Many of them have been performing decades longer than country’s current stars have been alive. Some of them only had a small handful of radio hits. Quite a few have long since been forgotten by Country radio (and we all know Country radio can be very forgetful). But there is one place where such veteran artists are continually heard and loved every week down to this day, both by an adoring live audience, and by eager radio listeners across the country. Where? On the stage of the very show that has come to define country music – The WSM Grand Ole Opry.
Now that we’ve wrapped up the Greatest Women of the Nineties countdown (and since I’m feeling to lazy to write another album review right now), why not start a new feature on the stars of the Grand Ole Opry? And who better to start on then the Opry’s oldest living member (He turns 90 years old this Sunday), and one of its defining artists, Country Music Hall of Famer Little Jimmy Dickens. No, he’s not just Brad Paisley’s right-hand man in all those music videos and CMA telecasts.
Little Jimmy Dickens grew up in a family of 13 children in Bolt, West Virginia. He got his start performing on local radio station WOLS in the nearby city of Beckley while attending the University of West Virginia. In 1948, he caught the ear of legendary country crooner Roy Acuff while performing on a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan. That led to Jimmy signing a deal with Columbia Records in September after joining the Grand Ole Opry on August 1, 1948.
In his 62 years as an Opry member, Little Jimmy Dickens has become known for (in addition to his diminutive 4’11” stature) his rhinestone-studded stage costumes, down-home country humor, and humorous novelty hits such as “A-Sleepin’ at the Foot of the Bed,” “Take An Old Cold Tater (And Wait),” and the number-one hit “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” which also crossed over to the pop charts. He has the distinction of being the first country music star to circle the globe, having traveled to Europe thirteen times, and having played for soldiers in Vietnam twice. In 1983, Little Jimmy Dickens received country music’s highest honor – being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Throughout his career, he has facilitated some of the most memorable moments both on the Grand Ole Opry stage, and in country music in general.