Thursday, May 31, 2018

This List Will Truly ASTOUND You!

How many of these astounding New Jersey facts and firsts do you know?

New Jersey was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights (Nov. 20,1789)

New Jersey is a peninsula.

New Jersey is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.

New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky.

New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq mi.) than Havana, Cuba.

New Jersey has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast (of Morristown, NJ) created the popular image of Santa Claus.

New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the "Diner Capital of the World."

North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius.

New Jersey is home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride by inventor John P. Holland.

New Jersey has 50+ resort cities & towns; some of the nation's most famous: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Long Branch, Cape May and Ocean City.

New Jersey was home to the Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City. Created to extend the Summer tourist season.

The game Monopoly, played all over the world, named the streets on its playing board after the actual streets in the Atlantic City area.

And, Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world,

Not to mention salt water taffy.

New Jersey has the most stringent testing along our coastline for water quality control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.

The "Trial of the Century" (the Lindberg Baby kidnapping) was held in Flemington.

New Jersey is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation when you include pharmaceuticals.

Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.

You haven't lived until you have eaten New Jersey sweet corn.

New Jersey is a leader in blueberry and cranberry production.

In 1642, the first brewery in America, opened in Hoboken.

New Jersey rocks! The famous Les Paul invented the first solid body electric guitar in Mahwah, in 1940.

New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth Seaport first.

New Jersey is home to one of the nation's busiest airports (in Newark), Liberty International.

George Washington slept here. Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on New Jersey soil, led by General George Washington. On Christmas Eve 1776 he crossed the Delaware to attack the Hessian troops at Trenton.

The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory.

We also boast the first town ever lit by incandescent bulbs.

The movies were born in New Jersey The first movie studio was in West Orange.

The first western was filmed by Edison in the hills of West Orange-"The Great Train Robbery."

Highest population density in the US

Home of the US Olympic Equestrian Team

Home to the United States Golf association (Far Hills)

The transistor was invented by Bell Labs in NJ

The telephone was invented in NJ

Samuel Morse's code machine was built in NJ (Morris Plains)

The first seaplane was built in Keyport, NJ.

The first airmail (to Chicago) was started from Keyport, NJ.

The first phonograph records were made in Camden, NJ.

New Jersey has the largest petroleum containment area outside of the Middle East countries.

New Jersey has the tallest water-tower in the world. (Union, NJ!)

New Jersey had the first medical center, in Jersey City.

The Pulaski SkyWay, from Jersey City to Newark, was the first skyway highway.

NJ built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson (Holland Tunnel).

The first baseball game was played in Hoboken, NJ, which is also the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.

The first intercollegiate football game was played in New Brunswick in 1889 (Rutgers College played Princeton).

The first drive-in movie theater was opened in Camden, NJ,  (one remains in Vineland...The Delsea Drive In).

New Jersey is home to both of "NEW YORK'S" pro football teams!

The first FM radio broadcast was made from Alpine, NJ, by Maj. Thomas Armstrong.

The Great Falls in Paterson, on the Passaic River, is the second highest waterfall on the East Coast of the 
US. In 1778, Alexander Hamilton visited the falls and was impressed by its potential for industry. Later as 
the nation's first Secretary of Treasury, he selected the site as the nation's first planned industrial city.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How An 'Ordinary Guy' Became A Big Star . . .

