James Cecil Dickens (December 19, 1920 – January 2, 2015), better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, was an American country music singer famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, 4’11” (150 cm), and his rhinestone-studded outfits (which he is given credit for introducing into country music live performances). He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. Before his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1948, Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherly at Columbia Records and officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time, he began using the nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature.
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including “Country Boy”, “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed”, and “I’m Little But I’m Loud”. His song “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)” inspired Hank Williams to nickname him “Tater”. Later, telling Jimmy he needed a hit, Williams penned “Hey Good Lookin’” in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl, and Pearl’s husband Henry Cannon. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens, “That song’s too good for you!”
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carllile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, Arizona television station while on tour with the Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957, Dickens left the Grand Ole Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
In 1962, Dickens scored his first top-10 country hit since 1954 with “The Violet and the Rose”.
In 1964, Dickens became the first country artist to circle the globe while on tour, and also made numerous TV appearances, including onThe Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In 1965, he released his biggest hit, “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose“, reaching No. 1 on the country chart and No. 15 on the pop chart.
In the late 1960s, Dickens left Columbia for Decca Records before moving again to United Artists in 1971. That same year, he married his wife, Mona, and in 1975, he returned to the Grand Ole Opry. In 1983. Dickens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.