I wrote a note to Breihan, and in part noted the following.
Your description of Little Jimmy Dickens was wrong and in poor taste. He was a true gentlemen entertainer, understanding who had made him famous and never forgot how much of a bond was shared over the many decades from the stage to the audience and back again.
When a writer wants to lift someone up in memory at the time of their passing, but need to undermine another entertainer at the same time….
The word of the week was “inspiration” at the Ryman Auditorium to best describe the legacies of Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe, who now have life-size bronze statues outside of the historic landmark and help celebrate the Ryman’s 125th anniversary. Dickens’ statue is on display next to Café Lula while Monroe is featured at the opposite side near the main entrance.
Both Brad Paisley and Ricky Skaggs have personal connections to the stars they were honoring. Dickens had been a longtime mentor and friend to the contemporary country star, with emcee Bill Cody citing a special memory of when Paisley welcomed Dickens “home” when they returned to the Opry circle after repairing the historic venue from the devastating flood in 2010. “This is a man who his tenure, his time, in our format is an amazing accomplishment in itself, but we forget how important he was to country music as we know it,” Paisley said on behalf of his friend.
The “Today” singer hailed Dickens’ career, saying he witnessed a variety of changes in the genre across his multi-decade tenure in the genre, which included several top 10 hits, in addition to being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, making him the oldest living member up until his death in 2015. In spite of the ebb and flow of change, there was always one element that remained constant: Dickens’ loyalty to the Opry. “I think it’s really appropriate that he’s one of the statues that are going to be a sort of reminder of what we should be in this building,” Paisley says. “By the time that Jimmy left us, he had become the Grand Ole Opry.”
Skaggs has an equally sentimental connection to Monroe, who actually got to perform with the bluegrass legend when he was just six years old in his hometown of Martha, Ken. Skaggs even got to wear Monroe’s leather bootstring while playing “Ruby Are You Mad at Your Man” during a night he’ll never forget. “I don’t think he knew what he did, but I knew what he did to me,” Skaggs said about the special story, who managed to strike up a close friendship with Monroe after moving to Nashville.
Known as the “Father of Bluegrass,” Monroe spent nearly 70 years spearheading the genre, leading him to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with a string of hit songs and countless other honors. “I don’t know if you ever get another Bill Monroe in a century. There’s not a lot of people that I know of and that can be cited as creating a whole new genre of music, but he did,” Skaggs praises of Monroe. “He had the ear to hear it, he had the talent to play it, he had the heart to keep it alive because he was strong, he was powerful.”
Thanks to my friend Terry Tyson for alerting me late tonight that the wife of famed Grand Ole Opry Star Little Jimmy Dickens shared my link about the First Ladies on her Facebook page. The post which I placed on the Caffeinated Politics FB page Sunday has gone viral. At this posting there have been 15,229,351 views.
Dickens signed my guitar and remains a legend for all time. Needless to say this really moves me.
A longtime fixture on the legendary Grand Ole Opry has passed away. Guitarist James Edward “Spider” Wilson died Thursday at the age of 79.
It has been reported that Wilson was so enamored with country music as a young man that he used to stand outside an open window of the Ryman Auditorium and listen to Hank Williams perform. There is clearly a nostalgic image for such a scene. It was not long before Wilson began playing with Little Jimmy Dickens and his band in 1947, and toured with Ray Price before joining the house band at the Grand Ole Opry in 1953, before he was out of his teens.
One can just imagine all the stories that Wilson could tell about the early days of the Grand Ole Opry and the first big stars that made WSM radio the “The Air Castle Of The South”. Wilson held that job at the Opry for more than five decades. Over his lifetime he also was a popular studio musician and can lay claim to having worked with just about every major country sdinger in Nashville.
Sadly, however, his tenure at the Opry came to an end in November of 2006 when he quit the house band after 53 years, claiming that he was being excluded from the televised segments of the Opry broadcasts, which paid more than the portions that aired on the radio.
It was more a celebration of life than a funeral. As it should be.
(Click on pictures for larger version.)
The celebration of life service for 94-year-old “Little” Jimmy Dickens was held at the Grand Ole Opry today and featured performances from Steve Wariner, Bobby Tomberlin, Chris Young, Old Crow Medicine Show, Connie Smith, Vince Gill and Carrie Underwood. With Dickens’ glittering stage clothes placed on the stage and a most special placement of his hat, boots, and guitar in the fame circle–the last living person to have known all that had once stood there–the audience was taken on a two-hour journey through Dickens’ life. It was a bittersweet event.
