Longtime Grand Ole Opry Member "Little" Jimmy Dickens Has Died

Posted by Billyjam, January 3, 2015 03:45pm | Post a Comment

According to several published reports today, country singing legend and longtime regular at the Grand Ole Opry "Little" Jimmy Dickens has died. With the cause listed as cardiac arrest (following being hospitalized from suffering a stroke a week ago), Dickens died yesterday in a Nashville-area hospital at age 94. According to a press release issued by the Grand Ole Opry, he was the last living member of the Grand Ole Opry who was actually older than the radio show itself. In his long lifetime, "Little" Jimmy Dickens became famous for his novelty hit records beginning with 1949's "Take An Old Cold Tater (And Wait)," "I'm Little but I'm Loud," "Sleeping At The Foot of the Bed," and "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" - the latter of which (a 1965 number one hit single) was reportedly inspired by Johnny Carson's Tonight Show sketch "Carnac the Magnificent." See the video interview below in which he talks about the mixed blessing of becoming known primarily for his novelty songs, as well as other topics such as what he wanted to be remembered for in life.

"Little" Jimmy Dickens, who earned his name for his diminutive stature (he stood 4' 11"), was a man with a self-deprecating sense of humor and would routinely get laughs by drawing attention to his own height with such witty catchphrases as calling himself "Willie Nelson after taxes."  Dickens first joined the Opry cast in 1948 and would stay with them right up the end making his final appearance on the Opry stage just two weeks ago on December 20th, 2014 - the day after his 94th birthday. Dickens, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, leaves behind a back catalog of music spanning several decades as many record labels and including a few dozen singles and twelve albums in addition to a string of various artist compilations he appeared on. Look for Dickens' material at Amoeba online as well as in the Amoeba stores.

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Tears in your beers -- Country tunes for Tax Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 15, 2014 09:35am | Post a Comment
Krazy Kat and crew

Income taxes -- they're no fun -- especially when you're poor. 

There are few escapes from them, too. Most of the few countries which don't have them are located in Arabia, where massive corporate taxes on even more massive oil revenue make them unnecessary. In the US, on the other hand, corporate income taxes only account for about 9% of federal government receipts (we may have the highest nominal corporate tax rate in the world but the effective corporate tax rate is much lower) whereas individual income taxes account for about 41%. That might, at first glance, seem high but our individual income taxes are actually low compared to those of most countries. In the developed world, only Chileans, Mexicans, and Turks contribute less to their countries' GDPs... or something (my mind glazed over for a second). 

Enough about percentages and Arabia -- what if you want to stay in America but still avoid taxes. You could always go Unabomber or embark upon a black market career... as Big Daddy Kane told us, "pushers don't pay taxes." But Jesus wouldn't approve of either of those options. The Messiah made his opinions on taxes known in the Gospel of Matthew, and even got a little testy:

The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.


Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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Pan-American Blues -- Black Country

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 27, 2013 06:32pm | Post a Comment

If one listens to a “hillbilly” record like, say, Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel” back-to-back with a “race” record like Lead Belly’s “Cow Cow Yiki” it should become immediately clear to the listener that often the distinction between these two genres has for many years been (and continues to be) more of an industry marketing rather than musicological one. After decades of segregation, one needn’t watch the CMT Music Awards to know that Country music has for a long time been almost totally dominated by white performers. However, there have always been black country musicians and more continue to emerge. Whether or not they're embraced by the Nashville industry or public is another question.


To Americans for whom there are only two coasts (the East and West), the South is with tiresome regularity portrayed and imagined to be a homogeneous region populated entirely by menacing, toothless, racist rednecks (whereas the North is totally free of racists, naturally). If these regionalist haters ever bothered to explore the South they’d likely be surprised by the physical and cultural variety of the Appalachians, the Delta, the Deep South, the Old South, the Ozarks, the Piedmont, the Upper South, the cities and countryside and so on. It would probably surprise many of them to learn that almost every single county in the country with a majority black population is located in the South since they imagine everyone there to be a white Republican.

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Western Music - Kind of a Latino Thing - Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 4, 2011 04:46pm | Post a Comment

Gene Autry and Lois Wile in the Singing Cowboy 1936

I love Western music. Not "Western music" as in "music rooted in European traditions," but rather the "Western" of "Country & Western." Cowboy Music. In many ways, Country and Western is an odd pairing. The two genres seem to be at complete odds. Sure, the performers evince a similar sartorial sensibility, but the subject matter of Western music is about hard-working buckeroos following honor and dogies out under the wide open sky.

Country karaoke

Country, which I love too, is quite the opposite. Country celebrates the sedentary life - working and dying in the same small town, farm, or trailer court in which you were born -- and to hell with ethical codes of conduct; get drunk, cheat on your wife, and show up for your crappy job hungover.

Musically speaking, they're only distant cousins - no more closely related than Bluegrass and Jazz, House and Rap, Rock 'n' Roll and the Blues  -- but of those examples, only Country & Western get so invariably lumped together as a single genre that people usually omit the "Western" altogether.

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