Released in 1961, “Big Bad John” is considered one of the most successful singles country music legend Jimmy Dean has ever released in his whole career.
It has reached the No. 1 spot not just on the “Billboard Hot 100” but also on other international charts like, “The New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)” and “Canada – CHUM Hit Parade.” Yet behind the song’s success lies a story that not everyone might know.
According to reports, before the song’s release, Columbia Records was planning to drop Dean from the label since it had already been years since any of his songs landed a hit on the charts. But the label took a risk and gave Dean another chance, “supposedly” for the last time.
No one expected that “Big Bad John” would reach phenomenal success, making it one of the best million-selling singles of all time. It even won Dean the “Grammy Award for Best Country Music & Western Recording” in 1962, making it Jimmy Dean’s greatest hit in years.
Riding on its undeniable success, “Big Bad John” paved the way for songs like “The Cajun Queen” and “Little Bitty Big John,” both of which topped the charts in the 1960s as well.
Meaning Behind the Song
So why John? The name was inspired by actor John Minto, whom Dean had met during a summer stock play. It was first intended as a joke towards Minto, who is 6’5” tall. Since Dean wanted to make fun of his roommate, “Big John” eventually grew to become a phrase Dean always uses.
Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean talks simply about a mysterious and quiet miner named Big Bad John. This protagonist stands out because of his unusual height and weight.
But that was not why his name had been engraved in people’s minds for decades. As the verse of the song continues, it is revealed that the mine where he was working suddenly collapsed, and Big John didn’t even hesitate to risk his life to save 20 people.
Because of this, he was known as the father of heroism, who inspired everyone to be selfless in times of challenge. But aside from the compelling story behind its meaning, the overall delivery of the song has also played a role in its success.
Jimmy Dean’s unique narrative style and husky voice in a lower tone create a charm that gives listeners a unique experience.
So, if you want to listen to Jimmy Dean’s hit single “Big Bad John,” you can watch the video below.