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Musician James Cecil ‘‘Little Jimmy’’ Dickens (December 19, 1920-January 2, 2015) was born 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 remained best known for humorous numbers.

He left the Opry in 1957, but rejoined in 1975. During his performances, he wore flashy rhinestone suits and carried a guitar about as big as he was. He performed in Europe more than a dozen times and entertained troops in Vietnam. He appeared frequently in the music videos of country singer Brad Paisley, also a West Virginia native. He was also 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. At his death, he was the oldest and longest-running member of the Grand Ole Opry, playing his last performance there the day before his 94th birthday. He died in a Nashville hospital from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke Christmas Day.

This Article was written by Abby Gail Goodnite

Last Revised on December 14, 2017


Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.

Cite This Article

Goodnite, Abby Gail "Little Jimmy Dickens." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 December 2017. Web. 20 June 2024.


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