Dowell, Illinois, US
July 15
born in Illinois. 5 year Navy veteran. Married for 26 years (not counting the first five when we just cohabited. 4 kids, 6 grandkids, 3 brothers 2 living, 2 sisters 1 living, a mother living, a father not living. 1 dog a labradoodle, and a current cat population of 2/6 (If you count feral kittens ) I've done a lot of jobs in my life, from shill at a carnival burlesque show to making medium caliber ammunition. I built inkjet printers, embedded computer boards, restored and repaired both cars, motorcycles and electronics. I read, write, and do arithmetic (albeit poorly) My wife claims that I have more useless knowledge than anyone on earth and resultingly no one will play trivial pursuit with me anymore. I do play pinohcle but due to my inability to cheat I don't win very often. Recently disabled I turned to Open Salon to re-engage my writing bug. Update add one cocker spaniel to the list and maybe just shoot me.


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JUNE 14, 2010 5:05PM

Jimmy Dean

Rate: 26 Flag

I was going to let the passing of singer /sausage maker/entrepreneur, Jimmy Dean go by without a word.  I write too many of these things and am always at risk of being accused of some kind of plagiarism since the facts of a person of notes life are hashed and rehashed.  As the day progressed I wondered if he didn't deserve a word or two.  

Now the man is mostly known as the name on the label of sausage products. A few of us are old enough to remember him as a cross over country/pop artist.  He had a major hit with his ballad of Big John, big enough to get him a variety show in 1961.  One of a hundred then I guess yet his does bear a cultural reference that has long overshadowed his own,  he had as a part of his show a shaggy dog, not quite marionette, not quite puppet.  

Rolf was his name.  He played piano and sang with Jimmy too.  The man who operated and voiced Rolf was named Jim too, Jim Henson.  Rolf was the first muppet to go nation wide.  So we see that while Jimmy Dean was enjoying his moments in the sun, he gave light to something that has become a part of global culture.  

Sure he faded when his show ended, he did some guest work and even had a part in Diamonds are Forever.  He moved on from entertainment to take up the family business of hogs.  His name and the quality of his product made him remain a name in the public eye.  

It is silly I guess to memorialize a long faded country singer that took up sausage as a way of making a living.  That he recognized the talent and potential of Jim Henson and helped him make the break from a regional talent that made some clever commercials and let him become a major force in entertainment is good enough of a reason for me.  So long Jimmy and thanks for helping give the world characters like Rolf, Kermit, Bert, Ernie, Miss Piggy, Elmo, Big Bird ad infinitum.  The world was a little better because of you and that alone makes you worth mention. 

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celebrity, sausage, muppets

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I didn't know he had died. I always like Jimmie Rodgers and enjoyed his music. I like his sausage, too.

So long, Jimmie. Thanks for what you left us. Your music as well as your sausage is your legacy, and it is good.
It definitely deserves a mention. Jimmy Dean, besides having a few country hits and his name on sausage, was a great person.
I was surprised no one had done anything.
rated with hugs and thanks
I remember him as a singer, not just as a sausage. Another goodbye....
I was unaware that he'd passed away.

We used to get Jimmy Deans in the field sometimes as an alternative to MRE's when we were training to deploy to Iraq in '04 for the '05 rotation with 3ID.

There was a member of our unit who used to open up the juicier parts of the Jimmy Dean meals and stuff them way down in random Solider's "C" bags. This is the bag of shit we never use but are forced to bring to the field.

After a few days, the horrible reek would overwhelm us...and we would know that the "UniDeaner" had struck again.

Though we never caught the UniDeaner, I still have my suspicions as to who it was.

On the post though, thanks for the bit of history, and a tip of my hat to a man that gave us hours of food, entertainment and memories.
Good post, Bob. And if I'm not mistaken, wasn't he also on "Daniel Boone" with Fess Parker for a while too?
Over the decades his name became best known for sausage and related products. Not particularly good sausage but a facsimile of country sausage.
I had no idea he helped Jim Henson become famous! Another little known fact.
Congratulations on your EP, Bob. I didn't know either about this. Short, sweet and informative post. The guard is certainly in the process of changing. ~R~
Bob: I'm real glad you mentioned the Jim Henson connection; The Times obit missed it. I remember those bits between Dean & Rolf very well.

And boy, do I remember Big John. He stood six foot si ans weighed 245 . . . you know the rest. To an 11-year-old kid, that sappy-seeming-today song about individual heroism left a permanent mark on my soul.

