Sunday, January 4, 2015

Remembering Little Jimmy Dickens

     Country music lost one of its most beloved stars on Friday when Little Jimmy Dickens passed away at 94 years old.  Little Jimmy Dickens was a Country Music Hall of Fame Member and Grand Ole Opry Member.  In fact, he was the longest tenured Opry member, joining the sacred institution in 1948.  He was known far and wide for his comedic styling and wit, but far above that, Little Jimmy was loved for his caring attitude and tender guidance.  His stature was the only "little" thing about him; he had a giant heart and left a large shadow over the Opry stage.

     He was born on December 19, 1920 in West Virginia.  He joined the Opry in 1948 after being discovered by fellow Opry legend Roy Acuff.  He took the name "Little" Jimmy Dickens as a good-natured jab at his short stature, and quickly became one of the most popular stars of the Opry.  He rose to fame touring with the Opry, and was part of a legendary group.  Little Jimmy Dickens, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and Hank Williams toured the country with the Grand Ole Opry, and they helped take the show to new heights.  Jimmy was mostly known for his novelty songs, such as "A-Sleepin' At The Foot of The Bed", "May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose", and "Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait", which led to Hank Williams' loving nickname for his friend: Tater. From 1957 to 1975 he was absent from the Opry, but he returned and remained a loyal and steadfast leader of the Opry right up until his death.  His last performance on the Opry stage was on December 20, 2014, one day after his 94th birthday.  He inducted many current members such as Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Little Big Town, The Oak Ridge Boys, Montgomery Gentry, and Rascal Flatts.  He gained a fanbase in the current generation through his work with Brad Paisley.  He recorded comedy bits on Brad's albums with George Jones, Whisperin' Bill Anderson, and Vince Gill as a group called The Kung-Pao Buckeroos.  He also guest starred in Brad's videos and made cameo appearances on the CMA Awards doing various comedy acts.  The art of cornball comedy seems to be a lost cause in country music, but Little Jimmy kept it going strong right up to his last days.

     Many artists are remembered for their impact on music.  Little Jimmy certainly helped take country music from its humble beginnings to the powerhouse genre that it is today.  But, Little Jimmy's impact is felt much stronger in the lives he touched.  On stage, he wore flashy suits and never stopped smiling.  Off-stage, he was just as charismatic and just as friendly.  The outpouring of love that nearly every country star has publicly stated since his passing is proof.  Few artists thanked him for his musical merits.  Nearly every artist and fan thanked Jimmy for being a kind soul who nurtured young artists, befriended everyone he met, and served as a selfless ambassador for country music and the Grand Ole Opry.  I was fortunate enough to see him a few times at the Opry, and he always gave it 100% every night.  He poured his heart and soul into country music, and we all will miss him very dearly.  His earthly body may have been little, but he was a giant in country music. We will miss you, Little Jimmy Dickens.  Keep It Country Kids offers prayers to his wife, Mona, and his two children.

"May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose"

"A-Sleepin' At The Foot of the Bed"

"Hillbilly Fever"

CMA Appearance with Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood

"Will The Circle Be Unbroken" with Brad Paisley and the Grand Ole Opry cast.  This was the first performance at the Grand Ole Opry House following the Nashville Flood of 2010.

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