Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Famer Little Jimmy Dickens has died at the age of 94.

The veteran country star, known for his irreverent songs, was admitted to a Nashville hospital on Christmas (Dec. 25) after suffering a stroke and was in "critical care." On New Year's Eve (Dec. 31), Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher announced that Dickens' health was improving each day, but the singer's stroke caused a heart attack that took his life on Jan. 2.

Dickens was involved in music right up to the end, last performing at the Opry just days before his hospitalization, on Dec. 20, as part of his birthday celebration; the singer turned 94 on Dec. 19.

"The Grand Ole Opry did not have a better friend than Little Jimmy Dickens,” Fisher says. “He loved the audience and his Opry family, and all of us loved him back. He was a one-of-kind entertainer and a great soul whose spirit will live on for years to come."

Born in Bolt, W. Va., on Dec. 19, 1920, Dickens began his musical career in the late 1930s, attending West Virginia University and performing on a local radio station. He quit school to pursue music full time under the name of Jimmy the Kid. Eventually, he signed with Columbia, joined the Opry in 1948 and began using the stage name Little Jimmy Dickens. The singer was born James Cecil Dickens and gained the memorable nickname due to his short stature: 4 feet, 11 inches.

The novelty songs he recorded for Columbia included 'I'm Little But I'm Loud,' 'Country Boy,' 'Out Behind the Barn,' 'A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed' and 'Take an Old Cold Tater (and Wait),' among many other notable tracks. His climb to fame continued, and eventually in 1964, Dickens became the first country artist to have a worldwide tour. In the late '60s, he switched to Decca Records and finally ended up at United Artists in 1971.

The unforgettable 'May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose' was released in 1965, giving Dickens his biggest hit ever and also producing one of the funniest titles in the history of country music. In 1983, Dickens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Today's country fans recognize Dickens for his comedy bits with star Brad Paisley and the hilarious CMA Awards skits in which he starred. His glitzy stage wardrobe -- embellished with countless rhinestones -- and one-of-a-kind novelty songs are enduring, and his quick wit and humor made this fine country star as one of the most entertaining and well-loved in the business.

Dickens is survived by his wife Mona and daughters Pamela Detert and Lisa King. Funeral arrangements for the icon include a visitation and celebration of life, both open to the public.

Little Jimmy Dickens Through the Years

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