Country Stars Bid Farewell to Little Jimmy Dickens
With a life as long as that enjoyed by Little Jimmy Dickens, it’s inevitably that it would impact countless others, in particular the Grand Ole Opry legend’s fellow performers. In his 66 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Dickens had the unique opportunity to affect artists across multiple generations. Add that to his fabled generosity, kindness and accessibility, and it’s no wonder that so many expressed their love and respect for “Tater” in the days following his death on Jan. 2 at age 94.
Top photo: Old friends Little Jimmy Dickens and Ray Price greet each other backstage at the Opry. Photo credit: courtesy of Janie Price
Many of those who knew him will likely attend the visitation on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at Woodlawn Roesch Patton (660 Thompson Lane, Nashville) from 4-8 PM as well as the Celebration Of Life Service on Thursday, Jan. 8, 11 AM, at the Grand Ole Opry House (2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville). Both events are open to the public.
“Little Jimmy Dickens was such a huge influence for me. I grew up with the dream of one day being able to play the Grand Ole Opry stage and possibly being lucky enough to see Little Jimmy play as well. When I made my debut in 2011, I was shocked and delighted to find out that he would be the one to introduce me on the Opry stage. He had such a charming spirit, and was very encouraging when I was nervous about going on such a revered stage. It was a truly special night that I will never forget.” — Katie Armiger
“Little Jimmy Dickens was such a genuine and sharing person, I felt like I knew him from the start. Always something nice or funny to say; he was easy to talk to and a joy to be around and kind. My favorite experience at the Opry is watching him perform ‘Raggedy’ Ann while waiting in the wings. It was a real classic and so was Little Jimmy. God bless you, friend.” — David Ball
“Little Jimmy Dickens – the first person to greet as us the Opry for our first performance. Thanks for the memory.” — The Band Perry (via Twitter)
“When I was asked to become a member of the Mother Church, they said ‘Hal, who would you like to induct you?’ My immediate response was ‘Little Jimmy’ – to me, always the embodiment of the Opry, Southern grace, humor, humility, great musicianship, bigger than life. “Many times we holed up in his dressing room. I sat in wonder of the love that his band members held for him, the miles travelled. You can learn a lot about a man from the people that know him best. As he got older, his friends would fetch his clothes out of his locker. He had a modified set of hay hooks that he used to put his boots on with. He would dress, never missing a beat, continuing whatever story he was telling at the time, always to a room filled with laughter. “Travel well my dear friend, travel well.” — Hal Ketchum
“Country Music and the Opry have lost a true living legend, but Heaven has gained one of the funniest, sweetest, and kindest, talented spirits to ever grace its streets.” — Jeff Bates
“Little Jimmy Dickens was an American original, the likes of which we will never see again. We’ll miss him and his talent very much.” — The Bellamy Brothers
“I met Little Jimmy Dickens at the Opry a few years ago and he was so sweet and gracious. He literally loved everyone he met. He exudes everything the Opry stands for. He is definitely iconic and I was so excited to meet him!” — Kayla Calabrese
“Rest in peace, Jimmy Dickens. The Opry just won’t be the same without you.” — Easton Corbin (via Twitter)
“Condolences & prayers for the family of ‘Little Jimmy’ Dickens. Tater was one of the good guys & so encouraging to me always. RIP, pal.” — Larry Cordle (via Twitter)
“Saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. James Dickens, known by his stage name Little Jimmy Dickens. He will be missed.” — Cowboy Troy (via Twitter)
“Little Jimmy Dickens has long been a musical hero of mine and one of the finest entertainers to ever step on any stage. I was deeply honored to call him a friend and will always remember the time I got to spend with him. The music world has lost one of our greatest treasures. Rest in peace, my little friend. You were loved by so many of us.” —Charlie Daniels
“It takes a mighty BIG person to laugh at yourself and invite others to laugh along with you. Little Jimmy made a career out of that. Of all the different art forms, nothing can compete with a good laugh. Thank you for that Jimmy and rest in peace little buddy.” — Billy Dean
“Every single meeting with this little giant of a little man was an honor, a thrill and a hoot.” — Charles Esten, a.k.a. Deacon Claybourne on “Nashville” (via Twitter)
“In November of 2010, a month after I decided to make the move to Nashville, I was walking around and I met a man by the name Little Jimmy Dickens behind the Ryman Auditorium one night before the Opry. He was with his manager Robbie Wittkowski; they both sat and talked with me a while about what my goal was and why Nashville. I told them there were no other plans, Nashville was my only plan, to come and make music let people hear my voice.
