It’s been 65 years since Little Jimmy Dickens made his debut on the WSM “Grand Ole Opry” barn dance. While the “Opry” has changed over the years, the 92-year-old Dickens seems as spry and witty as ever. While living in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1947-48, Dickens was invited by none other than Roy Acuff, the King of the Hillbillies, to be his guest on the show, after Dickens impressed Acuff during a Michigan appearance.
Dickens’ months in Saginaw revolved around a new radio station, WKNX, where he performed with his band, served as a radio announcer, and assisted with programming. Fiddler Casey Clark worked in similar capacities for the station managers, and Clark and Dickens often shared musicians in the days before they organized their own bands. Tex Ferguson arrived a few months later, and all three groups played shows together in schools, social halls, and a roller rink in Bad Axe. After his guest appearance at the “Opry,” Dickens moved to Nashville with encouragement from Acuff.
Jimmy Dickens was also one of the first (after Clark) living inductees into the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame.
The latest word from Nashville is that Dickens is preparing for radiation treatment on his vocal cords. Jimmy Dickens is one of the kindest people we have met in Nashville, and wish him much love and a speedy recovery.
Fans in Detroit, Saginaw, Bad Axe, and elsewhere in Michigan may send cards and notes to:
c/o Grand Ole Opry House
2804 Opryland Drive
Nashville, TN 37214
[The complete story of Jimmy Dickens at WKNX radio Saginaw is covered in Casey Clark’s biography in the forthcoming book: “Detroit Country Music – Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies,” which includes quotes from Dickens himself.]