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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 683

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This is the grave of Little Jimmy Dickens.

Born in 1920 in Bolt, West Virginia, the diminutive Dickens (he was 4’11”) started playing on local radio in his home state as a country musician in the late 30s. He attended West Virginia University for awhile but dropped out to become a touring musician, at that time under the name of Jimmy the Kid. He did not have immediate success, but kept at it. In 1948, he was performing on a radio show that was broadcast out of Michigan, but he was in fact playing a show in Indiana. Anyway, Roy Acuff was there and was impressed. Acuff, host of the Grand Ole Opry, thought he found a future star and introduced him to Opry executives, as well as Columbia Records. A career blossomed.

By this time, he was using Little Jimmy Dickens as his performing name. He formed his band the Country Boys in 1950. Early on his career, touring in Arizona, he discovered a young singer named Marty Robbins. who he promoted as Acuff had promoted him. He had a series of hits in the early 50s. His most famous song was “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait,” but he also had hits with “Country Boy,” “I’m Little but I’m Loud,” and other songs. Hank Williams actually wrote “Hey Good Lookin'” for Dickens while they were on a plane going from show to show, but then realized that he wanted to keep that one for himself.

Like a lot of working country musicians, Dickens had a few hits and then faded somewhat by the late 50s. He was a regular on the Opry, though he left it in 1957 for a competing show sponsored by the tobacco company Philip Morris. Rock and roll was death for people such as Dickens, but he remained a favorite of those who still listened to the older style of music. He could have some novelty hits too, most notably “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” which was his only #1 hit, in 1965. He appeared on Johnny Carson a lot and was just a reliable country music presence. In 1975, Dickens returned to the Opry and remained there the rest of his life, appearing frequently, including one performance in 2011 where he did a skit making fun of Justin Bieber’s paternity suit. He became a purveyor of the comedy song, especially after his big hit. Among the questionable names of his releases are “Who Licked the Red Off Your Candy, from 1966; “Jenny Needs a G-String (For Her Old Guitar,” from 1967; and “How to Catch an African Skeeter Alive,” from 1968. For this legacy (I guess), and for introducing Nudie Cohen’s rhinestone suits to country music, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

On Christmas Day of 2014, just days after turning 94, Dickens had a stroke. He died shortly after the New Year.

Let’s listen to some Little Jimmy Dickens.

Little Jimmy Dickens is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Nashville, Tennessee.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM readers. I can’t exactly make it to Nashville right now unless I want to risk disease, but eventually I will be able to do so. If you want this series to visit more members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Lefty Frizzell, inducted in 1982, is in Goodlettsville, Tennessee and Vernon Dalhart, inducted in 1981, is in the noted country music capital of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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