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Take Him as He Is

Veteran country-music star Little Jimmy Dickens may be best known for his novelty smasheroo "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" and Loretta Lynn's description of him as "Mighty Mouse in pajamas," but get it straight: Dickens is one of the toughest singers ever to wander out of the West Virginia hills. With the morbid romance of "Slow Suicide," the knockdown jolt of "Salty Boogie" and his signature tearful ballad, "Take Me as I Am" — a song that he delivers with all the choked-up, melodramatic intensity of Johnnie Ray — Dickens has routinely covered territory that would guarantee a ban at the Grand Ole Opry, but the wild little dude is so irresistible that he's been a regular there for decades. Now pushing, dig it, 90 years of age, he's hardly softened, and chances are good that this unspeakably rare Los Angeles show will showcase that mind-ripping repertoire. The recent loss of Eddy Arnold only heightens the crucial status of an innovator like Dickens, a guy whose friends included Roy Acuff and Hank Williams. Treat him right — he could just as well have stayed in Tennessee for a typical Sunday, fishing with Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed. Sun., June 1, 7 p.m., 2008


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