Another bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin
This is not meant to be a "be all know all" article about country music legend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Dean (1928-2010), but a brief overview. I recommend his autobiography published in 2004 "30 Years Of Sausage, 50 Years Of Ham," which gives the full story in his own words for that.
Jimmy Dean was born outside of Plainview, Texas, in 1928 in abject poverty and struggled through the Great Depression. He was musical and always funny but at age 16, left home for the Merchant Marines towards the end of World War II, after that an enlistment in the U.S. Air Force took up his time for the most part but he spent some free time around the Washington, D.C., area, even then playing in local bands. He had a good smooth voice and he could play piano, accordion, guitar and even harmonica fairly well. After mustering out of the Air Force, Jimmy stayed in the Washington, D.C., area with his own band "The Texas Wildcats" and eventually caught on with country susic entrepreneur Connie B. Gay and his "Country Music Time" radio program on WARL-AM in Arlington, Virginia. Around the same time he signed a contract with an east coast associate producer of 4-Star Records in Pasadena, California. His first record was to become a country music standard over the years, "Bummin' Around." Jimmy's version was the label's local hit in the east (4-Star #1613). 4-Star - upon hearing the song - had T. Texas Tyler record a better sounding version and leased it to Decca Records which became the nationally known hit version. Jimmy's version died on the vine. Two other 4-Star records were released between 1952 and 1954 and went nowhere. Jimmy claimed that he made little or no money in royalties from these recordings, even though they were re-issued again and again on "budget LP's" after he was famous.
In 1955, the radio show moved to television in Washington, D.C., on WMAL-TV in the afternoons. It was live, spontaneous and an immediate hit owing mostly to the wit and good humor of Jimmy Dean. Also in 1955, Jimmy signed a new recording contract with Mercury Records in Chicago. The first release being Mercury #70691 "False Pride" b/w "Big Blue Diamonds" which went nowhere. He released two more records on Mercury and then nothing for some time as recordings went.
In the mean time, he was on a regional TV hook-up live daily on Virginia and Maryland stations and a Saturday night live three hour TV show for Connie B. Gay called "Town and Country Time Jamboree." CBS picked up the daily show for 28 weeks into 1957 which was on WTOP-TV, and after a pilot was made, became the CBS Morning Show for 8 months into 1958. In September 1958 until June 1959, CBS had "The Jimmy Dean Show" live week days and at noon on Saturdays on the full network.
In the mean time, as to recordings, Jimmy had stalled out but was still under contract to Mercury in 1956 with no new recordings scheduled to be made, when and it get fuzzy here, depending on what I know and what other versions appear to be, Jimmy was called down to Nashville over a week-end to appear on the Grand Ole Opry and record enough recordings to fill out an album, which eventually became "Jimmy Dean's TV Favorites" (Mercury LP MG 20319) released in early 1957 which was a rehash of some old standards and a new version of "Bummin' Around" which was very "pop music" oriented with very sparse accompaniment, but still decidedly country. Also recorded was a ballad entitled "Losing Game" which had just enough of a pop and teen flavoring to be a hit record. The problem was the single was to be a "Mercury-Starday" release. Mercury and Starday merged around the time Jimmy made that recording session in Nashville and was only paid union scale for the session on "spec", according to him. Mercury and Starday had a short and acrimonius partnership, and by the time they settled who got what, Jimmy's "Loosing Game" had been released and the advance copies to DeeJays nationwide was getting a lot of air play. It was going to be a hit, but in the separation of the two companies, no more copies were pressed after the initial run and was "stillborn". The song appeared on the last Mercury-Starday LP 20358 as well. It wasn't a hit. Jimmy also told me that he never made a dime in royalties off on any of his Mercury recordings. They also had been re-issued countless times and in countless forms. He was adamant about this late in 1978/79 when I had the opportunity to question him about it. Compounding the problem, by his own admission, was the fact he signed a new long term recording contract with Columbia Records in mid-1957. Jimmy's first Columbia release went nowhere as did several more into 1959. His first album, the gospel LP Columbia CL-1025 "Hour Of Prayer" also did nothing when released.
Jimmy Dean - Losing Game (Mercury 71120X45), 1957
When his CBS television show was over, and since he was good especially "live" as most shows were, he hosted the "Tonight Show" from time to time, did game shows and others and toured promoting minor recordings. He was also a frequent guest on the Arthur Godfrey Radio Show over the CBS Radio Network out of New York.
Then in 1961, on his second Columbia LP and a single release, Jimmy struck gold with "Big Bad John", which went to the top of the charts in America, number 1 country and pop for many weeks in late 1961. He took home a Grammy for it as well and it became his signature song. This is the original undubbed version.#
Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John (Columbia 4-42175), 1961
This song brought ABC Television calling, wanting Jimmy Dean to host a new variety show which would be decidedly town and country with a full orchestra and a chorus of featured singers. This program lasted 3 seasons 1963 through 1966 and was almost always at the top of the ratings. Jimmy also took this show on the road pretty much intact and made millions. A lot of up and coming young country stars got their first national exposure on his show, notably Roger Miller and Charlie Rich to name two.
At the end of his Columbia Records contract, Columbia released Jimmy Dean's last big hit record and it also sold a million copies "The First Thing Every Morning" in 1965. I should note here that over the years two very maudlin and sweet readings, to me anyway, sold over a million copies each, "Too A Sleeping Beauty" and "I.O.U.". They are not included here if for no other reason their extreme length.
Jimmy Dean - The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (Columbia 4-43263), 1965
In 1966, Jimmy signed an RCA Victor recording contract and had some very minor hits over the next 7 years. His energies had drifted elsewhere. He was in films and television series and in Las Vegas and in 1969, as an investment to save his now considerable fortune, started The Jimmy Dean Meat Company with his brother Don in Plainview, Texas, which was an immediate success. The rest they say is history.