CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While country music lost a beloved voice last week, West Virginia lost a beloved son. Little Jimmy Dickens, 94, died in a Nashville hospital. However, the music started in the tiny mining town of Bolt, West Virginia where he was born.

Michael Lipton, Director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, said Dickens was well known for his small stature at 4 feet 11 inches, and for his campy homespun songs.  However, Lipton said there was far more musical talent than most knew under the laughter and jokes.

“He’s called the ‘King of the Novelty Song’ with ‘Old Cold Tater’, ‘Hillbilly Fever,’ and ‘Out Behind the Barn.'” said Lipton. “But he was also a ballad singer and he sang gospel. He was particularly proud of that stuff just because it was so close to his heart.”

Lipton said Dickens’ musical roots ran deep in the hills and hollows of West Virginia.  He was a member of what Lipton described as West Virginia’s first “Musical Super Group” in the late 1930’s.  Jimmy sang with Molly O’Day and Johnny Bailes.  Dickens was billed in the group as “The Singing Midget.” All three are today members of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

“He had a classic West Virginia upbringing of the time,” Lipton said. “He was the 13th child of the family and his whole life he embodied West Virginia and he never quit doing that.”

Lipton said Dickens was also a trail blazer. He pioneered the dual lead guitar style which became commonplace around Nashville. He was the first country music singer to tour the world and he had top 10 hits in four decades, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

Dickens grew up in Raleigh County within a few miles of another musical legend Bill Withers. However, it wasn’t until the two of them were inducted the same year in to the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame they actually met one another.

During a 2010 interview at the Grand Ole Opry, Dickens commented on how he’d like to die.

“I think the happiest hours I spend in my last days are right here on that stage of the Grand Ole Opry,” Dickens said. “When I die, I want to die right out there  in front of those microphones with a full house trying to make them laugh. That’s about as serious as I can be about it.”

He was the longest serving member of the Opry and delivered his last performance December 20 soon after his 94th birthday.

“It was quite remarkable,” said Lipton. “It’s great and just shows music is something you can do your entire life and still have a great time doing it and he clearly always did.”

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  • tina wharton

    I moved to wv 40 yrs ago after living in pa and being born in nj wv is a beautiful state to live in and raise a family the people make the state what it is some good some bad but wv is my homw now and forever rip Jimmy Dickens

  • rick

    I will miss Jimmy Dickens. One of my favorite things was to be back at my mountain camp listening to Dickens, et al, on the Opry on the weekends. He did great funny songs and even better on the old ballads. I will miss that greatly. He stood like a beacon for the best WV has to offer. Like is what you make of it no matter where you come from or where you are going.

  • winston

    some may not understand my deep love for WV just like I don't understand how you could not love WV I may not even know who Jimmy Dickens was if he were not from here.

  • John

    Worthless ; If you can't make it here, Your chances aren't much better any where else ? It is all about attitude which will be the same regardless where you hang your hat. Jimmy Dickens (rest his soul) would never had made it if his attitude was like yours for his dad would have adjusted it ( Out Behined the Barn).

    • John

      I was responding to Worthless WV, put as moderate as could? Sorry if it not enough.

  • Steve from York

    First of all, Little Jimmy Dickens will be missed! He was one of a kind. R.I.P, Jimmy.

    Concerning Worthless WV's comment....I am sick and tired of all the negative comments about WV and reasons for leaving WV. I guess I'm glad people who don't like it leave. Good riddance! I for one miss the Great State of West Virginia and I can tell you that I'd move back in a heartbeat, if I could. Yes, there are things that we could change to make it better but the same issues are elsewhere, too. But, it's always going to be home to me!!

  • Tim

    R.I.P. Jimmy :(

  • Worthless WV

    That why he got the heck out of this worthless state. Only visited once a year. That's why I left nothing there worth having.

    • BH

      You still sound pretty miserable. Wherever you go there you are.

    • cutty77

      Don't let The Door hit where The Good Lord Split You.

    • Matt

      Then why are you looking at a WV website?