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Country Music Hall of Fame and TV History - Rowlf and Jimmy Dean

Updated on June 14, 2014
Frank Oz, Rowlf the Dog, and Jim Henson.
Frank Oz, Rowlf the Dog, and Jim Henson. | Source
Kermit Thee Frog here. Voiced by Jim Henson during his lifetime.
Kermit Thee Frog here. Voiced by Jim Henson during his lifetime. | Source

Changing Hands, Changing Seasons

The Muppets have changed many times since the early 1960s - 1963, to be more accurate, the year Rowlf the Dog debuted on country singer Jimmy Dean's black and white television program on ABC. Rowlf resembled a thick bath towel that could sing and people liked him.

They have added increasing numbers of new characters and continued to produce hilarious movies under the management of different companies. The Muppets as a whole is part of American culture that many people around the world recognize. Since Disney now owns the characters, a double recognition value is evident, since DisneyLand is a symbol for many people that represents the United States.

Jim Henson, founder and muppeteer died of pneumonia, expressing his concern that he did not want to bother anyone during his illness. He sought little or no treatment and I remember sad feelings when I heard about this on local newscasts. As a young child, I recalled watching Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show and thinking that the funny dog and other characters would always be around.

Jim Henson died and the company was sold to a German outfit and much of America felt that we had lost the muppet characters. Then the family purchased the company again and continued, with Henson's son, John, participating in several ways, including operating Sweetums the huge ogre. Then Disney bought The Muppets as a whole. America is sure to keep the characters.

John Henson also died, in February 2014, of a heart attack at a young age; but, Rowlf will be around forever, now.

Golden Age of TV Entertainment

Today I remembered seeing the Muppet Rowlf play piano on the Jimmy Dean Show in the 1960s. The recall was brought about by reading the announcement of Jimmy's death at the age of 81 while he sat in front of his TV set at home on June 13, 2010. That seemed fitting.

Searching the YouTube clips of the Jimmy Dean Show , I remembered that as a young child, I thought Jimmy Dean was pretty old. Today, viewing these clips, he looks like a kid having fun with a puppet. Rowlf and he are still funny together, but unfortunately, Jim Henson is also, and much longer, deceased. Rowlf lives on in Disney® productions and it's too bad the Muppets cannot produce a Jimmy Dean Muppet.

The clip below is pretty cute, though I did not see it when first telecast. I only remember a single scene with Rowlf playing paino.

I wonder what Jimmy Dean was watching on television when he died?


Rowlf Karate Skit

Big Bad John

Country Western Music

Jimmy Dean sang country music, which was not my favorite, his Number One Hit Single from late 1961, Big Bad John , became a novelty hit with kids for decades. Telling the story of a mysterious miner than saves men in a mining accident, it is appropriate to the 2010s and its mining, gas, and oil disasters as well. Heroes are always needed.

Big Bad John was not only a hit with kids, but is also won a Grammy for Best Country and Western Recording. From this success, Jimmy jumped to early variety-show television with The Jimmy Dean Show and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV programs and series.

By the 1970s, he had rather gone out of fad, although Rowlf continued to be visible on Sesame Street , the Muppet Show , and in films. He created Jimmy Dean sausages in 1969, operated the company successfully and sold it. Sara Lee Corporation purchased it in 1984 and he acted in their Jimmy Dean sausage commercial for twenty years, until 2004 at age 75.

Sympathetic Songs

Many Jimmy Dean songs are sad stories that produce sympathy in listeners. One of his first, was much like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer . In 1957 he recorded Little Sandy Sleighfoot about a Christmas elf that stood 4' tall, with 3'3" long feet. All the other elves made fun of him, but he ski with his shoes. One night the reindeer stable caught fire, but he raced down a hill to save the sleigh team and Christmas. The public generally liked his popular songs.

Another such number was Dear Ivan , spoken word number with the The Battle Hymn of the Republic in the background. The song was about an American asking a Russian to under stand their similarities and put an end to the Cold War. Quickly, he also recorded the tribute PT 109 about the period President John F. Kennedy's World War II service. He also recorded comedy and gospel numbers.

For children in his audiences, Jimmy Dean was a favorite for his novelty numbers and his antics with pal Rowlf. I'll remember this with the fact that the Jimmy Dean Show  with a dog at a piano was the first time I met a Muppet, so to speak, and one that I continue to enjoy: "Hey, Jimmy!"

Comedy: I Won't Go Huntin' With You, Jake


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    • profile image

      Marijana Reynders 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Patti for some more on American country music and its musicians. Reminded me of South Africa's Jim Reeves with his - sometimes - sad songs.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Traveling happens, Ron! Glad to see you with us once again.

      @randslam - Thnaks for reading. I still want to know what he was watching on TV when he passed on. It mus tha vebeen sudden and peaceful, I hope.

    • rprcarz50 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice read and useful.

      Thank you for this Hub !


      As always also a2z50

      Sorry , I haven't abandoned you . I've just been gone for 11 days.

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 

      8 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      Thank you so much, Patty. I grew up watching The Muppets on Sesame Street, and of course, the Muppet Show. I hadn't realized that Rowlff had been around so long. Jimmy Dean was another favourite singer of mine, what with the ditty "Big Bad John," but I hadn't heard of his passing. I thank you for the notification and new fond memory of these two great entertainers.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Earth Angel! - Nice to see you again. I'm glad to share what little I remember about Jimmy Dean and Rowlf.

      Since the Muppets are owned by Disney and Jimmy Dean is personality that is likely trademarked somehow and now an estate, my sense is that a lot of money would need to change hands for a Jimmy Dean Muppet to appear. But that would be a lot of fun. (Hey Jimmy! as Rowlf says)

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      8 years ago

      Another GREAT Hub dearest Patty!!

      I only remember the sausage-era so I appreciate you sharing a much larger part of his life!!

      Why would the Muppets not be allowed to have a Jimmy Dean-based puppet?? Did I miss something??

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks! I'd not thought about him in many years and then read the article about his death. Rowlf is permanent memory and still active and Jimmy was a likeable man. I wish his widow and family well.

      He wrote a book "30 Years of Sausage. 50 Years of Ham." That might be interesting is anyone can find it.

      Cheers! and thanks for reading.


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a wonerful trip down memeory lane. I also remember and I liked his songs and performances.

    • lightning john profile image

      lightning john 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Patty, I didn't know that he did all of those Christmas songs. I really like your format.

    • samsons1 profile image


      8 years ago from Tennessee

      rated up & useful- WOW! Oh the memories, thanks so much for this taste of yesteryear...


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