Monday, August 6, 2012

Story Songs: Big Bad John

Sometimes a great story song can create a folklore legend. That's the case of "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean in 1961. The song went to No. 1 on the Billboad pop and country charts.

It's the story of a mysterious man who finds work in a mining town. As the title indicates, he's quite an imposing guy --standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 245 pounds. 

"Nobody seemed to know where John called home
He just drifted into town and stayed all alone
He didn't say much, kinda quiet and shy
And if you spoke at all, you just said 'Hi' to Big John."

One reason Big Bad John kept to himself was the rumor he had killed a man in New Orleans,

"Where he got in a fight over a Cajun Queen
And a crashin' blow from a huge right hand
Sent a Loosiana fellow to the Promised Land"

Big Bad John became a legend when he saved 20 men from a mine that was about to collapse. He held one of the supports while the men scrambled to safety.

But Big Big John didn't survive the disaster as the mine caved in before rescuers could reach him. But he wasn't forgotten:

"Now they never reopened that worthless pit
They just placed a marble stand in front of it
These few words are written on that stand
At the bottom of this mine lies a hell of man, Big John"

The song was made into a movie in 1990 of the same title. Dean played the part of a sheriff. Former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Doug English played the title role.

"Big Bad John" earned Dean a Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. He died in 2010 at the age of 81.
"Big Bad John" lyrics

And here's a couple of sequels to the song:

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