The one country singer's name you're bound to see in the grocery store, even with Dolly Parton's tabloid appearances (spoiler alert: the Dollywood namesake is not pregnant with a Sasquatch baby), is "pure pork sausage" spokesman, television show host, and "Big Bad John" singer Jimmy Dean.
Yup. The sausage guy sings. Really, if you know the history of Jimmy Dean, it's more like the singing guy makes sausages.
Born Jimmy Ray Dean on Aug. 10, 1928 in Plainview, Texas, the high school dropout and Air Force veteran first gained notoriety in the '50s as a singer and radio show host. His country music output includes his first top 10 Billboard hit "Bummin' Around" (1953), the Grammy award-winning and pop music chart-invading "Big Bad John" (1960), the patriotic "P.T. 109" (1962), and the sentimental Mother's Day song "I.O.U." (1976). His hosting skills first came to light in 1954 on influential Washington D.C. television show Town and Country. Through that program, Dean met future Texas Wildcats bandmate Roy Clark and witnessed a then-unknown Patsy Cline emerge from Virginia to become one of the all-time greats.
Television Show Host and Actor
His hosting skills first came to light in 1954 on influential Washington D.C. television show Town and Country. Through that program, Dean met future Texas Wildcats bandmate Roy Clark and witnessed a then-unknown Patsy Cline emerge from Virginia to become one of the all-time greats.
In between his Town and Country gig and the mid-'60s popularity of The Jimmy Dean Show, the singer juggled a few different television gigs. He even served as one of the earliest guest hosts of the Johnny Carson-era Tonight Show.
The Jimmy Dean Show, which existed in different forms as far back as 1957 and previously appeared as an afternoon show for CBS, became part of ABC's primetime lineup from 1963 to 1966. The program and its host offered a massive platform to George Jones, Buck Owens, Roger Miller and others right as Tennessee taste-makers and Nashville outcasts became more mainstream accessible.
However, its long-term effect on society had more to do with Muppets than music. Dean's comedic sidekick was none other than Rowlf the dog, performed by Jim Henson. It was the first national prime time gig for a Henson creation and predated both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
Dean occasionally showed off his acting chops, dating back to his roles in the '60s TV series Daniel Boone. His most notable role has got to be that of Willard Whyte, the Howard Hughes-inspired billionaire from the 1961 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.
Looping back to breakfast foods, the Jimmy Dean Meat Company was founded in 1969 with his brother Don. Jimmy's on-camera prowess made for some hilarious and memorable commercials that likely had a hand in him claiming the "sausage king" crown. The Jimmy Dean Sausage Company sold to Sara Lee in 1984 for a whopping $84 million. Although the Country Music Hall of Fame member passed away on June 13, 2010, in the Richmond, Virginia neighborhood Varina, his voice can still be heard in advertisements for half of the impetus behind his autobiography's title: 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham.