Country singer and songwriter Little Jimmy Dickens, a regular and popular performer on the Grand Ole Opry since 1948, died of cardiac arrest in a Nashville hospital Friday. His death followed a stroke he suffered on Christmas day.
Dickens’ last performance was Dec. 20, a day before his 94th birthday. He sang his hit from back in the day, “Out Behind the Barn,” and did his usual comedy shtick. In the AP obit on Dickens it was said that he was “known for his sense of humor.” I guess if you’re a guy and you’re 4-foot 11 (standing up) you damn well better have a sense of humor.
Appearing on stage in 2008 with country singer Trace Adkins, who stands 6-foot-6, Dickens eschewed cliché lines like, “How’s the weather up there?” Instead he climbed a stepladder to be eyeball to eyeball with Adkins and said, “You’re so tall, if you fell down you’d be halfway home when you got up.”
Dickens made fun of getting older. (What else can you do about it?) A few years back on the Opry he observed, “When you’re 88 and see a pretty girl in a bikini, your pacemaker makes the garage door go up.”
Most of Dickens’ hits appeared only on the country charts, including such as “Behind the Barn” and “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait.” But one of his novelty songs, “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” did cross over to the pop charts and rested briefly at #1 in 1983.
Dickens was the 13th child of a West Virginia coal mining family. He’s survived by his wife and two daughters.