In August 1948 (the exact date is lost to history), Jimmy Dickens joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 65th anniversary since he first joined the Opry. I bring this up as each year in August, the Opry would make a special mention of Jimmy's anniversary and have an Opry segment dedicated to him. You would have figured with this being Jimmy's 65th, there would be something big planned. However, this year appears to be different.
With only one weekend left in August, nothing at all has been mentioned about Jimmy and there is no sign that anything will be said this coming weekend. With out speculating, it would appear that this might be another sign that not all is well with Mr. Dickens. Jimmy last appeared on the Opry back in the winter. Then several months back, it was announced that Jimmy would be undergoing radiation treatments on his throat, as a preventive measure. Jimmy reportedly came through the treatments well and was released from the hospital and sent back home. There was even a message from Jimmy saying he hoped to be back to the Opry soon. Last week, it was reported that Jimmy was not feeling well and they were asking for prayers.
Jimmy was working on a small radio station in Saginaw, Michigan when Roy Acuff came to town. As Jimmy said, "I made his acquaintance before that in Cincinnati in 1945. And then in '48, why, he asked me if I would come down to the Grand Ole Opry, and at that particular time Red Foley had the network show for the Prince Albert people on NBC. I came as a guest. I had ten years of radio experience doing shows across the country and I thought I was ready for that--you know, I was over the stage fright and all that. But when I walked on that stage of the Ryman I've never been no more scared and shook up in all my life. My knees were knockin' and I couldn't understand it, because I thought I was ready for that, but I wasn't. But I did very well, luckily. I mean as far as response was concerned--and then a month later they asked me to come down again, and when I came that time Mr. Acuff asked me if I would be interested in staying."
Prior to coming to the Opry, Jimmy worked in radio in such cities as Fairmont, West Virginia; Indianapolis, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; Topeka, Kansas; and then to Saginaw. He was not much different than any other country artist in that time period as they worked in various cities on local live country music radio programs and did personal appearances around the area until they had "worked out the territory."
What was interesting about Jimmy when he first came to the Opry was that he had no background at all as a recording artist. It was only after joining the Opry that Columbia Records signed him to a contract and his first record was "Take a Cold Tater and Wait" which would prove to be one of his biggest hits.
However, in 1957 Jimmy left the Opry for what he thought was a greater opportunity. He accepted an offer to head up a major road show for the Phillip Morris tobacco company. But at that time the Opry's sponsorship by the R.J. Reynolds Tabacco Company prohibited any Grand Ole Opry member from traveling with a tour sponsored by a competitor. So Jimmy left the Opry. He would always say that there were no hard feelings on either side.
On February 8, 1975, Jimmy returned to the Opry. He was introduced that night by Hank Snow who said, "Jimmy is one of the greatest showmen of all time. It's like replacing the most important spoke in a wheel to have him back on the Opry. We need more Jimmy Dickenses." Jimmy sang "Family Reunion" that night, saying that he thought it was the appropriate number to do.
I hope Jimmy is continuing to improve and that we will see him back at the Opry soon. Keep the good thoughts coming.