A country music legend, and one of the oldest living country music performers from country’s golden era, is gone. “Little” Jimmy Dickens, one of the most venerable members of The Grand Ole Opry and a country music Hall of Famer, was admitted to the hospital on Christmas for an undisclosed illness, and passed away on Friday, January 2nd. He just turned 94 on December 19th. His last appearance on The Grand Ole Opry was on December 20th. According to the Grand Ole Opry, the 4’11” country star died of cardiac arrest in a Nashville hospital, after previously suffering a stroke. He is survived by his wife Mona Dickens, married since 1971, and two daughters, Pamela Detert and Lisa King.
“The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens,” shared 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 Virginia, and began his musical career performing on WJLS radio while attending college. In 1948, Roy Acuff heard Dickens on the radio, and introduced him to Columbia Records and The Grand Ole Opry, and soon “Little” Jimmy was a mainstay on the radio show and releasing studio records. The “Little” came from his small stature, but Hank Williams later nicknamed him “Tater” after one of his most recognizable early hits “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait).” Hank originally penned his song “Hey Good Lookin'” for Jimmy, but later recorded it himself, saying it was “too good” for his Opry friend.
Dickens formed his band the Country Boys in 1950, and was best known for his novelty songs, or songs that incorporated comedy such as “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” “I’m Little But I’m Loud,” and “May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” He became the first country act to circumvent the globe while on tour in 1964, and in 1965 scored his first #1 hit with “May The Bird of Paradise…” Jimmy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.
Later in life “Little” Jimmy became a fixture of The Grand Ole Opry, many times as the comic relief character of the sainted stage, and despite his loss of commercial prominence, was well-recognized and beloved even by younger audiences who knew “Little” Jimmy from appearances on awards shows, videos for Brad Paisley, and other notable cameos.
When Hank Locklin died in 2009, “Little” Jimmy became the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.
RIP “Little” Jimmy Dickens, one of the last living links to the Golden Era of country music.
UPDATE: A public visitation is set from 4 to 8 PM Wednesday, January 2nd at Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home & Memorial Park, located at 660 Thompson Lane in Nashville. A public “Celebration Of Life” service will is scheduled for 11:00 AM Thursday, January 3rd at the Grand Ole Opry House, 2804 Opryland Drive in Nashville. Both events are open to friends, family and the public.