Ernest Borgnine was a screen legend.
And he was a big hit on television as well.
For more than a half-century he was the everyman, the tough guy, the ordinary Joe, the bellicose ethnic guy, the fall guy, the straight man, the repairman -- a consummate actor who could play just about every role just so long as it wasn't the leading man, the matinee idol or the guy who gets the gal.
Known for blustery, often villainous roles, he won the best-actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955. 
Borgnine died in 2014 at age 95.
Television fans loved Borgnine as the scheming Navy officer in the sitcom “McHale’s Navy.” But many also know Borgnine as the heavy who beats up Frank Sinatra in “From Here to Eternity.” You can be sure that he helped Frankie win that Oscar. And Borgnine was also one of the thugs who menaced Spencer Tracy in “Bad Day at Block Rock.”
He also played comedy in one of the greatest comedy-fests of all time, "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." 
Borgnine was a proud Italian-American. 
His parents were Charles, who emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy and Anna, who emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy. 
As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, but took no real interest in acting. At 18, after graduating from high school in New Haven, and undecided about his future career, he joined the navy, where he stayed for ten years until leaving in 1945. After a few factory jobs, his mother suggested that his forceful personality could make him suitable for a career in acting, and Borgnine promptly enrolled at the Randall School of Drama in Hartford. 
After completing the course he joined the famous Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, staying there for four years, undertaking odd jobs and playing every type of role imaginable. His big break came in 1949, when he made his acting debut on Broadway playing a male nurse in "Harvey."
His movies read like a history of Hollywood: From Here To Eternity, Johnny Guitar, Bad Day At Black Rock, Marty, The Badlanders, Torpedo Run, Barabbas, The Oscar, The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, The Wild Bunch, Willard, Bunny O'Hare, The Poseidon Adventure, The Greatest, The Black Hole, Moving Target, The Genesis Code and Snatched. 
Borgnine was always working somehow, somewhere in movies and on TV.
He was prolific -- a hard worker and an exceptionally accomplished actor.
Here's our review of Borgnine's autobiography as it appeared on this site on 2008:
I've been reading Ernest Borgnine's autobiography simply titledErnie and it's a remarkable story of an seemingly ordinary guy who became a major Oscar-winning Hollywood star.
I suppose you could say that Ernest Borgnine was the ultimate everyman -- the ordinary Joe (or in this case, Marty) who captured the imagination of audiences everywhere.
But beyond his Academy Award winning performance in Paddy Chayefsky's Marty, Borgnine has produced a huge and impressive body of work on both the big and small screen.
Yes, we wept at his impressive portrayal of Marty but we also gasped when he took on Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity … we were riveted by his compelling performances in The Dirty Dozen, Bad Day at Black Rock, and Ice Station Zebra … and we laughed at his television sitcom McHale's Navy.
Many of us loved all of Ernest Borgnine's portrayals, but what did we really know about the man behind the famous roles? In this book, for the first time, he tells us in his own words the fascinating story of his life in a witty, candid, and revealing manner.
This is an easy and fun read with with a good insight into the everyday workings of Hollywood. You'll learn about some of the people and moments that made the great movies and the TV shows that marked the golden age of television.
Borgnine reveals personal insights and stories about cinema's greatest icons-including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, Gary Cooper, Janet Leigh, Raquel Welch, GeneHackman, Rock Hudson, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Curtis, Alan Ladd, Glenn Ford, and Burt Lancaster. And with characteristic frankness, he also talks about his off-screen loves and passions.
Ernie's is a compelling story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hollywood Nudes: Three Of The Greatest Ever!

It's fun reminiscing about the great stars and personalities who made the motion picture business so endlessly fascinating -- and alluring!
And today, modern Hollywood starlets have a reputation for letting it all hang out.
But movie stars have always flaunted it.
And three of the greatest Hollywood nudes of all time were also statuesque beauties.
Which is just another way of saying they had plenty to show and they weren't shy about showing it.
Marlene Dietrich (shown above) exuded glamour and sensuality. She was an international star who donned skin tight outfits one minute and men's garb the next. Her androgynous beauty crossed all boundary lines. And it is well-documented that Marlena was extremely comfortable in her own skin.
On the MGM lot in Hollywood she was known as one of those stars who preferred to have her hair and makeup completed while she sat in the nude. And it didn't matter to her whether there were men or women around to watch. Her dressing room door was seldom closed and she was said to have an easy way about her on movie sets as well. To Marlene, showing off your assets was part of being a star.
Tallulah Bankhead was known for her salty mouth, her drinking and her unwillingness to wear undergarments or to keep her clothes on for a very long time. For Tallulah much of it was part of her desire to shock and be outrageous. But she also got a kick out of it as well. She titillated director Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Lifeboat by climbing in and out of the boat in question while not wearing anything under her skirt. She made sure that the esteemed director and everyone else on the set got a good view. Tallulah was known as one of Hollywood's most unabashed exhibitionists.
Finally, Joan Crawford (aka "Mommie Dearest") was like no mom you've ever known. Joan's way of telling a man that she wanted him (and she wanted and had many men) was to simply take her clothes off. Sometimes, she would tell the guy: "Excuse me while I slip into something more comfortable." After a few moments, she would reappear stark naked. If you hadn't noticed that Crawford had a great body, she wouldn't hesitate to remind you of it.
Dietrich, Bankhead and Crawford were all strong, powerful women. They did not suffer fools gladly. And they didn't hesitate to get right to the point.
Though they were liberated long before the modern women's movement, they had no intention of relinquishing their sensuality or their strong and obvious sexual appetites.
They were unconventional, to say the least. And each was a remarkable talent.
All of these stories (and more) are well documented in any one of a number of excellent Hollywood memoirs of the period.
So, lest you think we live in outrageous times -- think again.
The only difference now is that much of the misbehavior of and by stars is reported as it happens. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, we had to wait till after our idols passed on to get the real scoop on how they actually behaved.
Stars images were more carefully crafted and largely preserved.
Yes, the era before cell phone cameras and You Tube did have a certain appeal.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Great Way To Observe, Remember The Fallen!

