Jimmy Dean, country crooner and hometown hero, is also America’s pork prince: 'One hell of a man'

Jimmy Dean’s name greets Americans from coast to coast in the supermarket sausage aisle.

The man himself was a country crooner, talented storyteller and TV host before he became the Texas Panhandle’s Prince of Porkness.

“He’s still our hometown hero,” KayLyn Bean, director of the Jimmy Dean Museum in Plainview, Texas, told Fox News Digital.

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“He grew up the poorest of the poor. He was raised by a single mother. She cut hair to make ends meet. That’s what makes it such a great story.”

Dean helped remake country music, weekend breakfast and the fortunes of his hometown.

Brothers Don and Jimmy Dean in front of the family’s plant in Plainview, Texas. (Courtesy The Jimmy Dean Museum)

Dean was born in 1928 and dropped out of high school at age 16 to join the U.S. Merchant Marine, during the height of World War II.

He later enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and served at Bolling Air Base in Washington, D.C.

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“After his discharge in 1948, he assembled his band, the Texas Wildcats. and worked [in] Washington-area clubs, fire halls and lodges,” the Country Music Hall of Fame recounts in Dean’s member biography.

“We played every dive in Washington at one time or another,” Dean later recalled.

“Anddivesis what they were.”

Packages of Jimmy Dean sausage are displayed for sale at a grocery store in New York.  (JB Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

He found acclaim for hosting “The Jimmy Dean Show,” a nationally televised variety program that featured the top performers of the day.

Among other acts, it was reportedly the first show to feature Jim Henson’s Muppets.

“Big, Bad John,” Dean’s 1961 Grammy Award-winning crossover hit, reached No. 1 on both the country and pop charts and catapulted him to greater stardom.

“It was country music’s first gold record,” says Bean of the Jimmy Dean Museum.

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The success of the song helped give Dean the muscle to launch the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. with his brother Don in 1969.

CIRCA 1960: Photo of country music singer Jimmy Dean. (GAB Archive/Redferns)

“The brothers ground the meat, while their mother seasoned it,” according to an account at Biography.com.

“Eventually the factory employed 150 people and had annual payroll of more than $3 million — sizable figures in a farming town of 18,000 in a time of depressed agricultural prices and dwindling underground water,” Texas Monthly reported in a 1983 feature story by Fryar Calhoun.

“It started a hog boom in the Panhandle, an area previously devoted mainly to cotton and cattle.”

Jimmy Dean was a country music star and TV host who found futher fame as the founder of a supermarket breakfast sausage patty brand bearing his name.  (Courtesy Jimmy Dean Museum; Tom Kelley/Getty Images)

Dean donated $1 million to Wayland Baptist University in Planview before he died in 2010. His estate continues to support his hometown today.

Wayland Baptist University announced in January that it received a gift from the Jimmy and Donna Dean Estate.

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The undisclosed amount, the school said, “was the largest estate gift commitment in the school’s 115-year history.”

“Big Bad John,” meanwhile, remains Dean’s signature hit. It tells the tale of an imposing drifter with a 6-foot-5-inch frame and violent past who dies saving 20 men in a mine collapse.

The Jimmy Dean Museum is located in Plainview, Texas, the Panhandle hometown of the country music star-turned-sausage king.  (Courtesy The Jimmy Dean Museum)

“At the bottom of this mine lies one hell of a man,” Dean boomed at the end of his legacy recording.

The last line was later deemed too controversial and changed to “big, big man.”

But you can still find the same original words today.

The phrase “Here lies one hell of a man” is etched into Dean’s piano-shaped gravestone in Varina, Virginia.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.

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