James Cecil Dickens, 19 December 1920, Bolt, West Virginia, USA. Dickens has summarized his early life as the youngest of 13 children in humorous country songs such as A-Sleeping At The Foot Of The Bed and Out Behind The Barn. He had no intention of following his father into the coalmines, and being 4 feet 11 inches tall effectively ruled it out. When he was aged 17, he played guitar and sang on local radio with Johnny Bailes And His Happy Valley Boys as The Singing Midget and Jimmy the Kid. Dickens then worked with T. Texas Tyler but when Tyler joined the forces, he worked in his own right, being spotted in Saginaw, Michigan, by Roy Acuff. Acuff arranged a contract with US Columbia Records in 1948 and he recorded several songs including Country Boy and Take An Old Cold Tater And Wait. His 1950 recording Hillbilly Fever provided a foretaste of rockabilly. He toured Germany with Hank Williams and he helped to start the career of the young Marty Robbins.
In 1964, Dickens claimed to be the first country artist to circle the globe on a world tour. He achieved a crossover hit in 1965 with May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose, his only US country number 1. Dressed in colourful cowboy suits, he summarized himself in Im Little But Im Loud, and June Carter described him as Mighty Mouse in his pyjamas. Despite being associated with comedy material, he also recorded quavering versions of country weepies such as Life Turned Her That Way and Shopping For Dresses, and made two religious albums. He was a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry from 1949-57 and also from 1975 onwards. Dickens was elected to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in October 1983, and in his acceptance speech, he said, I want to thank Mr. Acuff for his faith in me years ago.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.