Story Behind the Song: ‘Big Bad John’ by Jimmy Dean

by
Pit Workers
Topical Press Agency, Getty Images

There’s a whole sausage eating generation of people that maybe don’t even know Jimmy Dean was a country singer.

But the rest of us know that he was. And not only a singer, but a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. And we ate his signature sausage too.

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If there was ever a signature song for this guy, it was hands down, “Big Bad John”. He wrote the song with Roy Acuff.

Dean recorded it in 1961. It would have the distinction of topping both the country and the pop charts. Five weeks at number one for pop and two weeks atop country.

The inspiration for the character of Big John was an actor, John Minto, that Dean met who was 6’5″. Dean would call him “Big John” and grew to like the rolling sound of the phrase.

Country pianist Floyd Cramer, who was hired to play piano on the song, came up with the idea to use a hammer and a piece of steel instead. This became a distinctive characteristic of the recording.

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