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Jimmy Dean (born on August 10, 1928 in Plainview, Texas) is an American singer, actor, and businessman. He was born Jimmy Ray Dean, and not Seth Ward, as is sometimes stated. Seth Ward is the district of Plainview, Texas where he grew up.
Dean became a professional entertainer after a stint in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1940s. He became the host of the popular Washington D.C. TV program Town and Country Time and, with his Texas Wildcats, became favorites in the region. Both Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts with Dean, who eventually fired Clark, his lead guitarist, for his chronic tardiness. He had his first hit, "Bummin' Around," in 1953.
Dean went on to New York in the 1950s where he hosted another TV variety show for CBS and signed with Columbia Records. He became best known for his 1961 song "Big Bad John," recorded in Nashville, that went to No.1 on the Billboard charts. The song won Dean the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. He had several more Top 40 songs including a Top 10 in 1962 with "PT 109", a song in honor of PT-109 and John F. Kennedy. In 1959, he was the regular host of the CBS morning program. In the early 1960s he also hosted the Tonight Show on occasion and one night introduced Roy Clark, with whom he'd remained friendly, to a wider audience, something that helped Clark enhance his career.
His mid-1960s ABC television variety show was one of the first to present country music entertainers with dignity and class, on their terms. Roger Miller, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Buck Owens and a few like Joe Maphis, who seldom got any network TV exposure. He's also best remembered for his regular sketches with one of Jim Henson's long running muppet, Rowlf the Dog. Many guests who were not remotely related to country music appeared on the show, as it was considered a solid entertainment program, and it did offer the priceless "exposure" that is the food and drink of show business acts.
When the show ended, he began to dabble in acting in the late 1960s, with his best-known role being that of millionaire Willard Whyte in the 1971 James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever. Dean also performed around the country. He was mentioned in the Madonna song "Vouge"
Quote: "Jimmy Dean, on the cover of a magazine"
In 1969, he founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage brand ? originally called "Pure Pork Sausage" ? with his brother Don. Despite ups and downs (some revolving around his problems with his partner-brother Don Dean), the Jimmy Dean Sausage company did well, in part due to Dean's own extemporized, humor-themed commercials.
Its success led to its acquisition in 1984 by Consolidated Foods, later renamed the Sara Lee Corporation. Dean remained involved in running the company but the new corporate parent eventually began phasing him out of any management duties, a period that took a toll on his health. In January 2004, Dean said that the Sara Lee company had dropped him as the spokesman for the sausage brand.
As a Virginia resident since 1990, he was inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore appointed Dean to the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, which oversees the state's wildlife efforts and regulates the boating laws.
In the fall of 2004, he released his blunt, straight-talking autobiography, 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham. Today, Dean lives in semiretirement with second wife Donna Meade Dean, a singer, songwriter and recording artist he married in 1991 who helped him write his book. The couple lives on private property at historic Chaffin's Bluff overlooking the James River on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia.
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