Jimmy Dean, the musician, actor and entrepreneur, was instrumental in the mainstreaming of country music, a genre that now ranks as the most popular in the United States but which, back in the 1960s, was accorded little respect in the mass media. Jimmy Dean had a #1 hit in the US and England with his song "Big Bad John," which established his fame, a fame that continues to this day due to his long stint as a spokesman for "Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage," a company he founded and then sold to Consolidated Foods in 1984. He continued on as the pitchman for the eponymous brand for 20 years.Jimmy Dean, a distant cousin of the actor James Dean, was born Jimmy Ray Dean on August 10, 1928 in Plainview, Texas. He took to the life of a professional singer after serving in the U.S. Air Force during the late 1940s. Dean began building his reputation as a musician touring with his band, The Texas Wildcats, which featured Roy Clark as lead guitarist. In 1953, he scored his first hit, "Bummin' Around."Dean landed a gig as the host of a TV program in the Washington D.C. market, "Town and Country Time." (The District of Columbia has in many ways always been a Southern town.) Dean was a popularizer of rising country acts, and such top country singers as Clark and Patsy Cline got their starts with Dean. (He eventually fired Clark but later promoted his career.) Dean subsequently moved to New York after signing with Columbia Records, where he hosted a TV variety show for the CBS network.In 1961, his song "Big Bad John" went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and won him the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. Several of his subsequent songs charted in the Top 40, and he scored a Top 10 hit in 1962 with a song commemorating President John F. Kennedy's plywood torpedo boat, "PT 109." Because of his affability and his burgeoning popularity, he occasionally was booked to guest-host "The Tonight Show." ABC offered him a variety show in the mid-1960s, and Dean used it as a forum to present country music on his terms, as a mainstream entertainment. His show offered the first major TV exposure to a number of country singers, including George Jones, Charlie Rich, and Buck Owens. His show also introduced the first Muppet, Jim Henson's Rowlf the Dog.Aside from a featured part as a Howard Hughes-like billionaire in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971) (Dean said he was offered the role on the basis of his having had a #1 hit with "Big John" in Britain, which surprised him as it had been a decade before), Dean has mostly stuck to his music and the business he founded in 1969, "Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage." The TV commercials featuring the very likable Dean were the best advertising the new brand could have had, and it became #1 in its product category.In the fall of 2004, Jimmy Dean published his autobiography, "30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham." He is semi-retired now, and lives with his second wife, the former singer Donna Meade Dean.
Was working at the Desert Inn hotel when he was cast as Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Became spokesperson for Jimmy Dean Sausage in 1969 and continued until 2004
1 hit: 1965's "The First Thing Ev'ry Morning and the Last Thing Ev'ry Night"
In 1963 he became Johnny Carson's first guest host on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
109" (1962, based on the World War II sinking of John F
Best known for his million-selling 1961 hit "Big Bad John"; the song topped both Billboard magazine's country and Hot 100 charts
" ABC offered him a variety show in the mid-1960s, and Dean used it as a forum to present country music on his terms, as a mainstream entertainment
Jimmy Dean, a distant cousin of the actor James Dean, was born Jimmy Ray Dean on August 10, 1928 in Plainview, Texas