For younger generations, Jimmy Dean is only the affable man who appears in television commercials selling his brand of sausage. However, he was much more than that.
Dean, who passed away on this day (June 13) in 2010, was also a popular country music singer and actor. He was born on Aug. 10, 1928, in Plainview, Texas. Interestingly, legendary Hollywood actor James Dean and Jimmy Dean were distant cousins, according to IMDb.com.
Like many people of his generation, Dean served in the United States Armed Forces during the 1940s. He served in the Air Force. It was after his stint in the military that he began his professional singing career. He traveled and performed with his band, “The Texas Wildcats.” In 1953, he had his very first successful song. It was titled “Bummin’ Around.”
He scored his first No. 1 Billboard hit in 1961 with “Big Bad John.” He also won a Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording for the song in 1962. He would go on to have another top 10 hit that same year with his song “PT 109.” He also landed other tracks in the Top 40 during his career.
Jimmy Dean served as a guest host on “The Tonight Show” several times. It was during the mid-1960s that ABC gave him his own variety show. He made the show a showcase for country music to a wider audience. Country singers such as Buck Owens, Charlie Rich, and George Jones appeared on the show. Interestingly, Jim Henson debuted his very first Muppet on Dean’s show. That Muppet was Rowlf the Dog.
Dean even appeared in the 1971 James Bond film, “Diamonds are Forever,” alongside Sean Connery as Bond.
Jimmy Dean Established His Sausage Company in 1969
According to JimmyDean.com, the popular performer learned to make sausage from his grandfather while growing up in Texas. The story behind why he decided to start a company goes back to his hometown of Plainview, Texas.
As the story goes, he and his brother, Don, were having breakfast at a diner in town. Jimmy Dean was having eggs and sausage. The sausage, however, was not up to his expectations. “You know, there has got to be room in this country for a good quality sausage!” he told Don. So, he started his own sausage company – The Jimmy Dean Meat Company. Sometimes, you just have to get things done yourself.
As to why a singer would start a meat company, Dean would often offer the humorous same answer: “if you had ever seen my act, you would’ve realized that diversification was imperative.”
The company was a success and remains popular to this day – 11 years after its creator’s death at the age of 81 in Virginia. Dean’s image and voice still appear in the company’s commercials.
Jimmy Dean was also known for his words of wisdom. One of his most popular sayings involved learning to take life as it comes. “You can’t change the direction of the wind,” he is quoted as saying. “But you can adjust your sails to always reach your destination.”
Of course, another of his famous sayings about life had to do with sausage: “Sausage is a great deal like life. You get out of it what you put into it.”
He’s not wrong about that!