If you go to Washington DC and you don't see the beautiful World War II Memorial (between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial) you will miss one of the most majestic and inspiring places in our nation's capital.
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall's central axis. 
This classically-designed memorial traces the history of the war and those who fought it with words, wreaths, columns, gold stars, fountains, ramps and a huge plaza complete with seating around the rim for moments of quiet contemplation.
And yet the World War II memorial contains not a single statue of any one person. And that's appropriate because it honors every single person who contributed to the success of the war effort.
The Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war, the D-Day Invasion, the Battle of Midway and every state and territory are all here. Nothing has been forgotten.
And yet for all it's grandeur -- and it is grand -- the World War II memorial lends itself to quiet reflection and a real sense of intimacy.
This is an exceptionally well-designed public space and it stands as one of the finest monuments in Washington.
The memorial is operated by the National Park Service and is open to visitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about visiting the memorial, accessibility, parking, directions, special events and other details, please visit the National Park Service Web site at or call the Park Service at (202) 619-7222.

No, It Doesn't Start Today And It Won't End Then

Repeat after us:
SUMMER DOES NOT BEGIN UNTIL JUNE 21 (that's the bad news) BUT SUMMER DOES NOT END UNTIL SEPTEMBER 22 or thereabouts (that's the good news!)
The whole notion that summer begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day is something that was dreamed up by the media and/or the travel industry. And it's a lie.
Because the calendar (and the seasons themselves) tell a whole different story.
May is often cool and transitional. And so is much of June.
Summer begins at the summer solstice on June 21.
And autumn begins at the autumnal equinox on September 22.
June 21 is the longest day of daylight.
September 22 is a day when the hours of daylight and darkness are about equal. Thus, the equinox.
After September 22, darkness begins to take over and it remains that away until December 21 which is the shortest day of the year in terms of sunlight. Each day after that, we get more sunlight until the vernal equinox in March -- the first day of spring.
That's the cycle of the seasons.
We have many warm, wonderful days ahead of us.
And yes, there may be some gloriously sunny, summer-like days during the first few weeks of June (IF we are lucky). But it still won't be summer.
Summer comes in its own time and its own way. Nature has taken care of that.
Don't rush the season -- and don't cut it short.
And, when it's time, do go out and enjoy summer until at least September 22.
And don't let anyone tell you it's over on Labor Day.

Traveling Through Europe: Random Thoughts, Observations

As we journey through Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and ASustria, here are some of the things we've noticed:

