- Birth nameJimmy Ray Dean
- Height6′ 3″ (1.91 m)
- 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 promoter 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 patrol 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 semi-retired and lived with his second wife, the former singer Donna Meade Dean until his death in 2010.- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood
- SpousesDonna Meade(October 27, 1991 - June 13, 2010) (his death)Mary Sue Wittauer(July 11, 1950 - October 30, 1990) (divorced, 3 children)
- ChildrenGarry DeanRobert DeanConnie Dean
- ParentsRuth DeanGeorge Otto Dean
- During the run of his TV show, Dean was offered 40% ownership of Jim Henson's Muppets Inc., but he declined because that he felt he didn't have anything to do with Henson's work and it was unfair to profit from the puppeteer's labor. It was a decision of conscience Dean never regretted making.
- Was working at the Desert Inn hotel when he was cast as Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Whyte was clearly modeled after Howard Hughes, who owned the Desert Inn and was therefore, by extension, Dean's employer at the time.
- Founded the Jimmy Dean Breakfast Foods (sausage, bacon, sandwiches, etc.) and Sausage Company in 1969 - out of his Texas hometown, Plainview - and sold it to the Sara Lee Corporation 15 years later, in 1984. Twenty years after that, in 2004, Dean was dismissed by Sara Lee as product spokesman for his own sausage brand. The Chicago-based food products firm retains the rights to Dean's name and likeness. Even years after he passed away, his image and voice are still used in commercials for Jimmy Dean Sausage products.
- In 1963, he became Johnny Carson's first guest host on "The Tonight Show".
- When his "Big Bad John" was first released, it ended with the words "at the bottom of this mine lies one hell of a man". It was changed on later releases to "at the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man".
- When fans ask me for advice, here's what I tell them: "Grin once in a while; it's good for you!"
- Anybody in any business who thinks they can't be replaced should do this: stick their hand in a bucket of water, then pull it out, and see how big a hole it leaves.
- [on ex-bandmate and good friend Roy Clark] Ultimately, I had to drop him from the Texas Wildcats because he just wasn't reliable enough. At the same time, however, I had no doubt in my mind that he'd soon be among the biggest names in country and western. Sure enough, when I went about getting Roy on my show 8 years later, it was a frustrating process to track him down. I was like, "Roy, I can understand *you* having an unlisted phone number, but *your agent*?"
Contribute to this page
Suggest an edit or add missing content