Jimmy Dean, the Grammy winning country singer who made an even bigger name for himself as the face of the eponymous sausage company, has died at his home in Varina, Va.
The 81-year-old was watching television with his wife, Donna Dean, when he died.
He was best known musically for his signature hit “Big Bad John,” but Dean also hosted an ABC variety show “The Jimmy Dean Show,” was the first guest host on “The Tonight Show” and the first country entertainer to perform on the Las Vegas strip.
Dean was named a 2010 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.
In 1969, he launched the Jimmy Dean Meat Company which he ran until it was sold to Sara Lee Foods in 1984. After the sale he remained the company’s chairman and TV spokesperson.
According to the Country Music Hall of Fame website, Dean was born Aug. 10, 1928 in Olton, Texas. He grew up in poverty and had only a ninth-grade education.
“He honed his performing skills in the late 1940s by entertaining his fellow servicemen at Bolling Air Force Base, near Washington, D.C. After his discharge in 1948 he assembled his band, the Texas Wildcats, and worked Washington area clubs, fire halls, and lodges,” the site read.
In addition to his wife, Dean is survived by two sons, Garry and Robert; a daughter, Connie; and two grandchildren,
Donna Dean told the Associated Press her husband's services will be private.