Jimmy Dean, who died June 13 at 81, was a great friend and fellow Texan. Our lives paralleled each other's in so many ways: we were both born in small Texas towns to poor parents, we both served in the military, and we started in country music at about the same time.
He had decades of hits, including "Bumming Around," "P.T. 109," "A Thing Called Love" and "Slowly." But my all-time favorite is "Big Bad John," the Grammy-winning 1961 chart topper. It is a classic, and no one could have done it like Jimmy Dean.
I had the pleasure of being on The Jimmy Dean Show several times during the '60s. Dean gave so many country artists national exposure on prime-time television. He also gave some of us advice: whenever he saw me, he'd always tell me to quit being so bashful.
He expressed to me that he loved TV and motion pictures and would like to make them a big part of his career. When I saw him in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever--he played reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte--I remember thinking J.D. did pretty good in his role.
Of course, he also did very well in business. I have my own eponymous sausage, but when I'm at the grocery store, I pick up Jimmy Dean's. Perhaps the majority of people know Jimmy Dean for his food, but not those of us in country music. In February he was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was long overdue, in my opinion. I just wish he could have had the opportunity to accept his well-deserved award in person at the induction ceremony this fall. He will be greatly missed by all his friends and fans who loved him.
Jones, a Grammy winner, is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame