The apartment I rented when I moved to Nashville in 1987 was high on a hill in a complex surrounded by beautiful trees. I was fortunate because mine was on the hill side of the highest point in the complex. When the leaves were just right in the fall, the view was spectacular. I lived there until 1993 and have fond memories of that period.
Early one evening, when I was carrying my laundry across the driveway behind my building to the place where several washing machines and dryers were provided, I stopped to let a big, black limousine pass. But it didn’t pass. It stopped right in front of me. The back door opened and out stepped country music legend Jimmy Dean. I dropped my laundry basket full of dirty clothes. There, beside his limousine, stood the man who had given the world one of the best selling records of all time, Big Bad John. There, beside my dirty clothes stood a young songwriter in awe. I, in my worn-out boat shoes and blue jeans, and he, in his perfectly tailored black western suit and shiny cowboy boots, were within two feet of each other. His fiancée, country singer Donna Meade, lived in the apartment that backed up to mine. He had come to pick her up for a date. I had met Donna not too long before this chance encounter with her soon-to-be husband. Had she been with us, I told myself, she would have certainly introduced us. But since she was still in her apartment, I seized the opportunity.
“Mr. Dean?” I said as I extended my hand.
“Yes, sir, and who might you be?” he answered.
I told him my name and how much I admired him. He politely thanked me for remembering his music. I said I really loved Big Bad John but when I was a kid, the flip-side of that forty-five was the one I went around the house singing. It was an upbeat novelty tune called I Won’t Go Huntin’ With You Jake (But I’ll Go Chasin’ Women).
Jimmy Dean’s face lit up when I mentioned the flip-side of his biggest hit. He flashed a wide grin, let out a loud spontaneous laugh and said, “Son, you won’t believe it but the fellow that wrote that song about chasin’ women wrote some of the biggest gospel songs ever recorded.” The songwriter he mentioned was Stuart Hamblen whose compositions include It Is No Secret (What God Can Do), Known Only To Him and Dear Lord, My Shepherd. And I Won’t Go Huntin’ With You Jake (But I’ll Go Chasin’ Women).
Mr. Dean and I chatted about music for a few minutes and he wished me well in my own career. He was the perfect gentleman during our moments together in the driveway and I’ll always remember how friendly he was. I’ll never forget that genuine smile he showed when I mentioned my preferred song.
Jimmy Dean knocked on Donna Meade’s door and I picked up my dirty clothes and went to the laundry room. I lived on the top of a big hill but right then, it qualified as Cloud 9. A childhood hero had lived up to my expectation of being like the person he had described in Big Bad John – a big, big man.
Text and photos ©2013 Les Kerr. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com