Boomers Watched “The Jimmy Dean Show”

There has been a resurgence of commercials for Jimmy Dean sausage on TV in Mister Boomer’s area lately. It’s strange for a boomer like Mister B to hear Jimmy Dean’s voice ten years after his death, pushing the breakfast products of the company that still bears his name. Yet for Mister B and many boomers, Jimmy Dean will always be remembered for his 1961 hit, Big Bad John, and his TV show, which ran in various incarnations from 1958 to 1975.

Jimmy Dean was a country singer before he was a TV star, with hits dating back to 1953. Dean had a radio show in the fifties, introducing future country stars like Patsy Cline, Buck Owens and Roy Clark. He moved the radio show to TV in 1957, as the first incarnation of The Jimmy Dean Show. In 1961, Big Bad John crossed over from the country to the pop charts, hitting number one on both. Dean proved he had an audience beyond the country music of the day.

After bouncing from CBS to ABC, his TV show was relaunched in 1963 for a national audience. Rural-based comedy was in vogue then, with The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres all commanding large viewing audiences. Dean’s laid-back delivery and down-home humor made him a hit with people like Mister Boomer’s mother, who never missed an episode.

Many boomers enjoyed the show for another reason: Rowlf, the piano-playing dog. Rowlf was Jim Henson’s first Muppet to get a regular spot on a TV show. Frank Oz and Jim Henson controlled the puppet through show routines, which included humor bits and duets with Dean. Henson was so grateful to Dean for his support that he offered him a percentage of his burgeoning Muppet company. Dean politely refused, saying he had not done anything to deserve it.

Dean often featured his friends Roy Clark and Buck Owens on his show, as well as country legends George Jones, Johnny Cash and a host of others. In addition, pop stars like The Everly Brothers and Gene Pitney, as well as comics such as Jackie Mason, Don Adams and Dick Shawn had guest appearances. Owens and Clark went on to star in their own TV show, Hee Haw (1969-71). As he had with his radio show, Dean believed in helping upstarts gain a foothold in the industry, and is credited with giving Roger Williams his start, as well. In 1964, the show hosted the first TV appearance of teenager Hank Williams, Jr., singing songs made popular by his father.

It has been written that Dean’s poor upbringing in Texas during the Depression pushed his entrepreneurial spirit to want to go further, and earn more. He landed some roles in TV shows like Daniel Boone (1967-70) and several big movies, including Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Never at ease with his acting ability, in the late 1960s Dean started The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. with his brother, in Plainview, Texas. Together, they ground meat for sausage, while his mother did the seasoning. It was a profitable business within six months, and by the 1980s, worth more than $75 million. He sold it to Sara Lee Foods in 1984, which makes hearing his voice on the commercials that much creepier.

“Sausage is a great deal like life.
You get out of it about what you put into it.”
— Jimmy Dean

How about you, boomers? Do you remember Jimmy Dean for his music, TV show, TV and movie career or his sausage?

Boomers Sang About Venus and Cupid

As Valentine’s Day approaches once again, boomers can reminisce of loves won and lost, and the music that framed each circumstance. Finding the perfect someone — and keeping that love — was a perennial favorite topic for songwriters in the boomer years. Love songs were nothing new then, the same as now, but there were approximately ten years where songs directly called on Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty, and her cohort, Cupid.

The Greeks called her Aphrodite, the love goddess, and her companion, the god Eros. When the Romans conquered the Greeks and appropriated their culture, the goddess was called Venus and the slender boy, Eros, became a chubby cherub called Cupid. While the Greeks considered Eros the brother of Aphrodite, the Romans sometimes referred to Cupid as the love child of Venus and Mars. In both ancient cultures, an arrow shot from Cupid’s bow would cause whoever was struck to fall in love. And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to sing “Venus” and “Cupid” than it is “Aphrodite” and “Eros.”

Venus – Frankie Avalon (1959)
Frankie Avalon’s first number one hit, written by Ed Marshall and Peter DeAngelis, is a great place to start our Venus and Cupid exploration. Lyrically, the song is a man’s direct plea to Venus. He’s begging for Venus to send him somebody to love and make my dreams come true by having her, in turn, love him back.

Cupid – Sam Cooke (1961)
Written and sung by Sam Cooke, the song reached number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Like Venus before it, this song is a direct plea as Sam is asking Cupid to help him out. The girl of his desire, as he sings, doesn’t know I exist. In return, he promises to love her for eternity.

Cupid, draw back your bow
And let your arrow go
Straight to my lover’s heart for me, for me

Venus In Blue Jeans – Jimmy Clanton (1962)
Three years after Venus, Jimmy Clanton took a song written by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller to number seven on the Billboard charts. In this song, the man is no longer asking for a love; rather, he’s comparing his love to the Goddess of Beauty herself. An interesting pop culture tidbit for Mister Boomer is that the song portrays this man’s Venus as wearing blue jeans. In 1962, jeans were still banned in many schools across the country, and here there is a rock ‘n roll song that sees the perfect woman in jeans! The kids are falling in love and, horror of horrors, they are wearing blue jeans!

Venus – Shocking Blue (1969)
Robbie van Leeuwen, the band’s guitarist, found inspiration in The Banjo Song by Tim Rose for the band, The Big 3. That song featured the lyrics to Oh! Susanna, by Stephen Foster, with a new melody. In return, van Leeuwen took the music from The Banjo Song and gave it entirely new lyrics and a psychedelic treatment that was not only of the moment, but rocketed the song to number one in February of 1970, three months after its release.

So much had changed in the boomer cultural landscape since Frankie crooned about Venus, and this song gives a brief nod to the tradition, but trumpets the change. There is no love-sick puppy begging for help in these lyrics. The song begins with what seems like another Venus comparison as the band sings, She’s got it/Yeah, baby, she’s got it. But then Mariska Veres takes the vocal from a female perspective. While acknowledging that she is the object of desire, this Venus is no shrinking violet who needs the urging of an arrow from Cupid’s bow. She’s daring the male to share her clam shell, but the inference is, on her terms.

I’m your Venus, I’m your fire
At your desire

For Mister Boomer’s tastes, his favorites of this Venus and Cupid selection are Sam Cooke’s Cupid and Shocking Blue’s Venus. Each captures the time in which they were sung. Mister B leans toward Shocking Blue’s Venus, probably because he was a teen nearing Draft age when the song blasted onto the charts, enshrining it in a place in his heart. Numerous covers since then can’t hold a candle to the driving guitar and electric organ of this version. Mister B has the record in the original 45 rpm as well as a digital copy.

How about you, boomers? Did you have a favorite Venus or Cupid song then? Do you still enjoy it today?