Thanks for remembering and reminding.
Well, I don't think there's anything silly about it, Bob. This is a wonderful tribute to a man who contributed to the world, kept going, did what he had to do, and lived well. xox
Good article. One minor quibble: Jimmy Dean was in "Diamonds Are Forever" rather than "You Only Live Twice."
I stand corrected. Memory and narcotics don't always mix.
I just read the NYT piece, Bob....and they did miss the Jim Henson connection! Good for you, kiddo! I love the Muppets! Thank you, Jimmy Dean for those childhood heroes....xox
One of my favorite movies (Flirting) has a funny scene that involves the song "Big John", so I guess, by extension, I have a soft spot for Jimmy Dean. I'm glad you took the trouble to do an obit for him here on OS.
Very nice tribute, especially for those of us who aren't as familiar with his contribution beyond the savory.
Thanks for the memory.
Well, there you go. I didn't know aaaannnyyyy of this. Truly. I thought Jimmy Dean was the sausages and had no idea of the connection to Jim Henson. Blame island living and not being part of the mainland.
I met him (just met no lengthy conversation) at the premiere of some movie (don't even remember the name, it flopped) that he had executive produced in Nashville in I believe 1989. He struck me then as the quintessential country gentlemen.
Bet he's in hog heaven already! (And rated, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't even known he was dead.)
He made his name in sausage, but he was a great singer and the world be a little sadder at his passing. Good night Pattie.
P.S. I met a relatively astute and knowledgeable young media type recently who had never even heard of Tennessee Ernie Ford, or "16 Tons!", and bless her pea-pickin' little heart flew right over her pointed little head, somebody has to be the historian, today you're it!
I knew I would be able to count on you to mark his passing have a lovely way of remembering. Thanks Bob.
I forgot he had Rolf on his show. That was a trip in the wayback machine! I did not know he had passed. I'm glad you wrote this PLUS an EP! Good for you!
He always came across so small home town, that's what made him special.
Never knew of that connection. It is so wonderful to know that he lifted someone up and gave them a kind of start. I think he must has been a kind and generous man. R
I'm old enough to mostly remember Jimmy Dean as a singer. Never cared for the sausage much, but his TV show was a family ritual from it's debut to whenever it went off the air.

But how many of you remember how, in 1962. Dean told the warmongers and wingers and John Birchers --o were pretty much running things in those days-- to stuff it. And he did it in a charming, low key sorta way.

He recorded a narration --not really a song-- called "Dear Ivan," in which he imagines an American farmer talking to his Russian counterpart, and reaching the startling conclusion that if they could just sit down together, they could work things out a whole lot better than their "leaders."

You can hear the recording at and read the lyrics at

Folks reading or hearing those lyrics today might have trouble realizing the courage behind recording them. Dean was immediately attacked by the right --remember, this was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis-- and there was much talk of heaving him off the country radio stations, a la the Dixie Chicks a while back.

To his credit, Dean didn't back down an inch. The rare times he was given the opportunity, he explained over and over what the song was really about.

Almost nobody listened.

He probably didn't care. He'd said his piece.

I wish it was for this piece, and not that silly saccharine "Big Bad John" he'll be remembered.
It's not silly to memorialize him; he made a living and indeed discovered a great talent. What is silly is memorializing people who overdose and never make it to that "next career."
Thanks for this.
I love the Muppets, and never knew of the connection. Thanks for filling me in.
I always thought of Jimmy Dean as a "nice guy". Big John was on the radio 24/7, and I loved it. Thank you for a deserved remembrance.

@ Bob Sloan. I forgot Jimmy's political stance on the Cold War. I'm so glad you reminded us.
I didn't know he died either and it's too bad more don't remember what a solid, likable, smart guy he was. Great obit, Bob, thanks for this. And, btw, BRAVO!
When did you change your avatar? (I'm embarassed to ask, he says.)
I was a fan. Diamonds Are Forever is one my favorite Bond films because of Jimmy Dean. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Texans. Sad to hear.
Jimmie was always good. Singing. Sausage. Truth is I'll miss the sausage most. Good to see you on the cover, seriously.
I hadn't heard about this bobbot so thans for the post. I still have Big Bad John on my playlists.

The version I downloaded (I have it on LP so didn't cheat him of royalties) is slighly different than the radio and LP versions. The download version closes with "At the bottom of this mine lies one hell of a man".

The LP and radio versions have "..lies a big, BIG man". For once, I prefer the censored version. It's a nice play while "one hell of" sounds like a generic compliment.
Well, I am truly amazed at the response and the notoriety. Thanks for reading this. There are too many of you to address individually, I may just be lazy or something. I wish that I'd recalled Dear Ivan, I do remember it now and it was pretty cool. He did pop up on Daniel Boone from time to time.

My avatar changes with my mood, I've been feeling a bit like Roberto for a while. One more thing, Henry, I don't know if you are kidding or not so please don't take offense but, Jimmy Dean is not Jimmie Rodgers, the yodeling brakeman.
Congrats on your EP, Bob and thanks so much for posting about Jimmy Dean. Like you I remember him first as a singer and a popular one!
I'd completely forgotten about Rolf. Thank you for bringing that little gem forward from the very back of my head.
"I stand corrected. Memory and narcotics don't always mix."

One of the better aspects of Nam.(No 'lol")
Jimmy always seemed to me to be a genuine fellow, someone who dealt well with his celebrity and did not become consumed by it. He was indeed a highlight of our pop culture landscape, and is entirely worthy of note in this and other fora. Thanks for the great entertainment, Jimmy...and your sausage is pretty great, too.
Quotes from Dean seem to suggest that he was rather peeved that he faded from the public consciousness, as aging, one-hit wonders tend to do.

Considering the quite successful business interest to which he devoted his energies during the last decades of his life, Dean should have understood better than anyone that, like most things, entertainers are just another kind of sausage, cranked out one after the other, to be consumed and forgotten.