14 June, 2010

Jimmy Dean, 1928 - 2010

Musician, actor, and sausagemaker Jimmy Dean died on Sunday, age 81.  

Although these days he's probably best known for the line of sausage products bearing his name, he got his first taste of fame in 1961 when he recorded Big Bad John, a #1 hit on the Pop and Country charts.  The song not only won a Grammy in 1962 for Best Country & Western Recording, but also convinced his record label, Columbia, not to drop him.

His acting credits include a three-season run of his television variety show, The Jimmy Dean Show (1963-65), a recurring role on NBC's Daniel Boone as Boone's friend Josh Clements, and a 1971 appearance in the James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever as the Howard Hughes-inspired reclusive tycoon Willard Whyte.

His early experiences with Columbia, however, made him realize that he should have a backup career in place in case his star faded.  In 1969, he called upon his childhood experience on the family farm and founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Company.  It was an almost instant success thanks to his tireless efforts - he personally supervised operations at the company, developed the recipe for the famous sausage that bears his name, and appeared in every one of the early advertisements for the brand, a process that he later described as "exhausting."  

In 1984, he sold the company to Consolidated Foods, which later became Sara Lee, but stayed on as the brand spokesman.  In 2003, Sara Lee apparently exercised the Douchebag Clause in their contract and dumped him, after which he no longer had any connection with the company.

RIP, Jimmy Dean.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Who would have thought that the spunky teen from Rebel Without A Cause would go on to have such sausage-make talents?