The internet news accounts of entertainer Jimmy Dean’s recent passing contained this information:
“In 2009, a fire gutted their home… Lost were a collection of celebrity-autographed books, posters of Dean with Elvis Presley, and other prized possessions.”
Naturally, I had to do some quick research to learn about the connection between Elvis and Jimmy Dean.
Jimmy Dean and Elvis in 1956
Dean was best known for his 1961 song about a heroic miner, “Big Bad John,” which went to number one on the Billboard pop charts and inspired many imitations and parodies. It sold over one million copies, and won Dean the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. He had several more Top 40 songs on the pop and country music charts, including a Top 10 in 1962 with “PT-109”, a song in honor of John F. Kennedy's bravery in World War II. He achieved a second number 1 country hit in 1965 with the ballad “The First Thing Every Morning (And The Last Thing Every Night)” and had a Top 40 hit that year with “Harvest of Sunshine”. In 1966, Dean signed with RCA Records and immediately had a Top 10 hit with “Stand Beside Me”.
Jimmy Dean also had success as a businessman. In 1969, he founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company with his brother Don. The company did well, in part because of Dean's own extemporized, humor-themed commercials. The success of his sausage led to the company’s acquisition in 1984 by Consolidated Foods, later renamed the Sara Lee Corporation.
What is less known about Dean is his early career as a TV personality in the mid-50s. He was the host of the popular Washington D.C. TV program “Town and Country Time” on WMAL at 6:30 PM. Both Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts on this show. Elvis was a guest on March 23, 1956, the night he was to perform on a cruise down the Potomac River aboard on the S.S. Mount Vernon. In his autobiography, Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham, Dean remembered the interview as “possibly the worst I’ve ever done.”
Jimmy Dean and Elvis on “Town and Country Time”
It is reported that the on-air chat went something like this:
Jimmy: “So, you’re gonna be on the S.S. Mount Vernon tonight, are you Elvis?”
Jimmy: “Have you ever worked on a boat before?”
Jimmy: “I imagine you’re looking forward to this, aren’t you?”
Gee, what’s wrong with that interview? Unfortunately, Elvis was still very quiet and reserved during interviews back in 1956.
When both he and Elvis were Las Vegas regulars years later, Dean recalled that
Elvis apologized for his brevity in the D.C. studio, saying he was simply scared of
Jimmy Dean and Elvis in Las Vegas in the 70s.
By then, Elvis was much more talkative and had traded his argyle socks for jumpsuits.
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