The Day I Met Little Jimmy Dickens:
A Tribute to a Legend
On Friday, January 2, 2015, God called “Little” Jimmy Dickens home at the age of 94. He was small in stature but a giant among men — not only as a country star but as a beloved ambassador of the Grand Ole Opry. His dressing room at the Opry was considered an essential stop for performers who were a part of the show, where artist both seasoned and new could stop and chat, get encouragement, and release their jitters on any given night. He has made connections with many performers since his Opry debut in 1948. His last show would be December 20, 2014, a day after his 94th birthday and five days before being admitted to a Nashville hospital after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day.
While entertaining, Jimmy would often make fun of his small size, calling himself “Willie Nelson after taxes.” He was known for wearing awesome rhinestone studded outfits custom made to fit, his signature cowboy hat, and his infectious smile. Some of his hits included “Out Behind The Barn,” “May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait,” and “Pennies For Papa.” He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters. In recent years, he has been seen in several Brad Paisley music videos “I’m Gonna Miss Her” and “Celebrity.”
I love all types of music, but my heart and soul will always belong to Nashville. I am very grateful to God to live here and get to interact with some of the finest people on Earth — like Mr. Dickens. I got the opportunity to work with “Little” Jimmy Dickens when I was a 22-year-old just starting in radio at WAKM in Franklin, Tennessee. Our station was one of the sponsors for the revamp of the Williamson County Fair, and there was an Opry legends night where Mr. Dickens as well as others performed, like Stonewall Jackson, Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelious, and Jeanne Pruett to name a few.
I went to interview him, and as I approached him my heart started beating hard as I realized that I was going to speak with one of the most recognizable people ever to grace a country stage.
Mr. Dickens had his outfit on, his rhinestone suit and cowboy hat. and he was standing outside of a make-up/performer trailer smoking a cigarette. As he saw me approach, he surprised me when he called my name: “Hey, you must be Josh, nice to meet you. I’m sure you know who I am, don’t ever touch these things [cigarettes] they will stunt your growth.” I immediately laughed and felt at ease as if I were speaking with a long lost relative or friend. It meant so much to me that he knew my name.
I left that quick radio interview with a renewed sense of self-worth and a puffed chest — an experience that I will never forget. Mr. Dickens brought a lot of joy to stars and common folk alike. He lived a remarkable life and I, along with many others, will greatly miss him. His legacy will live on.
Here are some quotes from country music stars on his passing, including a couple exclusive quotes for this article:
From Brad Paisley’s Twitter account: “As the sun sets on this planet tonight, for the first time in 94 years it is without my hero, Little Jimmy Dickens.”
“I often perform one of Little Jimmy’s best known songs ‘I’m Little But I’m Loud.’ I’ve always related to him and loved him as a person, as a friend, and as an entertainer. He will always be loved and remembered.” — Dolly Parton
“Little Jimmy Dickens was one of the greatest entertainers I ever knew. His country charm, sharp wit, and graciousness made him a star that everyone wanted to meet. I’ll miss him very much.” –Ricky Skaggs
“He could give any entertainer on that stage a run for his money when it came to charming the audience. He was hilarious and a classic. It’s just never gonna be the same.” –Pam Tillis
“One of the greatest things I’ve passed down to my boys was my friendship with Little Jimmy Dickens. We will miss him.” –Aaron Tippin
“I loved Little Jimmy Dickens. He was always such a nice, nice man to me since the first time I ever met him, and I think a lot of us in the industry are going to really miss him. He was a friend to all of us. God bless him.” –Sammy Kershaw
“This great man asked me for a picture and an autograph the first time we played the Opry. I was shocked. I know the world will feel this loss. God bless!” –Doug Gray / The Marshall Tucker Band
“Little Jimmy Dickens was a giant in the world we call country music. A patriarch. One who stood among the legends and cast a great shadow as an entertainer. He will be greatly missed. He truly was Mighty Mouse in a rhinestone suit. Rest in Peace, Tater.” –Marty Raybon / Shenandoah