Little Jimmy Dickens, 94, the diminutive country singer and Grand Ole Opry star best known for his humorous novelty songs, died Friday, Jan. 2, at a hospital near Nashville. The Opry announced the death and said the cause was cardiac arrest.
Mr. Dickens, who stood 4-foot-11, was known as "the little man with the big voice." He endeared himself to country audiences with his jovial personality, rhinestone-studded suits, and a crackerjack band that included some of the finest session players in Nashville.
His size became a running joke in his performances. As the youngest of 13 children born to a West Virginia farmer, he called himself the "runt of the litter."
He liked to quote a woman who saw him play: "Came to see Little Jimmy Dickens, but all I saw was Mighty Mouse in his pajamas."
Mr. Dickens placed 13 hits on the Billboard Top 40 country charts between 1949 and 1967.
He specialized in novelty songs, including "Take an Old Cold Tater (and Wait)" (1949) and "A-Sleepin' at the Foot of the Bed" (1950), which made light of his hardscrabble rural childhood and small size. Hank Williams nicknamed him "Tater" after the hit record.
Another song proclaimed "I'm Little But I'm Loud" (1950) - not an idle boast, as Mr. Dickens could project his voice to the back of any auditorium. Indeed, his 1983 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame noted that his "big voice and brassy style made him a longtime favorite with country fans."
One of his biggest hits was "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" (1965), which was briefly No. 1 on the country charts and No. 15 on the pop charts. His 1963 recording of the ballad "Another Bridge to Burn" became a honky-tonk standard.
"His appeal is his consistency, his mastery of the stage, and the wide variety of song material," John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, told the Washington Post. "He is very folksy and speaks to the audience in very colorful, realistic language."
The relentless drive of Mr. Dickens' band, the Country Boys, on such 1950s recordings as "Hillbilly Fever" and "Salty Boogie" anticipated the style later known as rockabilly. The group's alumni included pedal steel guitarists Curly Chalker and Buddy Emmons and lead guitarists Grady Martin and Kenneth "Thumbs" Carllile, all later members of the so-called Nashville A-team of session players.
Mr. Dickens' first marriage, to Connie Dickens, ended in divorce. His second wife, Ernestine Jones, died in a car accident in 1968. Survivors include his third wife, Mona Dickens.