Jimmy Dean was a good lookin', straight talkin', wise crackin' Texan, who found fame as a country singer and, after some success as an actor and TV host, made a fortune making and selling sausages. Dean was born in Plainview, Texas. His father abandoned the family and his mother became a barber, while Jimmy and his brother learnt to kill farm animals and grind meat. His mother taught him the piano and, he said, the Seth Ward Baptist Church inspired a love of music.
After a stint in the armed forces, he hosted a popular Washington radio show. In 1953, he scored his first hit, Bumming Around, but real fame came with Big Bad John, a ballad of a heroic miner, which won him a Grammy. He claimed to have written it in less than two hours on a flight to Tennessee. A tribute to John F Kennedy, PT-109, followed, and then IOU, dedicated to his mother. He was responsible for bringing country music into the mainstream with his TV shows in the 1960s. He was also the first to introduce the Muppets, regularly featuring Rowlf, the piano-playing dog.
Later that decade he played fur trapper Josh Clements in Daniel Boone, and in 1971 he was the Vegas billionaire Willard Whyte, Bond's ally, in Diamonds Are Forever. In 1969, he and his brother founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company. Jimmy was involved in all aspects of the business, most memorably its advertising. He was "the sausage king"' on TV until 2004, when the Sara Lee company, which bought the firm in 1984, dismissed him as too old.
In February 2010, he was nominated for the Country Hall of Fame. "I thought I already was," he joked. He died on June 13 as he was about to eat dinner in front of television. * The National