“Little Jimmy then turned to Robbie and looked back at me and said, ‘How about you come backstage with us tonight for the Opry?’ This was an opportunity to see what Country Music was built on, so I walked backstage into Little Jimmy’s dressing room. His blue jacket was on the wall as he was getting ready to play another show at the Opry. He invited me to take a look around and introduced me to some friends of his. He said, ‘This is my buddy Vince,’ and of course it was Vince Gill, another legend in my book. I also met Josh Turner and a few others that night, but what I remember most is the fact that even after all those years Jimmy said his nerves would get him every time he walked on that stage. I got to watch a man, a staple in Country Music, walk on that stage nervous even after walking on that stage a thousand times.
“Little Jimmy Dickens introduced me to what Country Music really is. From that day forward, my goal has been to walk on the stage of the Opry. He is a hero in my book, a true legend of the Opry, and he and Robbie bringing me backstage is the biggest reason I am where I am today.” — Matt Farris
“When we did a show with Little Jimmy a couple years ago, I was amazed at his tenacity and love for the business of performing and entertaining the audience. My band backed him up that night, and we will always have that great memory with us, a wonderful night to remember.” — Janie Fricke
“Pound for pound, inch for inch, ‘Tater’ – he loved for us to call him ‘Tater’ after his big hit, Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait’ – was the GREATEST ENTERTAINER in the history of the world. PERIOD!! And he was a nice man. What else can I say? I loved him and will miss him.” — Larry Gatlin
“The first time I played the Opry, I was introduced by Little Jimmy. It was such an honor to have one of Country Music’s icons say my name as I entered that circle for the first time. He was kind enough to take a picture with me that day. Little Jimmy may have been small in stature, but his presence was huge.” — Gwen Sebastian
“This great man asked me for a picture and an autograph the first time we played the Opry. I was shocked. I know the world will feel this loss. God bless.” — Doug Gray/The Marshall Tucker Band
“The greatest story teller that has ever spoken, the world’s most amazing jokester causing the deepest enormous laughs, the magnetic voice that lasted longer and stronger than a mighty oak, a lifelong history that was taller and more vast than the East Tennessee mountains, the magnificent friendship that everyone will carry in their hearts for eternity, the LARGEST MAN that repeatedly for decades swept the hungry multitude away from his very own pulpit of the Grand Ole Opry Stage. The sweetest colossal personality with such a huge presence that stood before his mentors as an immense Hero and Star, all wrapped up inside of such a gentle and small frame of a man that we’ll always remember as ‘LITTLE’ Jimmy Dickens. Let the heavens now witness your gigantic spirit just as we have!!!!!.” — Andy Griggs
“Little Jimmy Dickens was arguably the greatest showman in the history of the Grand Ole Opry. Adored by Country fans around the world, Jimmy was a tremendous inspiration to Old Crow Medicine Show. To know he was watching us from the wings gave our band something so high and mighty to strive for. He set the standard for Country Music entertainment.