  • Children here appear to be exceptionally well--behaved. We seen children with families and many children on school field trips (common during this time of year) and they are for the most part relatively quiet, orderly and well-mannered. This applies both to children as small as toddlers right on through pre-teens and teenagers. We don't see children demanding no things, throwing tantrums, teasing or irritating one another or sassing their parents. These things do not seem to happen here with the frequency they day in the US.
  • For the most part, teenagers are not tattooed and/or pierced to the extent they are in the states. It seems much more rare here.
  • Young people here love wearing jeans and t-shirts with with American slogans and logos on them and these items are popular in stores. New York remains a particular source of interest and it's not uncommon to see young people (and even adults) with t-shirts touting NYC, Brooklyn or the Yankees or other New York team logos. Some of the t-shirts even contain popular American slogans and lingo. 
  • In Poland, the old ways of the Catholic Church still prevail. Consequently, you will see nuns and priests dressed in full garb in public. They do not wear street clothes as has become ( some would say, sadly) all-too-common in the states. So nuns are in full habit and priests of some orders can even be seen in cossacks. By their appearance in this manner, they are fully and completely professing their faith and announcing their presence.
  • More so in Austria and far less so in Poland, Churches in these overwhelmingly Catholic countries have largely become museums. Many large and significant churches even charge admission during non-mass hours to help raise funds for upkeep, etc. It's sad to see this happen but at least people are visiting the churches and that always gives hope that some may be inspired.
  • Just as Austrians love their rich pastries, people in Poland love ice cream. Ice cream stands are everywhere and what we call "soft serve" in America is actually a rich, creamy swirl in Poland -- a lot tastier and a lot less air-fulled. It's quite a treat.
  • For centuries Hungarians have long failed to win a war and Hungary has largely resolved itself to the acceptance of its current predicament. Hungarians seem to want to be just left alone. Both Poland and Hungary appear to enjoy the economic assistance of the European Union but are not fond of the EU's authority.
  • Streets are clean and life appears to be quite orderly throughout this area. Poland is by far the cleanest country we've seen so far. Poles take great pride in their tidiness. You don't see as much as a small scrap of paper on the streets in Warsaw or Krakow. Throughout the area (less so in Hungary and more so in Austria) rules are welcomed and attentively followed, especially at traffic lights and other public places. 
  • Krakow and Warsaw are quiet cities with numerous parks and areas for passive enjoyment. In Budapest, people are more demonstrative and the city is louder. Vienna takes on extra decibels as it is a city of music, large plazas and broad promenades. Krakow is intimate and cozy while Vienna is grand and often opulent. Budapest combines elements of both and Warsaw combines elements of both without showiness.   

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Back Again: Non-Stop Propulsive Entertainment!

Are you looking for non-stop, high-energy entertainment that NEVER quits?
Do you long for supercharged, propulsive live music with great singing and jumpin/jivin stage antics that surprise and delight?
Do you long for music that provides the best of jazz, rock, bebop and classic song-styling in a unique package that immerses iteself in the pure joy of entertainment?
Then you need to see Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses and you need to see them ASAP. 
We caught Prima Jr's show recently in West Chester and found ourselves cheering on Louis, his easy-on-the-eyes vocalist and his eight-piece band during a nearly two hour performance that started sky high and just kept climbing. And here's the good news: Prima Jr. & Co. will be back at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center again on May 31. Tickets here!
Yes, Prima does many of his father's classic numbers (like Angelina, Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, Jumpin 'n Jivin and Just A Gigilo) but he does them in his own updated style -- a style that pays homage to his daddy but also gives every classic a special newfangled twist. And Prima delivers many newer numbers and even a few country tunes in a mix that will have you laughing, clapping, swaying in your seats, stomping your feet and maybe even dancing. It's one of the liveliest evenings of entertainment we can ever remember.
Every single musician in Prima's band is top notch and each has a moment to shine as the evening's music keeps getting better and better and livelier and livelier. It fact, you're liable to literally gasp at the stellar performances you will witness -- including a jaw-dropping drum solo and a band member who plays two horn instruments at once! And after the show, Louis himself and the whole group will greet you.
Trust us -- this is pure entertainment the likes of which we haven't seen in decades! It's propulsive!
Click here to find out where Louis Prima Jr. and his pals will be performing.

