national media exposure. His acting career included a supporting role as Willard Whyte in the 1971 James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. He lived near Richmond, Virginia, and was nominated for the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, although he was formally inducted posthumously.Weber, Bruce (June 14, 2010). "Jimmy Dean, Singer and Businessman, Dies at 81". New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2010. Because of the similarities in their names, Dean is sometimes confused with actor James Dean. James Dean's nickname, "Jimmy", was frequently used in press accounts during his lifetime. Another country singer is Jimmie Dean, brother of Western singer, songwriter and actor Eddie Dean, from Lubbock County, Texas.
ContentsBiography1.1 Early life1.2 Entertainment career1.3 Business career1.4 Later years and death
Dean was born in Plainview in Hale County in West Texas in 1928, the son of George Otto Dean, and his second wife, the former Ruth Taylor. He attributed his interest in music to the Seth Ward Baptist Church. He dropped out of high school and became a professional entertainer after serving in the United States Air Force in the late 1940s. Dean was 22 and just starting in show business when he married his first wife Mary Sue (Sue) in 1950.
Dean had his first hit, "Bummin' Around", in 1953 on the 4 Star label, He signed with Columbia Records in 1957. He had minor pop hits, such as "Little Sandy Sleighfoot" (a Christmas novelty song) and "Sing Along", later used as the theme for TV's "Sing Along With Mitch".
In 1954, Dean hosted the popular Washington D.C. radio program Town and Country Time on WARL-AM, and with his Texas Wildcats became popular in the Mid-Atlantic region. Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts on the show. Although Cline and Dean became good friends, Clark (Dean's lead guitarist) was eventually fired by the singer for what was explained as his chronic tardiness. Dean replaced Clark with Billy Grammer. In 1955, Town and Country Time moved to WMAL-TV on weekday afternoons. Dean and the Texas Wildcats also appeared during 1957 on Town and Country Jamboree on WMAL-TV on Saturdays from 10:30 pm–1:30 am ET, which was also carried by TV stations in Maryland and Virginia on a regional network.
Also during 1957 while he lived in Arlington, Virginia, Dean hosted Country Style on WTOP-TV, the local Washington, DC affiliate for CBS on weekday mornings. CBS picked up the show nationally from Washington for eight months in 1957 under the name, The Morning Show. Then from September 14, 1958, to June 1959, CBS carried The Jimmy Dean Show on weekday and Saturday afternoons.
Dean became best known for his 1961 recitation song about a heroic miner, "Big Bad John". Recorded in Nashville, the record went to number one on the Billboard pop chart and inspired many imitations and parodies. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The track peaked at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart. The song won Dean the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. He had several more Top 40 songs including a Top 10 in 1962 with "PT-109", a song in honor of John F. Kennedy's bravery in World War II.
In the early 1960s, he hosted The Tonight Show on occasion (he was in fact the first guest host during Johnny Carson's tenure, hosting for the first time on January 14, 1963) and one night introduced Roy Clark, with whom he had remained friendly. In the mid-60s, Dean helped bring country music into the mainstream with his 1963–66 ABC-TV variety series, The Jimmy Dean Show. It presented country music entertainers including Roger Miller, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Buck Owens and some, like Joe Maphis, who seldom received network exposure. The program also featured comedy and a variety of popular music artists, and Dean's sketches with one of Jim Henson's Muppets, Rowlf the Dog. Henson was so grateful for this break that he offered Dean a 40 percent interest in his production company, but Dean declined on the basis that he did nothing to truly earn it and Henson deserved all the rewards for his own work.
Dean appeared on several TV talk shows and game shows in the 1960s and performed on variety programs including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, and The Hollywood Palace.
Dean turned to acting after his TV show ended in 1966. His best-known role was as reclusive Las Vegas billionaire Willard Whyte in the 1971 James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. He also appeared in fourteen episodes of Daniel Boone (1967–70) in three different roles (one episode as "Delo Jones", two as "Jeremiah" and eleven as "Josh Clements") and as Charlie Rowlands in two Fantasy Island episodes (1981–82), as well as on other TV shows including a semi-regular role as Charlie Bullets on J.J. Starbuck starring Dale Robertson (1987–88).
Dean's singing career remained strong into the mid-1960s; in 1965, he achieved a second number one country hit with the ballad "The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (And the Last Thing Ev'ry Night)", and he had a Top 40 hit that year with "Harvest Of Sunshine". In 1966, Dean signed with RCA Records and immediately had a Top 10 hit with "Stand Beside Me". His other major hits during this time included "Sweet Misery" (1967) and "A Thing Called Love" (1968). He continued charting into the early 1970s with his major hits including a duet with Dottie West, "Slowly" (1971); and a solo hit with "The One You Say Good Morning To" (1972).