“Last November, watching Old Crow’s Opry performance, Little Jimmy was heard to say, ‘Those boys know how to entertain.’ No higher affirmation could I have dreamed up than to have Jimmy Dickens call us entertainers. We were proud to know him through the last decade of his incredible career. He was present at our Opry induction, ever the Opry patriarch, welcoming us into the Country Music family. He was Country’s finest humorist, ribald and true, both onstage and off. Once during a sound check he picked my 3-year-old daughter up into his arms, testimony to the still powerful strength in that 93-year-old body of his. She asked him, ‘Why are you little?’ Jimmy didn’t miss a beat. ‘What?’ he said. ‘Why do I whittle?’
“We were present at his 94th birthday party and witnessed one of the finest speeches about a life in Country Music ever uttered. His mind went way back in time, to Beckley, West Virginia, and the first radio shows he did in the 1930s. He spoke about balling up the scripted radio commercials he’d been asked to read and taking to the mic with his own words. He said he knew intuitively what his audience wanted to hear. Before he blew the candles out that night, he said, ‘I knew who the people were that filled those auditoriums every night. I knew who they were because I was one of them.’ One of Old Crow Medicine Show’s highest honors will forever be that we were there to see the Opry curtain rise on Little Jimmy Dickens, and that we were there when it closed.” — Ketch Secor/Old Crow Medicine Show
“I remember my first ever Grand Ole Opry performance. It was a packed house at the Ryman and I was shaking in my boots, literally. Then I saw Jimmy out there singin’ his heart out and making the crowd laugh, and a calm came over me. When he called my name, I walked out on that stage and shook his hand and said thank you. Well I say it again. Thank you, Jimmy Dickens. I will always cherish this memory for the rest of my life.” — JT Hodges
“I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Little Jimmy Dickens. I remember watching and listening to him as a kid growing up, never once thinking that I would have the pleasure of performing on the same stage with him at The Grand Ole Opry. Dreams do come true!
“I remember my first night on the Opry, I was nervous as could be. Little Jimmy Dickens came to my dressing room and introduced himself to me (as if I didn’t know who HE was)! I was floored when he said he knew who I was and that he was familiar with my music. He took me around back-stage and introduced me to everyone on the show that night, including Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Porter Waggoner and many others, as well as members of the Opry band.
“I will never forget what a kind, gentle man he was. I had the opportunity to share the same stage with him on many occasions after that night at the Opry. He was always kind and considerate, not to mention immensely talented, and the audiences loved him as did I and every artist that I know. Rest in peace, my friend.” — Con Hunley
“I loved Little Jimmy Dickens. He was always such a nice, nice man to me since the first time I ever met him and I think a lot of us in the industry are going to really miss him. He was a friend to all of us. God Bless him.” — Sammy Kershaw
“I can’t believe he’s gone. I feel so blessed that I was able to meet Jimmy, and that he was so sweet to take the time to talk with me back stage at the Opry. I’ve always been such a fan of his. Country Music would not be the same without him and The Opry will definitely not be the same without him.” — Rachele Lynae
“Celebrating Little Jimmy Dickens tonight. What an honor spending time and sharing the stage with him.” — Dustin Lynch (via Twitter)
“The last time that I was on the Grand Ole Opry, Little Jimmy Dickens introduced me. When I heard he passed my heart was saddened. It’s the end of an era and I have lost another hero.” — Ronnie McDowell
“Jimmy was always so kind to me as a child backstage at the Opry. I so admired his ability to entertain and make people laugh. My father George Morgan and Jimmy were best of friends and came to the Opry in the same year. It was a close family back then and thanks to Little Jimmy it continued to feel that way when he was in the building. He always made me feel that he loved me. I will miss him.” — Lorrie Morgan
“As the sun sets on this planet tonight, for the first time in 94 years it is without my hero, Little Jimmy Dickens.” — Brad Paisley (via Twitter)
“I often perform one of Little Jimmy’s best known songs, ‘I’m Little But I’m Loud.’ I’ve always related to him and loved him as a person, as a friend, and as an entertainer. He will always be loved and remembered.” — Dolly Parton
“Ray Price and Little Jimmy Dickens met in 1952 when Ray joined The Grand Ole Opry. They were introduced by their mutual friend, Hank Williams. A lifelong friendship ensued spanning over an incredible six decades of time. Even though both were in failing health, they stayed in touch. I recall the last message from Jimmy and wife Mona left on Ray’s voicemail, saying ‘WE LOVE YOU AND ARE PRAYING FOR YOU. GOOD LUCK, GOD BLESS AND I’LL BE SEEING YOU SOON, PAL.’
“These two Country Music icons were label mates on Columbia Records, and shared the stage on many Grand Ole Opry Tours and Events throughout their careers. Ray said though slight of frame, Jimmy cast the shadow of a giant of a man, reflecting his good nature, his inner strength and his ability to overcome huge obstacles in his life.” — Janie Price (widow of Ray Price)
“Little Jimmy Dickens was a giant in the world we call country music. A patriarch. One who stood among the legends and cast a great shadow as an entertainer. He will be greatly missed. He truly was Mighty Mouse in a rhinestone suit. Rest in Peace, Tater.” — Marty Raybon/Shenandoah
“I’d like to be like Little Jimmy Dickens, playin’ LOUD Country Music till I’m 94 and sporting the rhinestones right into Heaven!” — John Rich (via Twitter)
“Whenever I had the opportunity to work with Little Jimmy, I never failed to stand in the wings and watch him perform. He had such charisma, such a magic way with an audience. Don’t know who enjoyed it more, the audience or him. He leaves a tall memory and huge boots to fill.” — Lynn Anderson
“The music industry has lost one of its biggest treasures. He continued inspiring me from our first meeting over 35 years ago up until just recently while visiting with him backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. He always made me feel like a kid in his presence. With his passing, I suddenly feel a little older. I loved being around him whether at his home, at the Opry or on the road doing shows. I will miss him greatly as well as everyone else who was honored enough to have known him. In my eyes he was the tallest man I’ve ever known. He might have been small in stature but was truly a giant to those that knew him.” — TG Sheppard
“Little Jimmy Dickens was one of the greatest entertainers I ever knew. His country charm, sharp wit, and graciousness made him a star that everyone wanted to meet. I’ll miss him very much.” — Ricky Skaggs
“We all loved Little Jimmy so much that we stole his jokes! I’m sure we weren’t the first the tell Little Jimmy’s jokes, but it sure was fun to retell them. Usually Mike Fleming, our bass player, would amble up to the mic and start telling one while the rest of us would groan and laugh! It was always fun to hear the audience’s response even though a lot of people had more than likely heard Little Jimmy himself tell the jokes. But that made it that much more fun. Now more than ever, I’m sure we will continue to share Little Jimmy’s sense of humor through his jokes.” — The SteelDrivers
“There are no words to express what this does to our music community. We are honored to have shared the stage and smiles with the greatest Opry performer of all time.” — Larry Stewart/Restless Heart
“Every time I saw Little Jimmy Dickens at the Opry, he was always excited to go out on that stage. Playing the Opry is such an awesome experience for me, and to see the legends feel that same excitement really shows what a special place it is.” — Josh Thompson
“So sad to hear about the passing of Opry legend Little Jimmy Dickens.” — Thompson Square (via Twitter)
“I have known Little Jimmy Dickens for 60 years. Little Jimmy Dickens was a little man with a big heart and the best entertainer that ever stepped on the Opry stage. Keep ’em laughin’, Tater.” — Mel Tillis
“He could give any entertainer on that stage a run for his money when it came to charming the audience. He was hilarious and a classic. It’s just never gonna be the same.” — Pam Tillis
“One of the greatest things I’ve passed down to my boys was my friendship with Little Jimmy Dickens. We will miss him.” — Aaron Tippin
“Rest in peace, Little Jimmy Dickens. One of the legends of Country Music. Always so kind and generous to us. And FUNNY. We will miss you dearly. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.” — Phil Vassar
“It’s very late and I’m sitting in this TV glow thinking about my pal, my buddy, Little Jimmy Dickens. But here’s the thing…Little Jimmy wasn’t really little. He was a GIANT.
