Bolt, WV – (WWNR) – If you’re driving on Route 99 in the community of Bolt in Raleigh County, you’re driving on the same road that James Cecil Dickens used to hitchhike along to get to Beckley so he could imitate a crowing rooster on a morning radio show. The 4’11” aspiring singer would grow up to be Little Jimmy Dickens, a country music legend and member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 60 years.
Now the spot where Dickens tried to thumb a ride hosts a West Virginia Highway Historical Marker honoring his legacy. The marker was erected earlier this year by the Raleigh County Historical Society and the Acord/Dickens family.
“I think it’s awesome we were able to do that,” said James Allen, Dickens’ nephew. “Number one, for some of my family members who are getting elderly and we really wanted to be able to have this before something happens in the family. It’s just a tremendous honor for people to recognize the things that Little Jimmy did. And also the way that he felt about West Virginia, the things that he wanted to do to give back to the state.”
A dedication ceremony for the marker was held Sunday at the Bolt Church of God. Several local musicians performed some of Dickens’ songs, including “Out Behind the Barn,” “Life Turned Her That Way,” and of course “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” The singers included Rob McNurlin from Lexington, Kentucky, Andrew Adkins from Fayetteville, and Matt Mullins, who organized a similar tribute to Bill Withers in Beckley last May.
“I think Raleigh County is the hub of West Virginia’s music,” said Mullins. “It shows the diverse culture that came out of the coalfields. We’ve got soul music with Bill Withers, country music with Little Jimmy Dickens and bluegrass with Everett Lilly. . . that diverse culture is kind of what we are as West Virginians.”
Despite his fame around the world, Dickens never forgot his roots. He would often return to his hometown of Bolt to visit his sister, Edna Allen, and her family. “Whenever he would come and perform in West Virginia, a lot of times he would stay at my mom’s house,” said James Allen. ” The band would come down, they would stay there also. There was a good chance for a big dinner and just everybody having a great time. One of the last times that he was in, he came over to the place where I work at the Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority and he went fishing in our ponds. And everybody just thought ‘Wow, here’s this country music star fishing here at the Solid Waste Authority’ and he just liked to bass fish, he liked to get away and this was home to him. It was just a normal visit for us whenever we would get together.”
Little Jimmy Dickens died in January of 2015 at the age of 94. Edna Allen still lives in Bolt and attended Sunday’s ceremony. She bought one of Little Jimmy’s signature Nudie suits, which hung from a mike stand during Sunday’s dedication ceremony.