Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Hero Gone...!

I guess that it's just a sign of the times...and a reminder that we all are getting no younger.

I personally was big fan of Jimmy Dean. Mainly because he was one of the first people I can remember standing up on national television and proclaiming "I am a proud, flag waving American and always will be!"

DENA POTTER, Associated Press Writer


Jimmy Dean, a country music legend for his smash hit about a workingman hero, "Big Bad John," and an entrepreneur known for his sausage brand, died on Sunday. He was 81.

His wife, Donna Meade Dean, said her husband died at their Henrico County, Va., home.

She told The Associated Press that he had some health problems but was still functioning well, so his death came as a shock. She said he was eating in front of the television. She left the room for a time and came back and he was unresponsive. She said he was pronounced dead at 7:54 p.m.

"He was amazing," she said. "He had a lot of talents."

Born in 1928, Dean was raised in poverty in Plainview, Texas, and dropped out of high school after the ninth grade. He went on to a successful entertainment career in the 1950s and '60s that included the nationally televised "The Jimmy Dean Show."

In 1969, Dean went into the sausage business, starting the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in his hometown. He sold the company to Sara Lee Corp. in 1984.

Dean lived in semiretirement with his wife, who is a songwriter and recording artist, on their 200-acre estate just outside Richmond, where he enjoyed investing, boating and watching the sun set over the James River.

In 2009 a fire gutted their home, but his Grammy for "Big Bad John," a puppet made by Muppets creator Jim Henson, a clock that had belonged to Prince Charles and Princess Diana and other valuables were saved. Lost were a collection of celebrity-autographed books, posters of Dean with Elvis Presley and other prized possessions.

Donna Meade Dean said the couple had just moved back into their reconstructed home.

With his drawled wisecracks and quick wit, Dean charmed many fans. But in both entertainment and business circles, he was also known for his tough hide. He fired bandmate Roy Clark, who went onto "Hee Haw" fame, for showing up late for gigs.

More recently, a scrap with Sara Lee led to national headlines.

The Chicago-based company let him go as spokesman in 2003, inciting Dean's wrath. He issued a statement titled "Somebody doesn't like Sara Lee," claiming he was dumped because he got old.

"The company told me that they were trying to attract the younger housewife, and they didn't think I was the one to do that," Dean told The Associated Press in January 2004. "I think it's the dumbest thing. But you know, what do I know?"

Sara Lee has said that it chose not to renew Dean's contract because the "brand was going in a new direction" that demanded a shift in marketing.

Dean grew up in a musical household. His mother showed him how to play his first chord on the piano. His father, who left the family, was a songwriter and singer. Dean taught himself to play the accordion and the harmonica.

His start in the music business came as an accordionist at a tavern near Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., where he was stationed in the 1940s. After leaving the Air Force in 1948, he fronted his band, the Texas Wildcats, and drew a strong local following through appearances on Washington-area radio.

By the early 1950s, Dean's band had its first national hit in "Bummin' Around."

"Big Bad John," which is about a coal miner who saves fellow workers when a mine roof collapses, became a big hit in 1961 and won a Grammy. The star wrote it in less than two hours.

His fame led him to a string of television shows, including "The Jimmy Dean Show" on CBS. Dean's last big TV stint was ABC's version of "The Jimmy Dean Show" from 1963 to 1966.

Dean in February was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was to be inducted in October and his wife said she thinks he was looking forward to it.

Dean became a headliner at venues like Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and became the first country star to play on the Las Vegas strip. He was the first guest host on "The Tonight Show," and also was an actor with parts in television and the movies, including the role of James Bond's ally Willard Whyte in the 1971 film "Diamonds Are Forever."

Besides his wife, Dean is survived by three children and two grandchildren, Donna Meade Dean said. Arrangements have not be made, but it will be a private service, she said.

In the late '60s, Dean entered the hog business -- something he knew well. His family had butchered hogs, with the young Dean whacking them over the head with the blunt end of an ax. The Dean brothers -- Jimmy and Don -- ground the meat and their mother seasoned it.

The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. opened with a plant in Plainview. After six months, the company was profitable.

His fortune was estimated at $75 million in the early '90s.

Having watched other stars fritter away their fortunes, Dean said he learned to be careful with his money.

"I've seen so many people in this business that made a fortune," he told the AP. "They get old and broke and can't make any money. ... I tell you something, ... no one's going to play a benefit for Jimmy Dean."

Dean said then that he was at peace at his estate and that he had picked a spot near the river where he wanted to be buried.

"It's the sweetest piece of property in the world, we think," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It sure is peaceful here."

AP Entertainment Writer Chris Talbott in Nashville contributed to this report.

Seems to me that every day we lose another good and patriotic friend! That's pretty sad, but I guess it's all a part of the life cycle. Still, it's a sad thing!

Now, my friends, how about some fresh coffee on the patio? I'll put on some Jimmy Dean on the record player...!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that post HermitJim, I knew his face from his sausage commercials, but did not know all of the other particulars of his career. My condolences to his family.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Agree with you, HJ, and his brand of sausage isn;t too bad either. Maybe we should cook some and have it with the coffee and the music playing? BTW - we got thunder and a bit of lightnight, but not a lot of rain, so Grenville may have to water the garden today. No coffee on the front porch until it cools off a bit more.

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One
I was very young when Jimmy was well known and I loved watching his show.
R.I.P Jimmy.

Ben in Texas said...

Jim? Remember the controversy over the lyrics of Big Bad John? on the radio some complained about the final line that said, One Hell of a Man? they edited the radio version to One Big Big Man, but the record remained the original lyrics.

HermitJim said...

Hey Anon 5:44...
He was pretty well thought of in his day. Very entertaining, and very astute in business!

More of the long time familiars gone each day!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Beatrice...
Having to make sure that my garden gets some water every day now. Those cukes and tomatoes really drink a LOT!

You have a great day...and thanks for coming by !

Hey JoJo...
Sad to see him gone, but at least he died at home with his loved ones there!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by today!

HermitJim said...

Hey Ben...
Those guys would have a heart attack now days...with the trash that's being played and the lyrics contained in them!

Amazing how values have changed, isn't it?

Guess it really was a totally different time, buddy!

Hey, thanks for coming by today!

Mechanic in Illinois said...

My hats off to Jimmy and my condolences to his family. His sausage reminds me of the venison sausage I have made. Goodbye Patriot. Thanks for another great lesson.

HermitJim said...

Hey Mechanic...
He sounds like a man at peace with himself, doesn't he?

Hate to see him go, but I'm glad he didn't have to suffer for a long time, ya know?

Thanks for coming by today!

Ken said...

...sad to lose another Patriot,R.I.P Mr Dean,GodBless...

...have to wonder if our ranks are shrinking,or growing(?)...

Grumpyunk said...

I'd forgotten about the difference between the radio version and the 45 record my big brother bought. We never played it when mom was around as she'd have been shocked.

Jimmy Dean was a hell of a man.

HermitJim said...

Hey Ken...
I hope that the ranks are growing, but I can't worry about it anymore! If some of these people can't see the light by now...it's too late!

Hey buddy, thanks for coming by today!

Hey Grumpyunk...
Funny how many little things like that can slip our minds!

I can remember Mom and Dad being embarrassed by Justin Wilson's jokes that contained Hell and Damn in the joke!

Times have really changed, for sure!

Thanks for coming by today!

Felinae said...

Thank you for posting this Uncle Hermit.

May Mr. Dean rest in peace,condolences to his family and friends.


Diane-Sage said...

Our friends are moving forward...

HermitJim said...

Hey Felinae...
Many thanks for the visit, my friend! It's always a pleasure to see you!

Hey Diane-Sage...
They are, indeed! We can wish them a good journey...and keep their memory in our hearts!

Thanks for coming by today!

Tatersmama said...

Oh HermitJim,thanks for posting this! Unfortunately, no matter how many times I reset my "preferences" on Yahoo, it keeps reverting to Australian news updates, and I miss out.

Put some Jimmy on the record player, some sausage in the skillet, and I'll be there before you know it!

R.I.P. dear Jimmy Dean.
Another good, decent man gone.

I love this one!

HermitJim said...

Hey Tatersmama...
You know, one nice thing about being my age is that I have such a rich pool of musical memories to draw on when I need them.

I just don't see the richness of songs and music now days that were prevalent in my day!

I sure do appreciate you coming by today, my friend!