Little Jimmy Dickens Remembered at Touching Memorial Service [PICTURES]
Little Jimmy Dickens was remembered and celebrated in a big way on Thursday (Jan. 8) at a star-studded memorial service at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.
His death at the age of 94 came as a big shock to country fans and musicians alike. No one was loved more than Dickens, a fact that was apparent during the service. The singer had been a member of the Opry since 1948, and the legendary spot -- a place where he had a whole lot of memories, laughter, friends and accomplishments -- was the perfect place to remember Dickens' life and legacy.
Three of Dickens' rhinestone-covered suits, a guitar, cowboy boots and white hat were displayed on the stage -- physical representations of his storied musical career and always-entertaining presence. Country star Brad Paisley oversaw the service.
"There are a few things I know you're not going to hear about Little Jimmy today," Paisley said, setting the tone for the day. "You won't hear somebody say: 'I wish he hadn't taken himself so seriously. I wish he'd made more friends. I wish he'd taken more chances. I wish he'd enjoyed his life more. I wish he'd found true love. I wish he'd treated people better. I wish he was taller.'
"He was exactly the size we needed him to be," the 'Whiskey Lullaby' hitmaker, who was a longtime friend and fishing buddy of the 4-foot, 11-inch Dickens, added. "I, for one, don’t want to live in a world of ‘Big’ Jim Dickens.”
During the service, country music personalities remembered Dickens' life by telling stories and singing songs. Steve Wariner performed Dickens' hit 'Country Boy,' singer-songwriter Bobby Tomberlin sang 'Little Love Story,' and Chris Young, another of Dickens' fishing buddies, sang 'No Tears in Heaven.'
"Every single time I saw him, he, one, had a joke, and two, had a smile on his face," Young recalled.
Legendary figure skater Scott Hamilton added a bit of humor into the service, saying, "I felt a kinship to him, probably because we’re both of average height ... Also maybe because I made a living just like he did, performing in a lot of beads and spangles.”
Connie Smith sang 'How Great Thou Art,' Old Crow Medicine Show reminisced on Dickens' friendliness to all new members of the Opry, and Vince Gill was joined by Carrie Underwood to sing 'Go Rest High on That Mountain.' Many stars were emotional during their tributes, including Underwood, who noted that Dickens kissed her hand every time he saw her.
“I called my mom, and I was so excited. I was telling her, ‘I’m going to be on the Grand Ole Opry! This is crazy!’" said the 'Blown Away' singer, brushing away tears. "And she told me, ‘Watch out for Jimmy Dickens, because he likes the pretty girls.”
Gill was also personally touched by Dickens, thoughtfully noting, "If they say that only the good die young, well, evidently the greatest of all live to be 94 and sing two weeks before they pass on." Dickens last played the Grand Ole Opry on Dec. 20, a day after his 94th birthday, just before he was admitted to the hospital on Christmas.
Paisley also performed his song 'When I Get Where I’m Going,' but one of the highlights of the two-hour service came at the end, when Paisley tearfully introduced the traditional closing number, 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken,' and brought all the performers back to the stage.
"At 94, your journey has ended," he said through tears. “We’ll take it from here, little buddy."
Little Jimmy Dickens Through the Years