It’s a sad day in country music. Today, Fri. Jan. 2, The Tennessean broke the news that beloved country star Little Jimmy Dickens passed away today at a Nashville area hospital at the age of 94. Dickens who was known for his wit and short stature was a Grand Ole Opry favorite and the oldest living member. For decades, Dickens was an integral part of the Opry both onstage and backstage. In fact, Little Jimmy starred on the Opry stage until the end. He played his final show at his “home away from home” on Dec. 20, one day after his 94th birthday. Less than a week later, he was admitted to a Nashville hospital for an undisclosed illness.
Little Jimmy rose to fame in 1948. He joked about his own size and made the audience roar with laughter each and every show. He befriended a plethora of country music artists, and was that performer that everyone simply loved. Brad Paisley was among Dickens’ closest friends. While Dickens’ best known tunes showcased his humor, he had a large and impressive catalog of songs throughout his long career. While on Columbia records Dickens recorded many classics 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 give him the nickname “Tater”. Hank Williams’ beloved nickname for his friend would stick for the rest of Little Jimmy’s life. Williams later told Jimmy he needed a hit, which resulted in him penning ‘Hey Good Lookin’ specifically for Dickens in only 20 minutes while on a Grand Ole Opry tour bus. One week later, Williams cut the song, Additionally, Dickens starred in various music videos, including Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity.” As a man of countless national appearances, Dickens entertained everywhere he went as he wore his signature rhinestone suits.
Little Jimmy was the youngest of 13 children. Throughout his childhood he lived in poverty, but he discovered a deep love for music. His mother and three uncles played guitar while young Jimmy would sit and watch in amusement. Despite his height, he played high school basketball. The likable Dickens was president of his class, and when he was offered a drama scholarship to West Virginia University, he turned it down. He instead wanted to become a professional jockey and to pursue his music. As one might guess, he was a hit on the radio stations. In 1945, Dickens met Roy Acuff who encouraged him to pursue his career in Nashville. Subsequently, Dickens began appearing on the Opry before he ever even cut his first record! Little Jimmy Dickens enjoyed a career of longevity that most only dream about…but he remained humble and relatable throughout it at all. He will be deeply missed in not only the music industry, but by all who he entertained.
Dickens is survived by his wife, Mona. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Do you have a favorite Little Jimmy tune? What about any special memories with Dickens? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.