Born in 1965, Louis Prima Jr. is the youngest child and only son of musician and entertainer Louis Prima. His mother Gia Maione began performing with his father in 1962. She taught Louis Jr. to play the drums at 5 years old. He grew up on the outskirts of Las Vegas, on his dad's golf course, Fairway to the Stars, and spent two weeks every summer at his grandparents' house in Toms River, New Jersey. His grandfather, Tom Maione, owned the Red Top Bar at Seaside Heights.
When the Prima family moved to New Orleans, he learned piano. His aunt, Sister Mary Ann, taught piano, and he quickly caught on. The family moved into the home that his father built for his mother on Pretty Acres Golf Course in Covington, Louisiana but soon realized the house might need to be razed due to a termite infestation. The family moved back to Las Vegas.
In school, Prima took band class and told his mother he wanted to play trumpet. He continued playing through high school, and cites his band directors Bruce Cullings and William "Mac" McMosley as major influences in his life. The high school bands were some of the top in the country, winning top honors in every competition. They competed in the Heavy Division of the Chaffey Jazz Festival, and they marched in the Fiesta Bowl and Sun Bowl.
After graduating from high school, Prima started college to enter the business world. He landed a good job, with what he believed a future, and dropped out of college after only one semester. Within a year, he found a band that was renamed Problem Child. Problem Child became popular in the local Vegas scene and at several venues in Hollywood. They opened for numerous acts in every genre, from Winger to Savatage.
In 1995, Problem Child disbanded, and Prima shifted his musical focus to his other love, the music and style of his father. Enlisting the talents of his sister Lena, who had long since quit the music business and established herself as a Las Vegas performer, Prima put together a band in his father's mold. With the aid of his father's keyboard player, Bruce Zarka, he assembled a band of some of the top musicians in Vegas. He left the music world and began a career in food and beverage management. He started a family and performed only casually with friends.
For several years Prima juggled the demands of a full-time job, part-time music career, and raising his children. In 2010 at age 44, he quit his lucrative day job. At a stage of life when some performers are hanging up their instruments in favor of more secure employment, Prima, a divorced father of two, gambled on a full-time career bringing his dad's musical style to new generations. "I may be good at management," he said, "but that's not what I was supposed to be doing."
Shortly after their breakout performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (aka Jazz Fest) came one of the highlights of his musical odyssey and a proud moment in his life. On July 25, 2010, the year his father would have turned 100, Prima, Spiegel and the Witnesses were present when his father's posthumous star was put on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On July 10, 2012 Prima and the Witnesses released their debut album, Return of the Wildest, on Warrior Records/Universal Music Distribution. Touring in support of Return of the Wildest, the band made their national television debut on Access Hollywood Live. Hosts Billy Bush and Kit Hoover had such a good time dancing along with the band that they were asked to return for the hit television show's Christmas special that had guest Henry Winkler jumping out of his seat to join in the mayhem. Their worldwide tour continued through October 2013, highlighted by their performance at the first BottleRock Napa Valley festival. sharing the bill with Macklemore, Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, and Kings of Leon.
Prima's second album, titled Blow, was recorded at Capitol Records in the same studio where his father and mother recorded.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

In Every Sense Of The Word, She's A Queen!

Loretta Lynn.
The name alone is synonymous with country music. And when you think of Loretta, you think of America and all that it entails. Her story is really the story of the American Dream.
This extraordinary woman recently celebrated her 86th birthday!
Loretta Lynn predates the women's movement. But it's doubtful she would have availed herself of it at the start of the movement or anytime between then and now. She didn't need the women's movement. She just put one foot in front of the other and went out and did it.
That's the mark of a true pioneer -- and honest-to-goodness trailblazer.
Here's a review we gave of a Loretta Lynn concert that we had the pleasure of experiencing in 2009:
On Friday evening we journeyed up to the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank to see country music legend Loretta Lynn in concert.Loretta appeared with 11 musicians including her son and twin daughters in a program that was at times inspiring, curious, and surprisingly spontaneous.Through it all, Loretta was Queenly in the sort of gown, makeup and jewelry that you'd expect from a country music great.For over four decades Loretta Lynn has fashioned a body of work as artistically and commercially successful—and as culturally significant—as any female performer you’d care to name. Her music has confronted many of the major social issues of her time, and her life story is a rags-to-riches tale familiar to pop, rock and country fans alike. The Coal Miner’s Daughter—the tag refers to a hit single, an album, a best-selling autobiography, an Oscar-winning film, and to Lynn herself—has journeyed from the poverty of the Kentucky hills to Nashville superstardom to her current status as an honest-to-goodness American icon.Of course, Loretta Lynn will soon celebrate her 77th birthday. In 2006, Lynn underwent shoulder surgery after injuring herself in a fall. And since she's had back problems she sings part of her set seated in a comfortable chair.No matter. Because when the full-throated Loretta is performing one of her classic tunes there's no one quite like her, even now. She sang many fan favorites on Friday including [When You're Lookin At Me] You're Looking At Country, You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man, Don't Come Home 'A Drinkin [With Lovin On Your Mind], I'm A Honky Tonk Girl, The Pill, One More On The Way and of course Coal Miner's Daughter.Yes, there were times when this legendary country music sensation seemed all too human during her performance but she's still got the makings of a star and she kept the legend alive once more.The country music greats don't simply fade away. They keep doing what they do best: taking their shows on the road and performing just as they are. Loretta's still on the road with her bus, her family and her accompanists. That's what she does. That's who she is. And that's what makes country music stars genuine; that's what makes them country.No, we wouldn't have missed Loretta Lynn for the world.Because, when you're lookin at her, you really ARE looking at country!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Forbidding World Of NO, No, No, And NO!


