Jimmy the Kid

How little was Jimmy Dickens? Officially, four foot eleven. He didn’t adopt the adjective, though, until he’d signed with Columbia in 1948 — he was then twenty-eight — and joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Pop audiences were scarcely aware of Dickens until 1965, when songwriter Neal Merritt, having seen too many segments of Carnac the Magnificent, penned a silly ditty called “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” Dickens waxed it for Columbia, watched it go to #1 on the country chart and #15 pop, and was still singing it in 2008.

The next Dickens hit followed the old rule: just like the last one, but different. “When the Ship Hit the Sand” had the same tempo, the same style, and probably the same Grady Martin guitar work. The title might have been a trifle risqué for the period: “Ship” hove to at #27, and never cracked the Hot 100.

When Hank Locklin (1918-2009) died, Dickens became the oldest living member of the Opry. He was still inclined to poke fun at the rest of the world. From the Country Music Awards in 2009:

By this time, the little guy had shrunk to four foot nine. And he made a pretty good Justin Bieber, too. You can’t get away with stuff like this unless you have a big, big heart, the kind that will carry you all the way to age 94.

Addendum: The oldest surviving member of the Opry now appears to be Jean Shepard, who was invited to join the Opry in 1955; she turned 81 in November.


  1. backwoods conservative »

    3 January 2015 · 9:00 am

    I remember seeing the Grand Ole Opry on TV when I was a kid, but the only people I remember seeing on it are Minnie Pearl and Porter Waggoner.

  2. mushroom »

    3 January 2015 · 11:26 am

    If you don’t know “Sleepin’ at the Foot of the Bed”, “Out Behind the Barn”, “Take an old, cold Tater, and Wait”, or “Banty Rooster”, you don’t know nothin’ ’bout Country or Little Jimmy Dickens.

    Just like a banty rooster
    In a big red rooster crowd
    I’m puny, short, and little
    But I’m loud

    Farewell, Mr. Dickens.

  3. CGHill »

    3 January 2015 · 11:39 am

    I was actually playing “Take An Old Cold Tater” while I was writing that.

  4. mushroom »

    3 January 2015 · 3:14 pm

    You are a man of impeccable taste, discernment, and insight.

  5. Jennifer »

    3 January 2015 · 6:46 pm

    Little Jimmy was from West Virginia. As is Brad Paisley, who wrote a lovely tribute to his very good friend. If you haven’t seen it, you should google it.

    Little Jimmy came to Charleston during FestivALL last year to appear on a recreation of Hollywood Squares hosted by the one and only Peter Marshall … yet another WVian! He (Jimmy) was a hoot. Cracked up the audience more than once.

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