Jimmy Ray Dean (August 10, 1928 – June 13, 2010), better known as Jimmy Dean, is an American country music singer, television
He was born in Plainview, Texas in 1928. While a member of the Air Force he joined a singing group called the Tennessee Haymakers and moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1948. By 1952 he had formed his own group, the Texas Wildcats, and signed a recording contract with Four Star. That led to his first hit Bummin' Around in 1953. Then he got into television.
He hosted weekday and Saturday evening shows on WMAL in Virginia, and became well known around Washington, D.C. as an entertainer. Dean was a pioneer in the televising of country western songs. A regular on his TV show for a period of time in the 50's was a young Patsy Cline, whose work with Jimmy Dean was a big boost to her career. He had his own series on CBS-TV in 1957 and 1958. He signed with Columbia and recorded a novelty Christmas song, Little Sandy Sleighfoot, that reached the top forty in the late 50's.
In 1961 Dean recorded Big Bad John, a song that would become his biggest hit ever. It went to number one on the country and pop charts, and gained him the Grammy for Best Country & Western Performance. It was one of many songs he would record in a style that was more spoken than sung.
He followed his chart-buster with five more top forty songs in 1962, including Dear Ivan, The Cajun Queen [a follow-up to Big Bad John], To A Sleeping Beauty, and Little Black Book. His biggest hit that year, one that reached the top ten, was a song based on the sinking of President John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat and Kennedy's subsequent heroic feats in the South Pacific during World War II, PT 109.
In addition to being a singer, actor and TV host, he also played piano and guitar and did some songwriting. Dean once again hosted his own first-rate television series, from 1963 to 1966, this time on ABC-TV. He had other minor hit songs in the 60's, such as The First Thing Ev'ry Morning [And The Last Thing Ev'ry Night], switched to RCA and hit on a small scale with Stand Beside Me and A Thing Called Love. His duet with Dottie West, Slowly, came out in 1971.
He also did some acting on television, appearing in such shows as Daniel Boone and Candid Camera. Some of Dean's better record albums include Big Bad John in 1962 and Jimmy Dean's Hour Of Prayer in 1964 on Columbia, and Speaker Of The House on RCA in 1967. Dean portrayed billionaire Willard Whyte, starring with Sean Connery and Jill St. John, in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.
In the 70's Dean returned to the top forty one final time on the Casino label with I.O.U., a song he had written in gratitude to his mother. He left the entertainment industry to devote full-time to his sausage business and appeared on nationwide television ads for Jimmy Dean's Pure Pork Sausage. He is no longer associated with the product, although it continues to bear his name.
A Virginia resident since 1990, Dean was inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore appointed Dean to the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, which oversees the state's wildlife efforts and boating laws.
In the fall of 2004, he released his blunt, straight-talking autobiography 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham. Dean lived in semi-retirement with second wife, Donna Meade Dean, a singer, songwriter, and recording artist he married in 1991, who helped him write his book. The couple lived on their property at Chaffin's Bluff overlooking the James River in Henrico County, on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. On April 20, 2009, the main house was largely gutted by a fire, although the Deans escaped injury. The Deans rebuilt their home on the same foundation and returned early in 2010.
On February 23, 2010, Dean was nominated for the Country Music Hall of Fame; he was scheduled to be inducted in October 2010, but this occurred after his death.
Dean died at the age of 81, on June 13, 2010, at his Red Roof Inn in Varina, Virginia.
He was entombed in a 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) piano-shaped mausoleum overlooking the James River on the grounds of his estate. His epitaph reads "Here Lies One Hell of a Man", which is a quote from a lyric from his uncensored version of the song "Big Bad John”. (info edited mainly from tsimon.com and Wikipedia)