James Cecil Dickens (December 19, 1920 - January 2, 2015), better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, was an American country music singer famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, 4'11" (150 cm), and his rhinestone-studded outfits (which he is given credit for introducing into country music live performances). He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. Before his death he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.
by Jim Casey | @TheJimCasey | June 9, 2017
Little Jimmy Dickens & Bill Monroe Memorialized With Life-Size Bronze Statues
at the Ryman Auditorium
Bill Monroe, who died in 1996, popularized traditional bluegrass music in the U.S. as a singer, instrumentalist and influential bandleader. The “Father of Bluegrass,” as he was known, scored hits on the country charts during the 1940s and 1950s, including “Kentucky Waltz,” “Wicked Path of Sin” and “Gotta Travel On.” He is one of the few artists inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I don’t know if you ever get another Bill Monroe in a century,” said Ricky Skaggs. “There’s not a lot of people that I know of who could be cited as creating a whole new genre of music, but he did. He had the ear to hear it, the talent to play it and the heart to keep it alive because he was strong, he was powerful. I don’t know any person who could have withstood, pushed through and made it like him. He Ricky Skaggs with the statue of Bill Monroe had music in his veins. It was the thing that pushed him so much. It wasn’t just
to make a living. It was to get something out of him and take to people that he loved, and that was the fans that loved this music. I have traveled all over the world into places you would think that bluegrass music would never make it to . . . and you meet someone there that actually plays the music. So this music has totally gone around the world.”
Diminutive-sized Little Jimmy was known for his flashy wardrobes and humorous novelty songs - including “Country Boy,” “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed” and “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” - but his contributions to country music were far greater than his 4-foot, 11-inch stature. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.
“This was a man who was honing his craft before Hank Williams, who we sort of credit as the father of modern country music in many ways,” said Brad Paisley during the unveiling. “He saw everything in those decades that he stood on that stage, like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Garth Brooks. By the time Jimmy left us, he had become the Grand Ole Opry. On a night that he wasn’t there, you were cheated out of something and he knew that. He realized when he was well enough to do it, he went. He knew that he owed it to the younger generation that wanted to see him, it was another lesson in how you entertain people. He gave them everything that he had on that stage and in this building for many many years. So I think it’s really appropriate that he’s going to be one of the statues that’s a permanent reminder of what we should be in this building.”
The bronze statues were commissioned by the Ryman Auditorium in recognition of its 125th anniversary. Sculpted by artist Ben Watts, the lifesize statues took one year to create. Little Jimmy Dickens’ statue is adjacent to the landmark statue of riverboat captain Thomas G. Ryman on Fourth Avenue. The replica of the Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe is located near the Fifth Avenue driveway.
[Photos by Steve Lowry/Ryman Archives]
Background information From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born in Bolt, West Virginia, Dickens began his musical career in the late 1930s, performing on WJLS radio station in Beckley, West Virginia while attending West Virginia University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and traveled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name "Jimmy the Kid."
(Picture with Hank Williams, sr.)
In 1948, Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, 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'" in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl, and Pearl's husband Henry Cannon. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens, "That song's too good for you!"
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, and Thumbs Carllile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, Arizona television station while on tour with the 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 scored his first top-10 country hit since 1954 with "The Violet and the Rose".
In 1964, Dickens became the first country artist to circle the globe while on tour, and also made numerous TV appearances, including on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In 1965, he released his biggest hit, "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose", reaching No. 1 on the country chart and No. 15 on the pop chart. In the late 1960s, Dickens 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. Dickens 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 (the CD was released on Sonlite and MGM/UA and was one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers).
Toward the end of his life, Dickens made appearances in a number of music videos by fellow country musician and West Virginia native Brad Paisley. He was also featured on several of Paisley's albums in bonus comedy tracks, along with other Opry mainstays such as George Jones and Bill Anderson. They were collectively referred to as the Kung-Pao Buckaroos.
With the death of Hank Locklin in March 2009, Dickens became the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 90. He made regular appearances as a host at the Opry, often with the self-deprecating joke that he is also known as "Willie Nelson after taxes," playing on his resemblance to Nelson in his later years and his own short stature. At the 2011 CMA Awards, Jimmy was dressed up as Justin Bieber, and made fun of Bieber's then-current paternity scandal.
Dickens was hospitalized after a stroke on December 25, 2014, days after his last appearance on the Opry to mark his birthday.
He died of cardiac arrest on January 2, 2015, at the age of 94.
He is survived by his wife, Mona Dickens, whom he married in 1971, and two daughters, Pamela Detert and Lisa King.
After his funeral on January 8, 2015 at the Grand Ole Opry House, Dickens was entombed in the Cross Mausoleum at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.
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