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Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean

Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1961Charted:
1
2
  • Jimmy Dean wrote this about fellow actor John Mentoe ("Destry Rides Again"), who was 6' 5" tall. According to Dean's roommate (at the time), the song was intended to be a joke.
  • Floyd Cramer ("Last Date") was hired to play the piano on the recording, but wound up hitting a chunk of steel with a hammer instead. It was Floyd's idea to make the switch. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for above 2)
  • This was a huge hit in the US. Not only did it top the Pop charts for 5 weeks, but it was also #1 on the Country charts for 2 weeks, and #1 Adult Contemporary for 10 weeks.
  • Jimmy Dean went on to become famous for his line of sausage products. He also had his own TV series in the '50s and '60s.
  • The original ending of "At the bottom of this mine lies one hell of a man" was deemed too controversial. (thanks, John - Bowie, MD)
  • Dean wrote this on a flight from New York to Nashville when he realized he needed another song for his recording session. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
  • This was the 100th #1 song of the Rock era (taken from when "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley topped the US singles chart in 1955).
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Comments: 22

On December 4th, 1961, "Small Sad Sam" by Phil McLean entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #21 and stayed on the Top 100 for 10 weeks (its on You Tube)...
R.I.P. Mr. McLean (1923 - 1993) and Mr. Dean (1928 - 2010).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
In the early 1960s Floyd Cramer had three consecutive Top 10 instrumental hits; "LAST DATE" was #2 for 4 weeks, then "ON THE REBOUND" peaked at #4, and finally "SAN ANTONIO ROSE" reached #8!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Imo, the song has a more effective ending with the lyrics "big, big man" rather than "one hell of a man". By the end of the story, the word takes on more meaning than just the fact that John was a man of considerable girth (lyrics say "he stood six foot six and weighed two forty five; kinda broad at the shoulder and narrow at the hip"). So not only was he a physically large man, but his actions, which saved twenty men's lives(at the cost of his own), added another dimension to the persona of this "big man".Camille - Toronto, Oh
This song won Jimmy Dean a Grammy. It took him less than 2 hours to write it. Dean was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in February 2010.Camille - Toronto, Oh
I was cooking up some sausage this morning, and this song came to mind. Songs like this one(especially Tennesee Ernie Ford's mining songs) instantly transport me back to my boyhood. A true classic. I see it as a great potential party sing-along song, as well.Tony - Eugene, Or
Sheb Wooley ( 1921 - 2003 ) did his own version of the song , changing the title and chorus line to "Big Sweet John" . .. He is known for writing the words and music to "Purple People Eater" ; a song he made up after his son told him a joke he learned at school ("What has one eye , one horn , flies and eat people ? A 'One - Eyed , One Horn , Flying Purple People Eater' " ).Mike - Franklin County, Pa
Its 1962 sequel, "The Cajun Queen", describes the arrival of "Queenie", Big John's Cajun Queen, who rescues John from the mine and marries him. Eventually, they have "one hundred and ten grandchildren". The sequel's events are more exaggerated than the first, extending the story into the realm of tall tales.

In June 1962, the story continued (and evidently concludes) with the arrival of "Little Bitty Big John", learning about his father's act of heroism.
Brad - Barry, Tx
My uncle who is the man that inspired Jimmy Dean to write "Big Bad John",his last name is spelt wrong! His name is John MINTO not Mentoe!!!!!!!!!
Suzanne Minto
Suzanne - Bay Point, Ca
Later he recorded a sequel to this song called "The Cajun Queen" in which the woman John fought over in NOLA comes to the mine and finds John and they live "happily ever after".Andy - Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
Another classic songHenry O. Godwinn - Wheeling, Wv
Jimmy Dean was also in the James Bond film "Diamonds are Forever"Brian - Easton, Md
08/20/07 This is very timely for todays events at the mine where 9 lives are now consider unable to be reach. May God give peace to the families of all involved.Fay - Willow Spring, Nc
Jimmy Dean now lives in Richmond, VA. He and his wife Donna live in a rural area just east of the city.Cheryl - Richmond, Va
My father John Molchan ran a continous miner at Harmarville,Pa, just outside Pittsburgh. On Sept 25,1961 he died saving his crew. Just as the song says. Thank-you Jimmy for (without knowing) honoring my father. We will always believe that the song was written for him, no matter what the truth is.Pam - Bradenville, Pa
To Annabelle of Eugene, Oregon: Don't be offended. The song celebrates a big man who saved his buddies in a mine disaster at the cost of his own life.

The song says that they never re-opened that worthless pit, but placed a marble stand in front of it, leaving Big John entombed. But that's not what happens. Miners, alive or otherwise, are always recovered from mines, because there is always a chance that the fellow still lives.

I love the story of Floyd Cramer and the hammer.
Mark - Lancaster, Oh
This returned the UK Top 20 in 1990, twenty-nine years after it's original release, when it was used in a popular commercial for Domestos bleach, in which the bleach bottle came to life and dressed up as a detective. In the commercial itself, the line "Big Bad John" was changed to "Big Bad Dom", but the original lyric was kept on the single, which was a remixed version of the 1961 originalDave - Cardiff, Wales
Most radio stations played a "censored" version which replaced the controversial line, instead calling Big John a "big, big man."Clarke - Pittsburgh, Pa
My boyfriend's name is John Hayes, and some guys call him Big Bad John. I don't know why they do this, but I see that as a hurtful comment about my boyfriend!Annabelle - Eugene, Or
lol. Some people are easily distracted. :)Tom - Alma, Ga
What on earth does Buddy Holly have to do with this song?Deana - Indianapolis, In
Buddy Holly's coolAlex - Syracuse, Ny
Jimmy Dean hails from Plainview, Tex, just 50 miles North of Lubbock, hometown of Buddy Holly, Mac Davis and Natalie Maines(Dixie Chicks lead singer).David - Lubbock, Tx