Despite the occasional serious song, proud West Virginia native James Cecil Dickens carved a niche in Nashville as one of country music's earliest and best funny men. As a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the country artist was a favorite with listeners on the country charts as well as the pop charts. His hits like "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed" and "Out Behind the Barn" made him a household name over the years.
Roy Acuff first heard Dickens on a Saginaw, Mich. radio station in 1948, and pointed Columbia Records to his new discovery. At legit 4' 11", the diminutive Dickens looked like an even tinier version of Hank Snow when he'd hit stages in rhinestone-studded outfits. With visuals meaning more and more in the age of stage shows like the Grand Ole Opry, which would soon give way to television, Dickens wisely used his stature (in more ways than one) and sense of humor to stand out among all of those great old country singers.
Looking back at his biggest hits, Dickens was more than a clown in the Opry's three-ring circus. He cut quite a few classic country hits of his own, mixing humorous novelty songs that suited his image with more serious material that's on par with the output of his fellow Country Music Hall of Fame inductees. It's also worth mentioning that he changed with the times smoothly, with some of the songs not mentioned here covering the transition from West Virginia hillbilly ("Hot Diggity Dog") to Memphis rockabilly ("(I Got) A Hole In My Pocket").
Dickens lived until 2015, serving as an elder statesman to young friends like Brad Paisley. Along the way, Dickens made a mark on country music lovers with the following greatest hits, plus numerous others from decades of memorable releases.
Here are our 10 favorite Little Jimmy Dickens songs.
10. "My Heart's Bouquet"
It's not all laughs in Dickens' back catalog. His more genuine cute include this sweet, reminiscent love song.
9. "John Henry"
Dickens passed along old stories in song, whether it was what must've been his daddy's homespun wisdom or this classic folk tale.
8. "Salty Boogie"
Back when the influence of string bands and fiddling contests still lingered in mainstream country music, Dickens led the white-hot band that shows off a little on this classic cut.
7. "Blackeyed Joe's"
Southern food, including Dickens' beloved taters and cornbread, plus what you'd expect at a burger joint are all on the menu at this fictitious restaurant in the Carolinas.
6. "When the Ship Hit the Sand"
This one sounds a lot like "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose," but it's a different type of funny song. While the better-known song is calculated nonsense, this one tells a more fleshed-out, yet still silly, story.
5. "Take an Old Cold Tater (and Wait)"
Dickens sang what's got to be the best song about the perils of the kids' table. He reckons that such struggles are why he remained small in stature as an adult.
4. "Country Boy"
This isn't the Ricky Skaggs song, but it shares a nearly identical message. It, too, lauds being yourself always, even around city slickers.
3. "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose"
Dickens set the stage for Roger Miller and Ray Stevens with this fun and memorable yet nonsensical and wordy novelty song.
2. "Hillbilly Fever"
Little Jimmy adds levity to the narrative about country music going uptown by diagnosing his own addiction to the sweet sounds of Hank Williams.
1. "I'm Little But I'm Loud"
With Dickens creating such a great character, it makes sense to top the list with this autobiographical statement, of sorts.