This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jimmy Dean (1928- )

Jimmy Ray Dean was born August 10, 1928, in Plainview, Texas. He loved to sing as a child and was active in music ministries at the Seth Ward Baptist Church in Plainview. As a visiting amateur singer, he was heard on the Hollywood Barn Dance and the All-Star Western Theater in the mid 1940s, when he was stationed in Southern California during his military career in the U.S. Army Air Forces/U.S. Air Force (the Air Force broke away from the Army before his discharge). When he was discharged from the Air Force in the late 1940s, he was in the Washington, DC, area. His prior work in Los Angeles helped him get work as a TV host on Washington television.

He had a very popular show, Town and Country Time, which was where singers Roy Clark (1933-) and Patsy Cline (1932-63) got their starts as professional entertainers. Roy Clark was fired for his constant tardiness and was replaced by Billy Grammer. He had one hit song at this time, "Bummin' Around." His time he spent in California in the 1940s helped him to have a liking for burritos.

Trying to improve his musical career, he moved to New York in the late 1950s. He got a recording contract with Columbia Records. This also helped him to have a morning radio program that aired on CBS before Captain Kangaroo on weekday mornings in 1958. There were many other shows. His program on ABC in the mid 1960s was the nation's introduction to Jim Henson's Muppets. (Both Jim Henson and Jimmy Dean got their starts in the Washington, DC, television market.) In 1961, he sang (actually SPOKE) his first hit song, Big Bad John.

In 1969, with brother Don and James M. Dean (a relative with connections to the Dean Milk Company, now known as Dean Foods), he began the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company.

Jimmy remained busy in the music industry through the mid 1970s. In 1971, he had an important acting role in the James Bond 007 film, Diamonds are Forever, as Willard Whyte, who was based on Howard Hughes.

In 1976, he devoted all of his time to the manufacture of his sausage. He was in charge of every aspect of creating the sausage and it became the best selling sausage in America. He also appeared in every television commercial for many years. Jimmy would later say that this was the biggest headache in his life and it caused a lot of distress and depression.

He sold the company in 1984 to Consolidated Foods (today known as Sara Lee). Jimmy would continue being the spokesman for the company in TV ads. In 2004, his contract was not renewed and he now has no connection with the company except that he started it. After this, he wrote his autobiography, 30 Years of Sausage, 50 years of Ham.

Today he lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his second wife Donna Meade. His three children came from his first marriage to Sue Wittauer.

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