Friday, January 2, 2015
– Short in stature, but long casting a shadow as an ambassador of country music as a singer of novelty songs, Little Jimmy Dickens died Friday at 94 in Nashville of cardiac arrest.
Dickens, who stood all of 4-11, had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1948 and was its oldest member. Dickens was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. The popular Dickens also was known for his outlandish costumes, wearing rhinestone suits.
"The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens," said Pete Fisher, Opry Vice President & General Manager. "He loved the audience and his Opry family, and all of us loved him back. He was a one-of-kind entertainer and a great soul whose spirit will live on for years to come."
James Cecil DIckens was born in Bolt, West Va. on Dec. 19, 1920. He started his career in country on radio station WJLS in Beckley, West. Va. He quit West Virginia University l to pursue a full-time music career, performing on local radio stations as Jimmy the Kid.
Roy Acuff heard Dickens perform on WKNX in Saginaw, Mich. in 1948 as his opening act. Acuff introduced Dickens to Art Satherly at Columbia Records and Opry officials. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August even though he had yet to even release a record. He also changed his performing name to Little Jimmy Dickens.
Dickens recorded many novelty songs, including "Country Boy", "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed" and "I'm Little But I'm Loud." One of Dickens' songs, "Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)," led Hank Williams to nickname him "Tater". Williams wrote "Hey Good Lookin'" specifically for Dickens in 20 minutes while on a Grand Ole Opry tour bus. A week later. Williams recorded the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens, "That song's too good for you"
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carllile. He found singer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix television station while on tour with the Opry road show.
He left the Opry for the Phillip Morris Road Show as a headliner, a gig that lasted a year, but also led to a decades-long absence from the Opry.
After a long gap between hits, Dickens had his first top-10 country hit since 1954 with "The Violet and the Rose."
The following year, he released his biggest hit, "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose", reaching the top of the country chart and 15 on the pop chart.
Dickens changed labels a few times going to Decca and then United Artists.
In 1975 he returned to the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens continued performing at the Opry for the rest of his life. His last show there was on Dec. 20. He also appeared in several videos of Brad Paisley, a fellow West Virginian, and on Paisley's albums in comedy tracks along with George Jones and Bill Anderson.
Dickens was hospitalized after a stroke on Dec. 25, 2014.
Dickens is survived by his wife and two daughters.