From his humble beginnings in Bolt, West Virginia, James Cecil Dickens, better known as “Little Jimmy Dickens” rose to be one of the best-loved stars of country music. He became famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, (4'11") and his rhinestone-studded outfits (which he is given credit for introducing into country music live performances). His song "Take an Old Cold Tater (and Wait)" inspired Hank Williams to nickname him "Tater,” and his peers were fond of calling him “Tater, the littlest, but biggest star at the Opry."
Jimmy was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and elected into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. Often performing 300 nights a year, he was the first country music entertainer to completely circle the globe during a world tour in 1964. His final Opry performance was on Dec. 20, 2014, the day after his 94th birthday and five days before being admitted to the hospital after he suffered a stroke on Christmas Day.
"The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens," Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher said in a statement Friday. "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."
Jimmy was greatly esteemed not only for his musicianship, but also for his humor, hospitality and warmth. Country music star Brad Paisley, a dear friend of Jimmy’s, posted this moving tribute:
As the sun sets on this planet tonight, for the first time in 94 years it is without my hero, Little Jimmy Dickens.
Why was he my hero? Jimmy made more out of his time in earth than anyone I've ever known; an incredible life in every measurable way. Longevity? Yes, practically unheard of. Faith? Totally and wholeheartedly. Humor? There was no one funnier, or with a better sense of it. A true entertainer? The best I've ever seen. Charm? Unmatched. Love? This was a big one. I think he loved everyone he ever met, and if not, he never let it be known. More importantly, I think everyone who ever met him loved him instantly ... and forever. Romance? He and Mona had the most romantic story I've ever heard. Check it out sometime. Friendship? Well I can honestly say he was the best friend any human being could ask for. Bar none.
Much will be said and written about his incredible and unique place in Country Music history, which could fill a book. But that isn't how I'll remember him. I will remember the human being that best check-marked all the boxes of a complete and wonderful life. My hero.
Do not mourn Little Jim. Celebrate him. Relive and share the memories. Aspire to be like him. And above all, laugh at the punchlines, the craziness, and the way he so gracefully made this planet a funnier, better, richer place while he was alive. And in doing so, will continue to for years to come.
Jimmy Dickens is survived by his wife, Mona Dickens, whom he married in 1971, and two daughters, Pamela Detert and Lisa King.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons