Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy birthday, Little Jimmy Dickens!

Country Music Hall of Fame member James Cecil Dickens—better known to Grand Ole Opry fans as “Little Jimmy Dickens” turns ninety years old today, and so it’s fitting that he should be in Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s birthday spotlight.  I’m proud to say that Jimmy and I both hail from the Mountain State; Dickens was born in Bolt, WV and began his musical career performing country music on a local station while attending West Virginia University in the 1930s.  The performer in him soon decided to shelve higher learning and go into the business full time, and so he went out on the road as “Jimmy the Kid.”  It was the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, who gave Jimmy his big break after hearing him on a Saginaw, MI radio station in 1948—Acuff introduced Dickens to some people from both Columbia Records and the Opry and was signed up in August (Opry) and September (Columbia).  Because of his short stature (he was 4’11”), he decided to bill himself as “Little” Jimmy Dickens.

Dickens’ musical repertoire consisted of country songs with a novelty flavor, and he placed such tunes as Country Boy, My Heart’s Bouquet, A-Sleepin’ at the Foot of the Bed, Hillbilly Fever and Out Behind the Barn in the Top Ten between 1949 and 1954.  Another Top Ten smash, Take an Old Cold ‘Tater (and Wait), inspired singer-songwriter Hank Williams to nickname Dickens “Tater”; Williams held Jimmy in such high regard that he originally penned his classic Hey, Good Lookin’ for Dickens to record, confident that it would be a hit.  But a week later, Hank changed his mind and recorded the song on his own, jokingly telling Jimmy that the song was too good for him.

After his initial burst of chart activity, Jimmy had to wait a while for another big hit to come his way, which finally happened in 1962 with the Top Ten The Violet and the Rose.  Three years later he would score his biggest career hit, a song that topped the country charts and also went to #15 on the Pop music charts, May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.

An enthusiastic, energy-filled performer who is beloved by his fans, Jimmy continues to live up to one of his signature songs—I’m Little, But I’m Loud—and with the passing of Hank Locklin last year, is the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry as of this post.  TDOY wishes “Tater” the happiest of natal anniversaries…and we haven’t forgotten these fellow celebrants, either…

Ralph Richardson (1902-1983) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include The Fallen Idol, The Heiress, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Doctor Zhivago, The Wrong Box and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

H. Allen Smith (1907-1976) – Journalist-humorist whose works include Low Man on a Totem Pole and Life in a Putty Knife Factory

Bill Carlisle (1908-2003) – Country music singer-songwriter who performed with his older brother Cliff as the Carlisles; later became a solo artist and scored this big novelty hit:

Édith Piaf (1915-1963) – French chanteuse and pop culture icon considered by some to be that country’s greatest popular singer

Roy Ward Baker (1916-2010) – English motion picture and television director whose oeuvre includes The October Man, Don’t Bother to Knock, A Night to Remember, Quatermass and the Pit, Scars of Dracula and Asylum

Paul Brinegar (1917-1995) – Stage, screen and television character actor beloved by legions of couch potatoes as crotchety cattle drive cook Wishbone on TV’s Rawhide; also had regular gigs on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Lancer and Matt Houston

David Susskind (1920-1987) – Emmy Award-winning television, movie and theatrical producer and TV talk show host best known for producing such series as Way Out, East Side/West Side and N.Y.P.D. and for moderating the landmark talk show Open End

Eamonn Andrews (1922-1987) – Irish television presenter and personality who’s best known as the host of the UK versions of What’s My Line? and This is Your Life

Gordon Jackson (1923-1980) – Scottish-born stage, screen and television character who’s perhaps best remembered as butler Hudson on TV’s Upstairs, Downstairs and George Cowley on The Professionals

Edmund Purdom (1924-2009) – English-born stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Julius Caesar, The Egyptian, The King’s Thief, The Yellow Rolls-Royce and TV’s Sword of Freedom

Gary Morton (1924-1999) – Standup comedian who, if you’d ever seen his act, made the smartest career move a person could ever make by marrying Lucille Ball and becoming executive producer of her TV shows (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, etc.)

Robert B. Sherman (1925-     ) – Academy Award-winning songwriter-composer who, along with younger brother Richard, wrote songs and scores for such films as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Tom Sawyer and The Slipper and the Rose

Herb Stempel (1926-     ) – Footnote in television history as the Twenty-One contestant and champion who blew the whistle on fellow contestant Charles Van Doren, thus setting the stage for the quiz show scandals of the 1950s

Cicely Tyson (1933-     ) – Emmy-winning stage, screen and television actress best known for her roles in such TV productions as East Side/West Side, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Roots, King and A Woman Called Moses

Wayne Maunder (1935-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor who scored regular roles on such TV series as Custer, Lancer and Chase

Barbara Bostock (1935-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress best known as neighbor Carol Parker on the TV sitcom Love on a Rooftop

Phil Ochs (1940-1976) – Folk singer-songwriter

Maurice White (1941-     ) – Pop/R&B singer-songwriter, record producer and one-time front man for Earth, Wind and Fire

Sam Kelly (1943-     ) – Britcom icon who had regular roles on such shows as Porridge, Now and Then, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Haggard, On the Up and Barbara

Tim Reid (1944-     ) – Television icon who had regular gigs on such TV series as WKRP in Cincinnati, Teachers Only, Simon & Simon, Frank’s Place and Sister, Sister

John McEuen (1945-     ) – Folk musician-songwriter, record producer and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Elaine Joyce (1945-     ) – Stage, screen and television singer-actress whose TV gigs include Mr. Merlin and a gazillion game shows; married to playwright Neil Simon

Robert Urich (1946-2002) – Television icon who had regular gigs on such TV series as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, S.W.A.T., Soap, Tabitha, Vega$, Gavilan, Spenser: For Hire, American Dreamer, Crossroads, It Had to Be You, The Lazarus Man and Emeril

Janie Fricke (1947-     ) – Country music vocalist who started out as one of the industry’s best known backup performers (including several hits by Johnny Duncan) before going solo in 1977

Walter Murphy (1952-     ) – Emmy Award-winning instrumentalist/composer who might have just been a musical footnote with the 1976 disco hit A Fifth of Beethoven but who has gone on to compose music for such TV shows as The Commish and Family Guy

Francesca P. Roberts (1953-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actress whom I always remember as Anna-May the waitress on Frank’s Place but she’s also had regular gigs on such shows as Have Faith, Baby Talk and Fired Up

Mike Lookinland (1960-     ) – Former moppet actor who cemented his television immortality by playing youngest Brady son Bobby on The Brady Bunch and its various spin-offs and permutations

Jill Talley (1962-     ) – Comic actress and voice artist who’s been featured on such TV shows as The Edge, Mr. Show with Bob & Dave, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Boondocks

Jennifer Beals (1963-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Flashdance, The Bride, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Last Days of Disco and TV’s The L Word

Kristy Swanson (1969-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Deadly Friend, Hot Shots!, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Chase and The Phantom

Alyssa Milano (1972-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress best known for her regular TV gigs on Who’s the Boss?, Melrose Place and Charmed

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Peggy said...

Both Tim Reid and Francesca P. Roberts from Frank’s Place!! Just reminds me of how much I would love to see that series....if only it would be released to DVD.

Scott said...

MST3K fans will remember Roy Ward Baker as the director of the thrill-free sci-fi thriller Moon Zero Two, which featured some fairly cool art direction and model work, along with the introduction of painfully erect nipples as a spacesuit fashion statement.