In 1976, Dean achieved a million-seller with a recitation song as a tribute to his mother and mothers everywhere called "I.O.U." The song was released a few weeks before Mother's Day and quickly became a Top 10 country hit, his first one in a decade, and a Top 40 pop hit, his first in 14 years. The song was re-released in 1977, 1983 and 1984, but with minor success each time.
In January 1978, Dean hosted an all-star tribute to Elvis Presley that was broadcast on NBC titled Nashville Remembers Elvis on His Birthday, during which he reminisced about his friendship with the recently deceased singer and performed his own hit "Big Bad John" along with a song associated with Elvis, "Peace in the Valley".
In 1969, he founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company with his brother Don. The company did well, in part because of Dean's own extemporized, humor-themed commercials.
Its success led to its acquisition in 1984 by Consolidated Foods, later renamed the Sara Lee Corporation. Dean remained involved as spokesperson for the company, but the new corporate parent immediately began phasing him out of any management duties. In January 2004, Dean said that Sara Lee had dropped him as the spokesman for the sausage brand because he was too old.
Later years and death
A Virginia resident since 1990, Dean was inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore appointed Dean to the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, which oversees the state's wildlife efforts and boating laws.
In the fall of 2004, he released his blunt, straight-talking autobiography 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham. Dean lived in semi-retirement with second wife, Donna Meade Dean, a singer, songwriter, and recording artist he married in 1991, who helped him write his book. The couple lived on their property at Chaffin's Bluff overlooking the James River in Henrico County, on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. On April 20, 2009, the main house was largely gutted by a fire, although the Deans escaped injury. The Deans rebuilt their home on the same foundation and returned early in 2010.
Dean, who dropped out of high school in 1946 to work and help his mother, announced on May 20, 2008, a donation of $1 million to Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, the largest gift ever from one individual to the institution. Dean said: "I've been so blessed, and it makes me proud to give back, especially to my hometown."
On February 23, 2010, Dean was nominated for the Country Music Hall of Fame; he was scheduled to be inducted in October 2010, but this occurred after his death.
Dean had three children, Garry, Connie, and Robert, with his first wife Mary Sue (Sue) (née Wittauer) Dean; and two granddaughters, Caroline Taylor (Connie's daughter) and Brianna Dean (Robert's daughter).
Dean died at the age of 81, on June 13, 2010, at his Red Roof Inn in Varina, Virginia. He was survived by his second wife Donna.
He was entombed in a 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) piano-shaped mausoleum overlooking the James River on the grounds of his estate. His epitaph reads "Here Lies One Hell of a Man", which is a quote from a lyric from his uncensored version of the song "Big Bad John".
On June 24, 2014, a groundbreaking was held for the Jimmy Dean Museum, which will become part of the museum and grounds at Wayland Baptist University in his hometown of Plainview, Texas. Dean's widow, Donna Dean Stevens, was on hand for the ceremony and to view the men's dormitory bearing Jimmy's name. The museum will house much of Jimmy Dean's memorabilia as well as a larger-than-life-size bronze created by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale and funded by Hillshire Brands. Completion of the museum, which is funded by a gift from the Dean Family Foundation, is expected in Fall 2015.Elvis and Jimmy Dean – Retrieved February 18, 2008 "CBS Sets Night Slot for Dean". Billboard 69 (21): p. 8. May 27, 1957. ISSN 0006-2510. "The Quick Rise of an Early Riser". Life 43 (15): p. 78. October 7, 1957. ISSN 0024-3019. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 146. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. "Jimmy Dean dies at 81; country music star and sausage king," Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2010 "A Hell Of A Man Himself". The Bluegrass Special.com. Retrieved October 18, 2011. Jimmy Dean at the Internet Movie Database Cite error: The named reference NYTobit was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Calhoun, Fryar (August 1983). "Hi! I'm Jimmy Dean and I'd like you to try my pure pork sausage". Texas Monthly (Emmis Communications) 11 (8): pp. 121–123 198–200, 206. ISSN 0148-7736. Dena Potter (June 13, 2010). "Jimmy Dean DEAD: Singer, Sausage Businessman Dies At 81". The Huffington Post. Associated Press, "Sausage king donates $1 million to Wayland Baptist University", May 21, 2008 "Plainview native Jimmy Dean's funeral services set Monday in Virginia". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2010. Pellerano, Angela (June 13, 2010). "Jimmy Dean Dies at The Age of 81". WTVR-TV. Retrieved June 13, 2010. http://www.myplainview.com/news/article_7d2720d6-fc00-11e3-9cd7-001a4bcf887a.html