Jimmy Dean Mouths Off

Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:37 AM Written by 

In a week Rob Owen is enlightening readers with his Press Tour reports from LA, and in a time various TV hosts have caught flak for on-air comments that gained headlines, it's worth noting this happened before.  Arthur Godfrey caught hell for speaking out on behalf of Civil Rights in the early 50's. Steve Allen took flak for panel discussions tackling controversial subjects like organized crime on The Tonight Show during his time as host.

In June 1959, another future icon did the same thing: Jimmy Dean (1928-2010), future Country Music Hall of Famer, the composer and singer of the 1961 hit "Big Bad John" and founder of Jimmy Dean Foods (yes, the sausage). 

Dean  had been snatched by CBS from Washington DC, where he hosted the popular daytime local program, Town And Country Time that introduced Patsy Cline to the world.  Moving to New York. he did an afternoon, half-hour Jimmy Dean Show aimed at a mainstream audience, but up against some tough competition on the other networks. 

In June, 1959, when CBS informed him his show was being canceled.  Dean, to say the least, was not pleased.  He brought up his sponsor, Praise Soap, manufactured by Lever Brothers. Having fought his way out of Texas poverty, he had no qualms about speaking his mind even if he made enemies at CBS.

His rant didn't keep the show on the air, and no doubt the networks were leery of Dean after this. But not for long. AFter his 1961 mega-hit "Big Bad John" exploded on both the country and pop charts, he became a hot item. From 1963-66, hosted an hour-long ABC variety show (also The Jimmy Dean Show) presenting various showbiz types and at Dean's insistence, country stars, presented without condescension or mockery.

Dean was one tough SOB, and took crap from no one.  Wealthy due to his sausage acumen (he didn't have many big country hits), he insisted all who visited his yacht remove their shoes, even President George H.W. Bush.  He didn't prevent the demise of his 1959 show, he made a memorable exit for sure.

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