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Jimmy Dean was a Grammy Award-winning country musician, actor, television host and entrepreneur. He owned a hog-butchering company that he sold to Sara Lee.
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In 1963, after the cancelation of his CBS show, Dean struck a deal with ABC to launch a new variety show—also called The Jimmy Dean Show. During its three years on the air, the Jimmy Dean show launched the career of musician Roger Miller, and was also credited with introducing Jim Henson's Muppets to mainstream audiences. In particular, Dean loved the character of Rowlf, a piano-playing canine that often accompanied Jimmy. During this time,
Dean had the opportunity to buy a large stake in what would become a multimillion-dollar Muppets fortune, but the star turned it down for moral reasons, saying that he hadn't "earned it."
After Dean's second variety show ended in 1966, Dean became a co-star in several film and TV vehicles, including a role as Daniel Boone's friend in the popular Daniel Boone series (1967–70), and a role in the James Bond movie Diamonds are Forever (1971), starring Sean Connery.
Dean continued to pursue his music career as well. In 1976, Dean achieved another hit with his single "I.O.U.", a tribute to his mother. The song, which was released a few weeks before Mother's Day, quickly reached the Top 10 on the country charts.
But Dean, a heavy critic of his own performances, believed he was a terrible actor and musician, and began pursuing other ventures. In the late 1960s, Dean started a hog butchering company with his brother, Don, in his hometown of Plainview. The brothers ground the meat, while their mother seasoned it. Within six months, The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. was already a profitable business. By the late 80s, the Deans were making more than $75 million in profits. Dean sold his company to Sara Lee Foods in 1984, remaining its spokesperson until 2003.
In 2004, while living in semi-retirement, Dean released his autobiography, 30 Years of Sausage, 50 Years of Ham. In February 2010, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dean resided in Varina, Virginia, with his wife, singer/songwriter Donna Meade Dean, until their house was destroyed in a fire. Many of Dean's legendary artifacts, including pieces of Elvis and Jim Henson memorabilia, were burned in the tragedy. The couple rebuilt their house on their 200-acre estate shortly before Dean's death on June 13, 2010, at the age of 81. Dean, who suffered health problems in the last few years of his life, died while eating dinner in front of the television. He was survived by his wife, Donna, as well as three children and two grandchildren.
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