WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Country music artist Jimmy Dean, who topped the charts in 1961 with the crossover hit “Big Bad John,” and later became a sausage entrepreneur, has died, police said on Monday.
Dean, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died on Sunday evening at his home in Varina, Virginia, Lieutenant R.J. Clark of the Henrico County Police Department said. He was 81.
Dean had a string of hits in the 1960s but was best known for “Big Bad John,” a song about a coal mining hero that topped the country and pop music charts in 1961 and won a Grammy.
He also hosted a successful variety television program called “The Jimmy Dean Show” and also appeared regularly on the NBC series “Daniel Boone.”
At about the same time, Dean started the Jimmy Dean Meat Company, which he later sold to Sara Lee Foods.
Dean was born in Plainview, Texas, on August 10, 1928. His mother taught him piano at a young age, but he also learned how to play the guitar, harmonica and accordion. After his discharge from the Air Force in 1948, he fronted a band called the Texas Wildcats that played in the Washington, D.C. area.
“We played every dive in Washington at one time or another,” Dean said in his biography on the Country Music Hall of Fame website. “And dives is what they were.”
He is survived by his second wife, Donna.
Writing by Paul Simao, Americas Desk; Editing by Charles Dick