Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) is most remembered for his role as the "sausage king" of America, having founded the Jimmy Dean sausage company in 1969, at the height of his commercial success as a country singer. Dean had three really huge hits -- "Bummin' Around," in 1953; "Big Bad John" from '61 and the sticky-gooey sentimental Mother's Day recitation, "IOU," which recounts all the things a grown child owes to the long-suffering mama who brought them into the world and sacrificed days, months and years to keep them happy and safe. (Excuse me, I think I got something in my eye... sniffle...) Anyway, after a few twangy early recordings from the 'Fifties, Dean became a crooner and was one of the artists who epitomized the mellow, sometimes soporific Nashville Sound... For twangfans, his catalogue may be slim pickings, but there are some gems here and there... Here's a quick look...


Jimmy Dean "Greatest Hits" (Columbia, 1966)

Jimmy Dean "Big Bad John" (Bear Family, 1993)
Generally speaking, former breakfast sausage king Jimmy Dean is a bit more commercial (and bland) a country artist than I tend to go for, but it can't be denied that his breakthrough hit, "Big Bad John" was a catchy little number. This disc includes plenty of lesser tunes, many of them, like "The Cajun Queen" and "Little Bitty Big John" were sequel songs which barely recalled the grandeur of the original. There are also historical songs like the JFK-related "PT Boat 109" and corny recitations like "To A Sleeping Beauty" that are very much products of their time (circa 1961-62). This also includes Dean's somewhat peculiar political song, "Dear Ivan," an intriguing recitation tune that seems very sympathetic to the Russians... and this at the height of the Cold War! Honestly, I don't think Dean was a great talent, but he did have a nice string of hits 'way back when... If you want to check out his best material, I'd say this disc is the way to go, since Bear Family releases are always of the highest quality that can be found.

Jimmy Dean "Greatest Songs" (Curb, 1995)

Jimmy Dean "Inspirational Songs" (Curb, 1998)

Jimmy Dean "20 Great Story Songs" (Curb, 1999)

Jimmy Dean "Complete Columbia Hits & More" (Collector's Choice, 2004)
For a guy who was once so famous, former sausage king and soft-country crooner Jimmy Dean sure dropped off the radar over the years. This is the first major retrospective of his work to come out in the States on CD, gathering together his biggest hits for Columbia, including "Big Bad John" and the various "big, bad" spinoff singles, along with the remainder of his chart singles made before he left the label in 1966. Dean's star was already falling when he split for RCA, and there's not much notable in his career after that, other than his mid-'70s Mother's Day novelty hit, "IOU," which sadly is not included on here. This 24-song collection is pretty comparable to the Bear Family import that came out a decade earlier: both albums have all his major hits, and then they veer off in different directions when it comes to the B-sides and album tracks, and the Bear Family set only goes up to '62. This new retrospective sticks more strictly to his chart material, so it may be more interesting to folks who knew Dean through the radio... at any rate, if you want to check Dean out, this is the place to go.

Jimmy Dean "Find 'Em Fool 'Em Leave 'Em Alone" (BACM, 2005)


Jimmy Dean "Sings His Television Favorites" (Mercury, 1957) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Hour Of Prayer" (Columbia, 1957) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Favorites Of Jimmy Dean" (King, 1960)

Jimmy Dean "Hymns By Jimmy Dean" (Harmony, 1960) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Big Bad John And Other Fabulous Songs And Tales" (Columbia, 1961) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Portrait Of Jimmy Dean" (Columbia, 1962) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Everybody's Favorite" (Columbia, 1963) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "The Songs We All Love Best" (Columbia, 1964) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card" (Columbia, 1965)

Jimmy Dean "The First Thing Ev'ry Morning" (Columbia, 1965) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "The Big Ones" (Columbia, 1966) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Jimmy Dean Is Here!" (RCA, 1966) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "The Jimmy Dean Show" (RCA, 1967) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Most Richly Blessed" (RCA, 1967) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "A Thing Called Love" (RCA, 1968) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Dean's List" (Columbia, 1968) best-of? (LP)

Jimmy Dean "Jimmy Dean Show" (RCA, 1968)

Jimmy Dean "The Speaker Of The House" (RCA, 1968) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "The Dean Of Country Music" (RCA, 1970)

Jimmy Dean & Dottie West "Country Boy And Country Girl" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Bradley)

Although the sausage king is rightfully thought of as the kiss of death on many of his watered-down releases, this collaboration with the up-and-coming Ms. West is actually a pretty fun, vigorous album. Contemporary "sunshine country" production adds a little bounce and electricity, particularly on their souped-up cover of "Jackson." Sure, maybe we don't really need their versions of old hits such as "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" and "Just Someone I Used To Know," but this is soooooo much better than most of Dean's own work that it's worth checking out, just to hear him get a creative shot in the arm. An okay album from a wimpy era. (PS -- I love the album's awkward sub-head: "...Singing Very Well And Having A Great Time Working Together." Talk about your great marketing slogans!)

Jimmy Dean "Everybody Knows" (RCA, 1971) (LP)

Jimmy Dean "These Hands" (RCA, 1971) (LP)



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