The Singer Wore Satan Pajamas
:: Jimmy Dickens - Take an Old Cold 'Tater ::
:: Jimmy Dickens - I'm Little but I'm Loud ::
Before I heard this, I didn't know much about "Little" Jimmy Dickens other than his mid-60s crossover novelty hit, "May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose". I knew this song because it played on the radio station my parents listened to in the car (probably L.A. 60s adult contemporary giant KMPC AM), otherwise I wouldn't have heard it because I had absolutely no exposure to country music. My parents hated country music, and considered it to be music for uneducated clods. I seem to remember that my Dad actually liked that song though, probably because of the Johnny Carson-like salutation in the title, and maybe it reminded him of the faux-country stylings of Red Ingle and the Natural Seven, which perfectly fed into my Dad's skewed view of country folks.
So, not knowing much about Jimmy Dickens, I was horrified when I first played "Take an Old Cold 'Tater (And Wait)" because of it's seemingly auto-biographical subject matter. It seemed to me to be a very sad tale about how a boy grew to become a very "puny" man, and it is. But "Little" Jimmy is known as the king of the country novelty song, and had been for 20 years by the time he recorded "May The Bird...", which finally put him in the national spotlight. "Take an Old Cold 'Tater" was his theme song, and by the time this album came out in 1957, he'd been delighting audiences with it for a good 10 years or so (Hank Williams nick-named him "Tater"). The song was probably a good way to make audiences feel comfortable gazing upon his 4'10" frame. So, while the song is supposed to be "funny", it's really a tale of an undernourished kid.
Born in 1920, Jimmy had a hankerin' to sing and perform since he was really small. And despite his diminutive stature, he could really belt it out (as evidenced on "I'm Little But I'm Loud"). Roy Acuff caught his act in 1947, and brought him to the Grand Ole Opry and helped him secure a deal with Columbia Records.
One cannot sustain a career singing novelty songs about ones minuscule amplitude however, so please do not assume that was the only thing Dickens sang about. He was one heck of a ballad singer as well. While at the Opry, he assembled a band, the Country Boys, that was considered one of the best in the business, and along with his flamboyant style of dress (check out that devilish shirt on the cover of "Raisin' The Dickens"!), Tater and the Boys put on one heck of a show.
So, even though the poor guy was dealt a lousy hand from a short deck, feel not too damn sorry for Little Jimmy. He remained a popular stage attraction and continued to record and sell records well into the '70s. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, and he's still alive and kickin' to this day.