Recently I found myself confronted with a world full of forbidding rules at a local PATCO station. Everywhere I turned there were a variety of signs telling me what I could not do. It was a real hodpodge, to say the least -- and not very welcoming at that. And what I'm showing you above represents just some of the signs that I saw.

Here's a helpful little suggestion for the PATCO transit line: Why not try posting a "Code of Conduct" that lists just that for all passengers? Put it all together in one place and present it in a helpful, welcoming way that encourages PATCO users to embrace the rules and the proper conduct without being so authoritarian and so seemingly menacing. Wouldn't that be better?

Oh, and one more thing -- try using the word "Please".

He Was A True Music Legend - And Then Some!

As many times as we've been to the legendary Grand 'Ole Opry in Nashville (and that's a lotta times) that's how many times we remember seeing Little Jimmy Dickens there.
Little Jimmy was a fixture at the Opry.
Some nights he acted as the emcee. Some very memorable evenings he introduced new Opry inductees. Some nights he simpy performed. But he was always, always there.
He was not the type of entertainer to ever miss a performance. And he rarely if ever did.
Little Jimmy rose in the world of entertainment the old-fashioned way - he earned it.
His songs were hokey. His humor was corny. But always, he was the complete antithesis of phony. Little Jimmy was the essence of country music: approachable, down-to-earth, hard-working, unassuming, thoroughly American and ultimately, beloved.
James Cecil Dickens (born on December 19, 1920  was a true American country music star who became famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, 4'11" (150 cm), and his rhinestone-studded outfits. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.
He was Father Confessor, mentor and guiding light to countless country music performers -- many of whom went on to become great stars. He was the touchstone -- one of the last links to earliest days of a unique music form that has enriched our nation and added humor, hope and inspiration to the lives of tens of millions of people not just in America but all over the world. Little Jimmy (who died earlier today at 94) was a true American Original who was able to trace his role in country music back to the days of Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl.
Born in Bolt, West Virginia, Dickens began his musical career in the late 1930s, performing on WJLS radio station in Beckley, West Virginia while attending West Virginia University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and travelled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name "Jimmy the Kid."
In 1948, Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherly at Columbia Recordsand officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time he began using the nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature.
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including "Country Boy", "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed", and "I'm Little But I'm Loud". His song "Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)" inspired Hank Williams to nickname him "Tater". Later, telling Jimmy he needed a hit, Williams penned "Hey Good Lookin'" specifically for Dickens in only 20 minutes while on a Grand Ole Opry tour bus. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling him, "That song's too good for you!"

Dickens in 1955.

In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady MartinBob Moore and Thumbs Carllile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, Arizona television station while on tour with the Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957, Dickens left the Grand Ole Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
In 1962, Dickens scored his first top-10 country hit since 1954 with "The Violet and the Rose".
In 1964, Dickens became the first country artist to circle the globe while on tour, and also made numerous TV appearances, including on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In 1965, he released his biggest hit, "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose", reaching No. 1 on the country chart and No. 15 on the pop chart.
In the late 1960s, Dickens left Columbia for Decca Records before moving again to United Artists in 1971. That same year, he married his wife, Mona, and in 1975 he returned to the Grand Ole Opry. In 1983. Dickens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dickens joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast CD “Christmas Time’s A Comin’”, performing "Jingle Bells" with the cast (the CD was released on Sonlite and MGM/UA and was one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers).
Toward the end of his life, Dickens made appearances in a number of music videos by fellow country musician and West Virginia native Brad Paisley. He was also featured on several of Paisley's albums in bonus comedy tracks, along with other Opry mainstays such as George Jones and Bill Anderson. They are collectively referred to as the Kung-Pao Buckaroos.
With the death of Hank Locklin in March 2009, Dickens became the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 90. He made regular appearances as a host at the Opry, often with the self-deprecating joke that he is also known as "Willie Nelson after taxes." At the 2011 CMA Awards, Jimmy was dressed up as Justin Bieber, and made fun of Bieber's then-current paternity scandal.
Dickens was hospitalized after a stroke on December 25, 2014. He died of cardiac arrest