Little Jimmy Dickens, the diminutive songwriter who performed on the Grand Ole Opry since 1948 and stood just under five feet tall, has died at the age of 94.
Opry spokeswoman Jessie Schmidt said that Dickens passed away at a Nashville-area hospital, the victim of cardiac arrest following a stroke he suffered on Christmas Day, according to the Daily Mail.
Known for his sense of humor, Dickens last appeared on the Opry on December 20, the day after he turned 94, when he performed “Out Behind the Barn” as a part of his birthday celebration. Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager, noted the impact Dickens had on the Opry.
“The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens,” he said. “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.”
— Taste of Country (@TasteOfCountry) December 29, 2014
Dickens was only 4-years-old when the Opry first broadcast on Nashville’s WSM-AM in November 1925, under the name WSM Barn Dance. As USA Today reports, he signed with Columbia Records and joined the Opry cast in 1948, scoring his first hit in 1949 with “Take an Old Cold ‘Tater (And Wait).” The song inspired Country Music legend Hank Williams to bestow upon Dickens the nickname “Tater,” which stuck with him for years. Despite scoring other hits, Dickens’ sole number one record was 1965’s “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”
In later years, Little Jimmy Dickens was a friend to many newer Opry members, welcoming groups like Diamond Rio and Little Big Town to the stage. In 2003, he memorably climbed a step ladder to invite Trace Adkins, 6-foot-6, to join the cast, eye-to-eye.
“You’re so tall, if you fell down, you’d be halfway home when you got up,” Dickens said to him.
Brad Paisley, in particular, bonded with Dickens, featuring him in several of his music videos, as the Inquisitr previously noted. The singer tweeted his condolences Friday night, while also penning a longer tribute to Dickens.
It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my hero and friend today. I loved you Jimmy.
— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) January 3, 2015
“I think he loved everyone he ever met, and if not, he never let it be known,” Paisley observed. “More importantly, I think everyone who ever met him loved him instantly… and forever… I can honestly say he was the best friend any human being could ask for. Bar none.”
Little Jimmy Dickens is survived by two daughters, Pamela Detert and Lisa King, and his wife Mona, to whom he had been married for 43 years.
[Image: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images via Rolling Stone]