Legendary country singer Jimmy Dean died peacefully Sunday at his Virginia home. Dean, known for his sausage empire, found early success in his music and acting. He was nominated to the Country Music Hall of Fame and won a Grammy too.
Country music singer and business entrepreneur Jimmy Dean has died at the age of 81.
The country music legend, singer, television host, actor, and businessman died Sunday night inside his Henrico, Va., home overlooking the James River, reports CBS station WTVR in Richmond.
The station spoke with Dean's wife, Donna, Sunday night. She was grieving and said the following:
"I definitely need my privacy right now, and am not available for interviews. My husband died of natural causes, and funeral services are pending."
Donna Dean told the station her husband died at 7:54 p.m. Sunday night after eating dinner.
Jimmy Ray Dean born August 10, 1928 in Plainview Texas and died Sunday June 13, 2010. He was an American country music singer, television host, actor and businessman. Although he may be best known today as the creator of the Jimmy Dean Sausage brand, he became a national television personality in the 1960s, rising to fame for his 1961 country crossover hit Big, Bad, John.
"Big Bad John," which is about a coal miner who saves fellow workers when a mine roof collapses, became a big hit in 1961.The star wrote it in less than two hours. 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 John F. Kennedy's bravery in World War II. Dean's band had its first national hit in "Bummin' Around."
He attributed his interest in music to the Seth Ward Baptist Church. He dropped out of high school and became a professional entertainer after a stint in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1940s.
The 81 year old entertainer lived on the James River near Richmond, Virginia and was nominated for the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Four months ago, Dean, who had a number one hit "Big Bad John" in 1961, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dean who has suffered with multiple medical problems but was still doing well as can be seen in this video of Jimmy performing at the Patsy Cline Symposium presented by the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, April 4, 2008.
Both Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts with Dean. Clark, Dean's lead guitarist, was eventually fired by the singer for what was explained as his chronic tardiness. Roy Clark later made himself a household name starring on the popular country variety show Hee-Haw.
Dean's entertainment career in the 1950s and '60s included the nationally televised "The Jimmy Dean Show." He appeared on several TV talk shows and game shows, as well as performed on variety programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace.
Dean's singing career remained strong into the mid-1960s; in 1965, he achieved a second number one country hit with the ballad "The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (And the Last Thing Ev'ry Night)", and he had a Top 40 hit that year with "Harvest Of Sunshine". In 1966, Dean signed with RCA Records and immediately had a Top 10 hit with "Stand Beside Me". His other major hits during this time included "Sweet Misery" (1967) and "A Thing Called Love" (1968). He continued charting into the early 1970s with his major hits including a duet with Dottie West, "Slowly" (1971); and a solo hit with "The One You Say Good Morning To" (1972).
In 1976, Dean achieved a million-seller with a recitation song as a tribute to his mother and mothers everywhere called "I.O.U." The song was released a few weeks before Mother's Day and quickly became a Top 10 country hit, his first one in a decade, and a Top 40 pop hit.
Dean became a headliner at venues like Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl and became the first country star to play on the Las Vegas strip. He was the first guest host on "The Tonight Show," and also was an actor with parts in television and the movies, including the role of James Bond's ally Willard Whyte in the 1971 film "Diamonds Are Forever."
Dean had three children, Garry, Connie and Robert, with his first wife Mary Sue (nee Wittauer) Dean; and two granddaughters, Caroline Taylor (Connie's daughter) and Brianna Dean (Robert's daughter). Dean died on June 13, 2010, of natural causes at his Varina, Virginia, home at the age of 81. He is survived by his second wife Donna and his nephew, country music singer Billy Dean.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced but the family has said it will be a private service.