In Memoriam: Little Jimmy Dickens (1920-2015)

Little Jimmy Dickens2015 is off to a sad start for country music as a whole, and the Grand Ole Opry in particular.

From the Tennessean:

Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Dickens, the Grand Ole Opry’s most beloved and diminutive ambassador, died Friday at a Nashville area hospital. He was 94.

Mr. Dickens starred for decades on the “Opry,” where he was a vital part of the scene both onstage and backstage. His dressing room was an essential stop for performers on the show, and it was there that he held court for a variety of artists, some of whom came to the Opry more than a half century after Mr. Dickens’ 1948 debut.

He remained a vital performer throughout his life, last playing the “Opry” on Dec. 20, a day after his 94th birthday and five days before he would be admitted to the hospital after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day. He died of cardiac arrest on Friday.

When the spotlight shone on him, Mr. Dickens would make fun of his size (“I’m Little Jimmy Dickens, or Willie Nelson after taxes”), his rhinestone-studded outfits (“There goes Mighty Mouse in his pajamas”) and his old-timer status (He would often introduce his “latest hit,” from 1965).

“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.”

In the final decades of his career, Mr. Dickens’ kindness, affability and hospitality were his calling cards. Where others would say “goodnight,” Mr. Dickens would shake hands and offer, “We appreciate you.” But some of those who laughed with him and sang along to the songs he regularly performed on the “Opry” were unaware of what a potent, even groundbreaking performer he was in the 1950s.

Ever since the illness and death of Porter Wagoner,  Dickens had become the single most visible ambassador for, and the living legacy of, the Grand Ole Opry.   Yes, there were all those cameos and appearances with Brad Paisley, which were his primary introduction to more recent country fans.   But the Opry was his home and he was the star there, not the sidekick.

As the Opry’s lineup in heaven keeps getting stronger, I’m sure that “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” and “The Violet and a Rose” will be set list regulars from now on.

Down here on earth, we can still enjoy some of his classic performances:

“May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose”:


“Life Turned Her That Way”:


“I’m Little but I’m Loud”


“The Violet and a Rose”



  1. When the good lord called you home. You could not tell him no. You are now in heavens embrace knowing no one could ever take your place.
    You always had a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye. You have always been angel here on the ground. Now your and angel in the sky.
    Rest in piece you will be dearly missed.

  2. RIP Jimmy. I did get to see him about 3 years ago at the Opry but didn’t know much about him. Based on all I’ve read, the Opry and country music in general lost a really good person.

  3. Little Jimmy Dickens clearly belongs up there in that great big Opry In The Sky, for sure. But one thing I find mighty strange is that, given his well-earned status as a legend, “Bird Of Paradise” was the only #1 country hit he ever had (and it also got up to #15 on the pop chart in late 1965, where you might have heard it alongside the Beatles, the Stones, and the Supremes).

  4. I think many of LJD’s singles were regional hits, doing well in some markets but not doing anything in markets outside the mid-south. He had a few singles that did well on WCMS, such as “How To Catch An African Skeeter Alive”, that did little nationwide

    Regardless of the lack of hits, he was an fine performer and always gave 100 per cent on stage

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