"Big Bad John" Was Jimmy Dean's Working Man's Masterpiece

Jimmy Dean tapes the Jimmy Dean Show in New York in 1964. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (CBS) There are many reasons to remember Jimmy Dean, the country singer and sausage king, who died Sunday at age 81, but his quintessential recording "Big Bad John" may be one of the best.

Written in 1961 in just two hours, the song about a hard luck miner reached number one on the Billboard charts for five weeks and earned Dean a Grammy for best country and western recording.

The song was about a mysterious miner who was a hulk of a man and fought to save his fellow men after a mining shaft collapsed.

"Then came the day at the bottom of the mine,
when a timber cracked and men started crying.
Minors were praying, and hearts beat fast
and everybody thought they had breathed their last cept' John."

"Through the dust and the smoke of this man made hell,
walked a giant of a man that the minors knew well.
Grabbed a sagging timber and gave out with a groan,
and like a giant oak tree he just stood there alone, Big John"

"Big Bad John" never escaped from that mine, but the song became an instant hit and made Jimmy Dean a household name.

Dean never had another hit to match the success of "Big Bad John", but the song gave him the fame and recognition he needed to land his own variety show in ABC called The Jimmy Dean Show.

Later, Dean opened his own restaurants and launched his famous sausage.

Much of the coverage over the coming weeks will probably mention Jimmy Dean the "Sausage King," but hopefully there will be time to remember the man who wrote:

"Now they never re-opened that worthless pit,
they just placed a marble stand in front of it.
These few words are written on that stand,
At the bottom of this mine, lies one Hell of a man, Big John"

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