Musician James Cecil ‘‘Little Jimmy’’ Dickens was born December 19, 1920, in Bolt, Raleigh County, the oldest of 13 children. He began performing in the 1930s while attending West Virginia University. He quit school to pursue music full-time, performing under the name Jimmy the Kid. He gained early radio experience at WJLS Beckley and WMMN Fairmont. His entertainment career took him to several radio stations until 1949 when he joined the Grand Ole Opry at WSM in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1948, the four-foot 11-inch performer signed with Columbia Records and had several hits, most notably ‘‘Take An Old Cold Tater And Wait,’’ “I’m Little But I’m Loud,” and ‘‘Sleeping At The Foot Of The Bed.’’ His biggest hit was ‘‘May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,’’ which reached Number One on the country chart. Although equally adept at ‘‘heart’’ songs, Dickens remains best known for humorous numbers.
He left the Opry in 1957, but rejoined in 1975. Currently he is the oldest performer on the Opry stage. During his performances, he wears flashy rhinestone suits and carries a guitar about as big as he is. He has performed in Europe more than a dozen times and entertained troops in Vietnam. He has appeared frequently in the music videos of country singer Brad Paisley, also a West Virginia native. He has also been featured on several of Paisley’s albums.
In 1983, Little Jimmy Dickens became the first Mountain State native elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
This Article was written by Abby Gail Goodnite
Last Revised on April 12, 2013
Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.