A living legend has passed from among us and we have lost someone huge. This last Friday, January 2nd, at a Nashville hospital, Little Jimmie Dickens passed away at age 94. It’s easy enough these days to go to the Web and search all about the details of the life of Nashville’s Biggest Littlest Legend. What you won’t find in books and research is the genuine human quality that was much much bigger than the 4′ 11″ tall Little ‘Tater embodied that was unique. With only one #1 song to his name, it’s not necessarily his recording career that made the biggest impact.
I first met Little Jimmie Dickens in a most peculiar way – on a bus. I was in Nashville for my first visit to the city and decided to take a tour of “Homes of the Stars,” the kind I’m sure most stars would HATE having drive by their house, day-in and day-out, trying to get a peek into their personal world. Jimmie didn’t feel that way, though, and when we came near his house, the bus stopped, and Jimmie Dickens came onboard, unplanned, unannounced and gave all onboard the thrill of a lifetime, just to meet the man. That was over a decade ago.
Since that time, I have walked the path that has taken me “inside” Nashville, and there again was LJD being himself, and being as selfless as ever. I met up with him in Las Vegas and I introduced myself and asked a little about him. He invited me to sit next to him while he played slot machines for about a half hour, just visiting while playing One-Armed Bandits. Jimmie didn’t know me from anyone else, but asked with eagerness about my career and my family, and told me about his family.
Fast forward to 2011 and the first Grand Ole Opry performance of a then-client singer/songwriter, Katie Armiger; Little Jimmie Dickens was the Opry legend who introduced Katie for her first performance on that magical, legendary stage. I was in the audience that night and again, I never saw a man under 5 feet tall looking so huge!
I am so hopeful that the stars of today who are following in his footsteps can be even half as genuine and down to earth as he was. Little Jimmie Dickens is in the Country Music Association Hall of Fame, but more importantly to me, he is in the Hall of Fame in my heart. He will be dearly missed.