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Singer, sausage entrepreneur Jimmy Dean dies

Jimmy Dean, 81, the country singer and television personality who parlayed his show-business earnings into a second successful career marketing breakfast sausages, died Sunday at his Henrico County home.

During the 1950s, Mr. Dean was the voice of country music for most Washingtonians. He lived in Arlington and broadcast locally before making a name with his CBS television show, "Country Style."

Like many country performers, he found his way into broadcasting as a way to promote his live performances, but unlike most he was both telegenic and media-savvy. "Country Style" was recorded locally at WTOP-TV beginning in 1957. It featured country performers such as Johnny Cash and Virginia's Patsy Cline as well as such jazz singers Billy Eckstine and Mel Torme.

Mr. Dean recorded several national hits including "Bummin' Around" and "Big Bad John" (1961), a song that told the story of a heroic coal miner who stood "6 foot six and weighed 285 245." Or, as Mr. Dean sang in the song, "Everybody knew you didn't give to no lip to Big John." The tune was not a country hit but a huge pop record and a Grammy award winner for best country and western recording.

But Jimmy Dean is perhaps best known for his brand of sausages, which found their way onto the breakfast tables of a generation of Americans. His knowledge of broadcasting and advertising undoubtedly helped in the enterprise. By the 1990s, a conservative estimate of Mr. Dean's fortune from his sausage empire and other business interests was $75 million.

A full obituary will follow. Meantime, please share links to any of Jimmy Dean's homespun sausage commercials from his early days in the business. Here's one, but the quality leaves something to be desired.

--Terence McArdle

By Emma Brown  |  June 14, 2010; 9:39 AM ET
Categories:  Musicians , Terence McArdle  | Tags: jimmy dean big bad john, jimmy dean died, jimmy dean sausage died, jimmy dean sausage obituary  
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at least you could get the words to the song right. listen to the song you have a clip of. the words are not anywhere near what is written in the article. no wonder people don't trust reporters.

Posted by: littercritter | June 14, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I will always remember him for the wonderful gift of breakfast sodium.

Sure he was 81... But what about Sara Lee's CEO? She had a stroke! Could it be that they might be poisoning themselves?? Along with the rest of America?

What do you guys think?

Posted by: shlomitandroypethostel | June 14, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Hey, if he could make it to 81 after eating such fatty and salt-infused pig innerds, more power to him!

Posted by: B-rod | June 14, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Rest´╗┐ In Peace, Jimmy Dean - Steel man

Posted by: devicejet | June 14, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to several readers who caught the typos in our lyrics. They're fixed now --

Posted by: Emma Brown | June 14, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

WTOP's Broadcast House was right behind Woodrow Wilson HS.

And we students there liked to watch Jimmy play softball on the field across the street.

Always a smile on his face.

Julian Tepper
Placitas, NM

Posted by: jutepper1 | June 14, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

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