Jimmy Dean Joins Big Bad John (part one)

On February 23 of this year, Jimmy Dean was elected to the Country Music Hall Of Fame, and the induction ceremonies will be held in October 2010.  But Jimmy won’t be there to accept the award.  He has passed away at age 81.

Born August 10, 1928 in Plainview, Texas, Jimmy Ray Dean was a country singer-songwriter, pianist, guitarist and actor.  He found his love of music at his Baptist church.  After dropping out of high school in the forties, Dean briefly joined the Air Force and then became an entertainer where he eventually recorded his first hit record, “Bummin’ Around” in 1953.  Twice, he hosted his own prime time variety series on CBS-TV (1957-1958) and ABC-TV (1963-1966) and also guest-hosted The Tonight Show.  His run on television helped to kick start the careers of Roy Clark, Patsy Cline and Jim Henson (his appearances with the Muppets provided him a steady source of income as he was starting out).  His entrepreneurial interests included a restaurant chain and a line of “pure pork sausage” which I am sure everyone has come across when going to the grocery store.  At age 63, he married country singer Donna Meade on October 27, 1991.

Since 1969, Jimmy Dean Sausage has been a household name, but I’ll always remember him for his biggest hit single, “Big Bad John”.  This million-seller saved the career of Dean, who in 1960 was on the edge of being let go from his label, Columbia Records, for lack of hits.   In 1961, he was working in a summer stock play, when he met actor John Minto, who at six-foot-five, became the inspration for his future song.  Although it was intended to be a joke, Jimmy eventually penned the legendary ballad in under two hours while flying from New York to Nashville.  He composed and recorded it with country legend Roy Acuff.  He hired Floyd Cramer to play piano on the recording, but became noted for the idea to subsitute a chunk of steel and hammer as his instrument.  This produced a more fitting tone to the song, which was reminiscent of John Henry and Paul Bunyan. The single was released in September.  By October of 1961, it was #1 for five weeks and stayed in the Top 40 for eight more.  It also reached number one for 2 weeks on the country chart, 10 weeks on the adult contemporary chart, and was number two in the U.K.  The album Big Bad John and Other Fabulous Songs and Tales reached #23 giving Columbia Records cause to keep him for while longer.

Here’s another statistic:  “Big Bad John” became the 100th number one single of the rock era; the first being Bill Haley & His Comets with “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” on May 14, 1955.  It was also nominated for two Grammys – Record Of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance.

To be continued tomorrow…   Read more>>

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