In Memoriam|

Remembering Marl Shanahan: Word has come that Marl Shanahan, the retired long-time drummer for the Queen City Jazz Band, passed away December 14 after a brief illness. His career included stints with Midwest territory bands after his high school graduation and then, during World War II, in the Marine Band. Postwar, Marl embarked upon a successful career in graphic arts and photography, while playing drums at night – often in Denver’s bump-and-grind clubs, the Tropics and Chez Paree. Later, he was the house drummer at the Park Lane Hotel, working this local and touring national acts, and he occasionally played at the Trocadero Ballroom at the original Elitch Gardens. He had a twenty year career in the advertising department at King Soopers, retiring in 1979 as the ad manager; two years later he began a seven-year stint in the ad department of the Rocky Mountain News.

It was 1979 when he joined the Queen City Jazz Band as their drummer, and he remained in the drummer’s chair for some thirty years, retiring in 2009. Never a flamboyant player, Marl offered the sensitive touch that could drive the band and complement the interplay between the other musicians.

Marl will be remembered at a celebration of his life at the Westminster Elks Lodge on Saturday, January 17 from 1:00 until 4:00 PM – the day before the club’s regular Sunday event.  

Marl Shanahan has been a member of the Denver Musicians Association for 65 years.

[From the Denver Musician Association newsletter of 01/07/14:]

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James Cecil Dickens (December 19, 1920 – January 2, 2015), better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, was an American country music singer famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, 4’11” (150 cm), and his rhinestone-studded outfits (which he is given credit for introducing into country music live performances). 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. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

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 traveled 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 Records and 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'” in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl, and Pearl’s husband Henry Cannon. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens, “That song’s too good for you!”

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.

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 were 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, days after his last appearance on the Opry to mark his birthday. He died of cardiac arrest on January 2, 2015, at the age of 94. He is survived by his wife, Mona Dickens, whom he married in 1971, and two daughters, Pamela Detert and Lisa King.

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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…

January 2015

4: Pino Daniele, 59, Italian singer and songwriter, heart attack; Lance Diamond, 68, American singer; Joe Guercio, 87, American orchestra leader (Elvis Presley) (No other info available).

2: Little Jimmy Dickens, 94, American country music singer (“May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose”), cardiac arrest; Bob Gilmore, 53, British musicologist.

1: Matthew Cogley, 30, British musician and songwriter (Failsafe); Jeff Golub, 59, American guitarist, progressive supranuclear palsy.

December 2014
31: Michael Kennedy, 88, British biographer, journalist and music critic.

30: Jim Galloway, 78, Scottish-born Canadian jazz clarinet and saxophone player; Patrick Gowers, 78, English composer; Melvin Jackson, 79, American blues musician.


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