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.
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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