Not to be confused with James Dean, the dead actor, Jimmy Dean was a country singer and TV host. He had 11 hits on the pop charts between 1957 and 1 more in 1976.
What I have here is Jimmy Dean’s Greatest Hits, which has 7 of those 11 Columbia hits, and 3 more songs besides.
Jimmy Dean:• Big Bad John – The enigmatic good guy / bad guy. A loner. If you spoke at all you just said “hi” to Big John. He killed a fellow in New Orleans over a girl, and he saved the lives of a few dozen miners, sacrificing his life in the process. Superman never had to die, neither did Batman. But Big John, to be the consummate hero, he had to die. I wonder. The song was number 1 in the fall of 1961.
• The Cajun Queen – She had a cameo role in Big John. Now here she is again. “He started breathin’…” They couldn’t leave the legend alone. From the winter of 1962.
• Harvest Of Sunshine – A countrypolitan singalong. This is just south of what Dean Martin was doing a few years later.
• Little Black Book – Proof that not all songs about romantic breakup are sad or angry. Big question: is the chirpiness real or put-on? I don’t know, but it sounds real enough to me. From the fall of ’62.
• Steel Men – A major scale industrial tragedy set to music. Think The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald done by someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Apparently a true story, from Vancouver, 1958. I don’t know if that was Vancouver, B.C. or Vancouver, Washington. From the summer of 1962.
• The First Thing Ev’ry Morning (And The Last Thing Ev’ry Night) – An I-miss-you song, and another Dean Martin knock-off, even down to the vocal inflection in this case. From the summer of 1965, this was the last hit Dean would put on the pop chart for 11 years.
• Sam Hill – Some country dude meets his girl every night for a bit of cha cha, and everyone’s a-flutter, wonderin’ “what in Sam Hill’s goin’ on.” What an innocent age it must have been.
• P. T. 109 – Historical pop, right out of the Johnny Horton stylebook. The song was about the wartime adventures of John Kennedy, who was president when this song was a hit (spring, 1962). I bet the radio stations never played it again after November, ’63.
• To A Sleeping Beauty – A father-to-daughter recitation, and an unbearably hokey one. This was the B-side of A Cajun Queen and a hit in its own right, in the winter of 1962. I have a version by Jackie Gleason, and it’s no better.
• The Farmer And The Lord – Done in the same style as the sleeping beauty song – that is Jimmy reciting the lyrics, with an angelic male chorus in the background, barely discernable instrumentation.
• I Won’t Go Huntin’ With You Jake (But I’ll Go Chasin’ Wimmin) – Awesome. This is the most country of anything on this collection, its obvious parody status notwithstanding. I mean… this is a parody… right?