“My mind travels back to 1974 when I first met Tater. I was a skinny, ‘David Cassidy wannabe’ bass player for Dottie West, and there he was – a true Country legend who happened to be the coolest, most humble guy I’d ever been around. I couldn’t wait for the next show/next day to hang out with him and his band some more. He actually treated that pimply-faced kid like he was somebody. He took the time and cared … but that’s who Tater was.
“It was coming up on Tater’s birthday on this tour and I remember there was cake. Backstage in Lord-Knows-Where, Iowa, our guitar player Terry Ryan and I got in a fake fist fight over Jimmy or something. (Fake fights were a common thing for us on the West bus, complete with chest-smack sound effects and all). Jimmy immediately jumped right in the middle! Terry grabbed a leg, chairs were knocked over, and I grabbed the other leg, lifted him high and declared a wish was about to be made, much like a chicken pulley bone. We all laughed till we cried – and, OK, cake could possibly have been … ‘misplaced.’
“Speaking of wishes, I only wish younger folks who know Little Jimmy only as the comedic Opry host and ‘Country caricature’ (I meant that affectionately) could have seen him in his prime – healthy, young and absolutely commanding audiences. It was something to behold! “He was a master at delivering his classic Country hits: (He was known for having tremendous bands with the best of the best players. Double and triple guitar parts were his signature sound). Then he would lay side-splitting humor on them, always fresh and relevant for the day. (He was a student of comedy). Then he closed with a soul wrenching recitation that would bring you to your knees! Entertainers: YOU DID NOT WANT TO FOLLOW TATER! He was the consummate pro and ultimate entertainer. But I loved WHO he was and the fact that he never changed that. Just a plain ole ‘Country Boy’ who will sorely, surely be missed. At the risk of sounding so cliché, they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore!
“Yep, he was a GIANT alright! Goodnight Tater … TV off.” — Steve Wariner
“RIP, Little Jimmy Dickens. Loved fishing with you, loved your music and loved you as a person most.” — Chris Young (via Twitter)
“His humility, his humor, and his jokes. Oh, his jokes. I bet I’ve heard close to all of them, but they were still funny every time because his delivery was perfect. He loved making people laugh. That was his specialty. Four generations of my family have loved him. There is something special about that.
“I finally got to meet him on March 2, 2007, which was the first time I got to play the Grand Ole Opry. He was the one that introduced me to the Opry stage the first time. I will forever hold that moment in my heart. He always made every single person backstage feel like they were part of the show. I was so inspired (as I am with all the Opry stars) to watch Little Jimmy stop to take a photo with a fan and ask them where they were from and wish them well.
“I remember going to the Opry early one night for a rehearsal. I checked in and was walking to my dressing room. I heard a perfect voice coming out of the middle hallway and followed it. I walked right to Jimmy’s door, and my favorite part was that he sounded the way he did, but, also, the fact that he invited me into chat for a minute. He was just a sweetheart of a man and so welcoming all around. He is going to be missed. I will miss seeing his personalized license plate in the parking lot, but mostly, I will miss his smile. Good bye, Little Jimmy. You were and always will be an inspiration to me!” — Sunny Sweeney
“I was introduced to Little Jimmy at a charity softball game during CMA Fest at the Nashville Sounds baseball field. He told me he liked our music, and not to change our ‘get up,’ referring to our ragtag ’70s dress code. During that game, I hit seven foul balls in a row. Jimmy was the umpire, and always being the showman that he was, he said, ‘You’re out, HeadHunter! Take a tater and sit down!’ We loved to watch him play that giant J-200 Gibson guitar. He was a little man with a big guitar, and an even bigger heart.” — Richard Young/Kentucky HeadHunters