Jimmy Dean - Death, Wife & Facts

Jimmy Dean was a successful country artist, actor, television personality, and businessman. He won a Grammy Award for his work. He had his own hog butchering business, which he sold to Sara Lee in 1984.

Who Was Jimmy Dean?

Jimmy Dean, later to become a famous country singer and successful businessman, made his first public appearances with a band called the Tennessee Haymakers. While playing for the Texas Wildcats, he signed a recording contract with Four Star recordings, and in 1953, his debut single was a Top 10 smash in the United States. After then, Dean became a co-star in many movies and television shows. He opened a hog slaughtering business and continued his career as a musician at the same time.

Early Life

Jimmy Ray Dean was born to working-class parents in Olton, Texas, on August 10, 1928. Dean’s childhood was spent in Plainview, Texas, during the Great Depression, where he was exposed to extreme destitution. His father was rarely present in Dean’s early life, and there is a story about how he once butchered the little boy’s pet goat so the family could afford to eat. Sugar sacks were used as the fabric for the clothing that Dean’s mother stitched for Dean and his siblings. These outfits were the source of much of Dean’s contemporaries’ mockery. In subsequent years, Dean believed that his challenging upbringing was responsible for instilling in him an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong will to achieve success. Dean later told reporters, “I believe the people at school who laughed at the clothes that we wore and the house that we lived in, and then my mother having to cut hair… I think that was a fantastic motivator.” “Every time they laughed at me, they built a fire, and there was only one way to put it out—to try and show ’em that I was as good as they were.” “Every time they laughed at me, they built a fire.”


The only escape from his challenging existence that Dean could find was in music. Dean’s family is devout Southern Baptists, and they don’t miss a single Sunday of worship. It was there that Jimmy got his start singing in the church chorus. In addition, when Dean was 10 years old, his mother started teaching him how to play the piano, and through the years, he picked up additional instruments, such as the accordion, the guitar, and the harmonica.

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To assist in the financial support of his family, Dean did not finish his high school education. At the age of 16, he signed up to serve in the Merchant Marines, and then two years later, he joined the United States Air Force. During his tenure in the military, Dean was posted at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, District of Columbia. In addition, he continued to play music in the Washington, District of Columbia nightclubs. After being discharged from the military in 1948, he remained in the area and founded the Texas Wildcats band. His first public performance was with a band known as the Tennessee Haymakers. He was finally signed to a record deal with Four Star Records, and in 1953, his debut single, titled “Bummin’ Around,” became a Top 10 smash in the United States. After that, his affable, down-to-earth demeanour and business skills helped him land his own radio show on WARL in Arlington, Virginia. On the show, he performed music and interviewed famous musicians.

‘The Jimmy Dean Show’

In 1957, Dean adapted his popular radio program into a television show broadcast on CBS. Patsy Cline and Roy Clark were just beginning their careers as country music icons when they were featured on Jimmy Dean’s talk show, which was called The Jimmy Dean Show. Dean continued to enjoy his musical accomplishments and those of the band. In 1961, he issued the single titled “Big Bad John,” which told the story of a courageous coal miner who rescued his fellow workers during an accident at the mine. The record topped the charts in both the country and the pop music genres, garnered Dean a nomination for a Grammy Award, and launched the singer into the mainstream music industry.

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After the cancellation of his variety show on CBS in 1963, Jimmy Dean agreed with ABC to produce a new version of his show, which was similarly titled The Jimmy Dean Show. The Jimmy Dean Show is recognized for kicking off the career of guitarist Roger Miller and introducing Jim Henson’s Muppets to the general public during its three years on the air. Both of these achievements occurred during the show’s run. In particular, Dean enjoyed playing the role of Rowlf, a canine companion who played the piano and frequently travelled with Dean. During this period, Dean had the option to buy a big interest in what would become a multimillion-dollar Muppets wealth, but the actor turned it down for moral concerns, arguing that he hadn’t “earned it.” The Muppets fortune would go on to become worth multiple millions of dollars.

TV and Film Roles

After the conclusion of Dean’s second variety show in 1966, the actor played supporting roles in some movies and television shows. These roles included a recurring part as Daniel Boone’s friend in the long-running and successful Daniel Boone series (1967–1970) and a part in the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever (1971), which starred Sean Connery.

In addition to that, Dean persisted in pursuing a career in music. In 1976, Dean found another measure of success by releasing his single “I.O.U.,” which was a dedication to his mother. The song, released just a few weeks before Mother’s Day, shot straight to the top of the country charts almost immediately after its release.

Food Business

But Dean, who was a harsh critic of his own performances, came to the conclusion that he was an awful musician and actor and thus began chasing other opportunities. In the late 1960s, Dean and his brother Don established a hog butchering business in Plainview, Dean’s hometown. Don was Dean’s business partner. The brothers were responsible for grinding the meat, while their mother was seasoning it. Within the first six months of its existence, The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. had already established itself as a thriving enterprise. By the late 1980s, the Dean family was bringing in more than $75 million in annual revenues from their business. In 1984, Dean sold his business to Sara Lee Foods, but he continued to work for the firm as a spokesperson until 2003.

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Later Years and Death

In 2004, when Dean was already living a life that he considered to be semi-retired, he published his autobiography titled 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham. The Country Music Hall of Fame acknowledged his contributions to the genre in February 2010.

Before the house they shared was destroyed in a fire, Dean and his wife, the singer and lyricist Donna Meade Dean lived in Varina, Virginia. Many iconic treasures that belonged to Dean, such as mementoes of Elvis and Jim Henson, were destroyed in the fire. Shortly before Dean passed away on June 13, 2010, at the age of 81, the couple renovated their home on their estate, encompassing 200 acres.

In the final few years of his life, Dean struggled with his health, and he passed away while sitting down to have dinner in front of the television. His wife, Donna, three children, and two grandkids outlived him after his passing.


  • Name: Dean
  • Birth Year: 1928
  • Birth date: August 10, 1928
  • Birth State: Texas
  • Birth City: Olton
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Jimmy Dean was a Grammy Award-winning country musician, actor, television host and entrepreneur. He owned a hog-butchering company that he sold to Sara Lee in 1984.
  • Industries
    • Radio
    • Television
    • Country
    • Business and Industry
  • Astrological Sign: Leo
  • Death Year: 2010
  • Death date: June 13, 2010
  • Death State: Virginia
  • Death City: Varina
  • Death Country: United States