As James and I do every weekend when we are in the car, and when it is time for the Grand Ole Opry to hit the airwaves, the radio dial was tuned for the beginning of the show. The start of this evening’s broadcast was very different from all the others that we have enjoyed as we travel along doing either errands or going to dinner. Tonight the start of the broadcast was somber and sad. News I had not expected to hear was broadcast in a pained voice. Even though this past week everyone had been aware of the critical nature concerning the health of one of the most beloved members of the Opry family no one was really prepared to hear the news.
It was Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher who walked center stage and made the announcement to the audience that several hours before the longest running radio show was to start on WSM radio “Little” Jimmy Dickens had died in a Nashville hospital. The country music singer had suffered a stroke on Christmas Day at home and then passed away from a heart attack this afternoon.
There is a bittersweet aspect to the news and the way it was delivered to many of us around the nation because the announcement took place from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music. For the lovers of the Opry and classic country music there is no more of an explanation needed. This is the place where memories and music have combined for decades, where Dickens made a name for himself, where his contemporaries and those who were up-and-coming all took center stage every Friday and Saturday night.
In my heart, knowing that Dickens never lost his country roots, I am quite certain that the announcement from the Ryman stage prior to the start of another Opry broadcast was just about the best one can ask for when it comes to the end of life’s road.
“Little” Jimmy Dickens was more than just a member of the Opry, where he last performed on December 20th, just a day after turning 94. He was more than a great singer, in my estimation, of ballads. For me Dickens was one of those gentlemen entertainers who are in short supply.
I had the great fortune to have attended three shows where the Opry legend performed. Two of them were outside of Nashville, with the other being on the Grand Ole Opry stage. In both of the road shows it would have been easy for Dickens to have left the building and boarded his bus and ventured down the road. But that was not how he operated. The show was not over until everyone who wanted a handshake, an autograph, and for one guy who brought his guitar (that would be me) a minute to comment while holding the instrument and placing a special life-time memory upon it.
Dickens did not need to tour or linger with his fans. But he did so as he understood who had made him famous and never forgot how much of a bond was shared over the many years from the stage to the audience and back again.
Your blogger in 1998 with “Little” Jimmy Dickens
As the years moved along age took a toll on Dickens’ voice, but he never once stopped being an entertainer. He was able to add spark to his performances with witty comments and stories that never seemed old due to the fact that every time they were told a twinkle in Dickens’ eye made the audience alert to the fact there was still fire and energy in the man who was center-stage.
I spent a lot of my time at the Opry House as close to the stage as I could get.
We lost more than just a man today who was an Opry legend. We lost more than someone who was a touchstone to the days of Hank Williams Jr. and Roy Acuff. Today with the death of “Little” Jimmy Dickens we lost one of those entertainers who also was just a warm-hearted and nice man who made all of us a little bit richer just having had the chance to hear him sing and laugh.
There are many sad folks around the nation tonight but I am mighty sure that the big red curtain in heaven has opened for one of the nicest men ever to have left Nashville.
This might very well be the best news story of the entire weekend. (And it is a long weekend, too.)
Little Jimmy Dickens, the 92-year-old Grand Ole Opry star, was back on the famed circle of wood Friday night after having radiation treatments for a pre-cancerous condition on his vocal chords.
Listeners to the longest-running radio show in America will know much of this year found the star missing each weekend when the big curtain lifted. Dickens has been a fixture on the Opry since he became a member in 1948.
There is something every special when hearing the legend performing again.
After a week when Miley Cyrus embarrassed herself on television it is good to know that a solid performer like Dickens who has weathered it all still stands strong.
There is a lesson here for Cyrus who seems unable to square her need for fame with her obvious need to grow up and mature. After strutting like a stripper without a pole in front of anyone who had nothing better to do than watch she now would be advised to take a lesson from Dickens.
Dickens came up in the music industry when singers went from one radio station to the next asking for their records to be played. They pulled their truck into a grocery store parking lot and sang a few songs from the bed of the vehicle, and once done climbed down and sold their own records to the crowd before moving on to the next town. There was no slick PR to make anyone more than what they were.
In the end the ones with real talent found their way to the tips of tongues of people all over the nation. There is something to be said for taking the slower route to the top, while learning to live life along the way.
At age 92 Dickens is loved at the Opry, by young and old alike. Watch the crowds, or listen to them to see the reaction when he walks out on the stage.
Meanwhile Miley Cyrus created a spectacle from her performance that made a week’s worth of headlines, but is viewed more and more as a troubled performer on the edge of what happens to so many like her. There is no one who thinks that Cyrus will be anywhere near a stage being greeted with applause in 70 years.