RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Jimmy Dean died last night at his home in Varina. The legendary performer was born in Texas but lived in the Richmond area for more than 20 years. The he was 81 years old. He was a close friend of Gene Cox. Gene joins us to talk about his incredible life.
Ryan Nobles: Obviously you knew Jimmy Dean, but you were close friends with him. Obviously in our business, we get connected to famous people a lot, but this was more than just a connection you had because of television. You were more than an acquaintance.
Gene Cox: Many times I had to separate the newsman from personal, and that was tough, especially when the house burned. That was tough. So when I went out there that morning when the house burned, I didn't take a camera or anything. I went as a friend, not as a reporter. We had many good times together, and there was a group of friends. It wasn't just he and I. There were several, and we gathered on many occasions at his house. There was always music, and it was always good music, country music, of course. I think Jimmy was the only person in the world that ever actually enjoyed hearing me sing.
Ryan Nobles: I want to ask you about that, because you got to jam with Jimmy Dean on a pretty regular basis, and you are somewhat of a musician, but no, Jimmy Dean is a country music legend. How intimidating was that to break out the guitar and sing along somebody of his standing.
Gene Cox: I went to several gatherings where everybody else sang, and I kept going, please don't ask me. And then one time they did. And they were very supportive. He actually acted like he liked it, and that had never happened to me before, but you haven't heard me sing.
Ryan Nobles: And I'm not going to ask you to do it now.
Gene Cox: That's a good thing, because I wouldn't.
Ryan Nobles: The other thing you told me earlier today was it wasn't uncommon for you to be at a function with Jimmy maybe at his house or boat and to see other big time country music stars.
Gene Cox: Yes. One party I went to, we were standing around talking, and I looked over there, that guy looks familiar. This guy looks familiar, and it was the Statler Brothers. They were on the boat with us. I always loved their music. The base player Harold Reed, I got to hang out with him a little bit. It was just a lot of fun.
Ryan Nobles: There is one thing you have in common with Jimmy and I have in common with Jimmy, Richmond is our adopted hometown that we've all come to love. How important Richmond and this community to him.
Gene Cox: It was very important. He could live anywhere he wanted to. When he and Donna got hooked up and married, she was from Richmond. They carved out this bluff on the hill overlooking the James River below the city and said that's where we want to live, and he loved it. And that's where he will be buried, on that land.
Ryan Nobles: Thank you so much for sharing.
Gene Cox: Thank you.
See the video at right for the full interview.
There will be a visitation on Sunday, June 20th from noon until 8pm at Nelson Funeral Home, at 4650 South Laburnum Avenue.
There will be an open funeral on Monday, June 21st at 11am. The funeral will take place at Grove Avenue Baptist Church on 8701 Ridge Road. Interment will be private.