Dickens performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 2004
Little Jimmy Dickens: The oldest living member of the original Grand Ole Opry
James Cecil Dickens (born December 19, 1920), better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, is an American country music singer famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, 4’11” (150 cm), and his rhinestone-studded outfits. He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 60 years and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Born in Bolt, West Virginia, Dickens, who is related to Charles Dickens, began his musical career in the late 1930s, performing on a local radio station while attending West Virginia University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and travelled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name “Jimmy the Kid.”
In 1948, Dickens was heard performing on a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherly at Columbia Records and officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time he began using the nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature.
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including “Country Boy,” “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed” and “I’m Little But I’m Loud.” His song “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)” inspired Hank Williams to nickname him “Tater”. Later, telling Jimmy he needed a hit, Williams penned “Hey Good Lookin’” specifically for Dickens in only 20 minutes while on a Grand Ole Opry tour bus. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling him, “That song’s too good for you!”
In 1950 he formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carllile and. It was during this time that he discovered future Hall of Famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, Arizona television station while on tour with Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957, Dickens left the Grand Ole Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
In 1962 Dickens released “The Violet and the Rose,” his first top ten single in 12 years. During 1964 he became the first country artist to circle the globe while on tour, and also made numerous TV appearances including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In 1965 he released his biggest hit, “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” reaching number one on the country chart and number fifteen on the pop chart.
In the late 1960s he left Columbia for Decca Records, before moving again to United Artists in 1971. That same year he married his wife, Mona, and in 1975 he returned to the Grand Ole Opry. In 1983 Dickens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast CD “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” performing “Jingle Bells” with the cast on the CD released on Sonlite and MGM/UA for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.
Recently, Dickens has made appearances in a number of music videos by fellow country musician and West Virginia native Brad Paisley. He has also been featured on several of Paisley’s albums in bonus comedy tracks along with other Opry mainstays such as George Jones and Bill Anderson. They are collectively referred to as the Kung-Pao Buckaroos.
With the passing of Hank Locklin in March 2009, Dickens became the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 90. He still makes regular appearances as a host at the Opry, often with the self-deprecating joke that he is also known as “Willie Nelson after taxes.” At the 2011 CMA Awards, Jimmy was dressed up as Justin Bieber, and made fun of Bieber’s recent paternity scandal.
Photo by The Commercial Appeal files
Conway Twitty (Left), Little Jimmy Dickens (Center) and Sammi Smith clown around while performing at the Mid-South Coliseum on November 2, 1968. Ms Smith is a member of the Waylon Jennings group.
|Birth name||James Cecil Dickens|
|Also known as||Little Jimmy Dickens
|Born||December 19, 1920 (1920-12-19) (age 90)|
|Origin||Bolt, West Virginia,
|Years active||1936 – Present|
|Labels||Columbia Records, Decca Records, United Artists Records|