Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jimmy Dean – "Big Bad John" (1961)

At the bottom of this mine 
Lies a hell of a man
Big John

Brunswick is an old railroad town that’s located on the Potomac River in Frederick County, Maryland, near the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal in Frederick County, Maryland.  It’s about an hour northwest of my home.

Brunswick Heritage Museum
I discovered the Brunswick Heritage Museum with my kids many years ago.  The most interesting part of the museum is a HO-scale model railroad layout that depicts the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Metropolitan Subdivision, which ran from Brunswick through Montgomery County, Maryland (where I live) and on to Union Station in Washington, DC, a distance of roughly 42 miles.

The B&O's Metropolitan line
The museum’s model railroad is huge – 1700 square feet – and amazingly detailed.

Here's a photo of the part of the layout that depicts the Montgomery County fairgrounds:

Montgomery County fairgrounds depiction
The part of the setup that recreates the B&O’s Brunswick switching yard and roundhouse is particularly noteworthy:

Model of Brunswick switching yard
Here’s a video that shows the model train layout in detail:

The other Brunswick attraction that you need to know about is Smoketown Brewing Station, a microbrewery that opened for business less than a year ago.

Smoketown Brewing Station
Smoketown Brewing is located in the old Brunswick fire station.  Back in the day, the community hall located on the upper floor of the building hosted a number of prominent country and western musicians – including today’s featured artist, Jimmy Dean – and was also utilized as a movie theatre.

Jimmy Dean and Patsy Cline once appeared
on the same bill at the Brunswick fire station
The day I visited Smoketown, I ordered a flight with samples of four of the dozen-odd beers they were pouring and had a chat with the brewery’s owner, David Blackmon.  

A flight of four Smoketown beers
Since I was only a short drive away from Frederick, Maryland, I also stopped at Attaboy Beer, a brand-new brewery that’s adjacent to Carroll Creek Park.

Attaboy beers
Attaboy’s most unusual offering was its “Lunch Break” patersbier, a mild and relatively low-alcohol beer modeled after those brewed by Belgian monks for their own consumption.

*     *     *     *     *

Jimmy Dean was a very successful country and western recording artist in the 1950s and 1960s.  His 1961 hit, “Big Bad John” which Dean and Roy Acuff co-wrote – held down the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” for five weeks and won the Grammy for Best Country & Western Recording.

Dean was also a popular radio and TV personality.  Patsy Cline and Roy Clark were two of the country stars who got their start on Dean’s “Town and Country Time” radio show, which aired on a Washington, DC station in the mid-1950s.  (Dean and Cline once performed on the same bill in the Brunswick building that now houses the Smoketown Brewing Station.)  After a year, the show moved to a local television station, and was eventually picked up by CBS and broadcast nationally.

In 1963, Dean was tabbed to host a primetime variety show on the ABC television network.  The Jimmy Dean Show’s guests included the crème de la crème of the country music world (George Jones, Buck Owens, Roger Miller, and many others) but what I remember about it were the skits that featured Dean and Rowlf the Dog, the first of the Muppets to become a star.  

Jimmy Dean with Rowlf
In 1969, Dean and his brother founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company.  The business was so successful – thanks in part to Dean’s folksy TV commercials – that the Sara Lee Corporation paid $80 million for it in 1984.  

Dean died in 2010, when he was 81.  His final resting place is a nine-foot-tall piano-shaped mausoleum on the grounds of his Virginia estate, which overlooks the James River.  

His epitaph comes from the lyrics to “Big Bad John”: “Here lies a hell of a man.”

Here’s “Big Bad John”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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