Eastern Ky. child became Grand Ole Opry Star in 1930s

Published 2:59 pm Friday, June 22, 2018

The Grand Ole Opry started in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1925.

“Little Jimmie” Sizemore was born in Paintsville, Kentucky, in 1927.

At the start of the 1930s, the now world-famous Opry welcomed Jimmie and his father, Asher, to the Grand Ole Opry stage as entertainers. They were featured as “Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmie.” The boy was about five years old when he became a member of the Opry, believed to be the youngest member in the history of the show.

Email newsletter signup

The father was born in Manchester, Kentucky and although he was a bookkeeper for a mining company, he had aspirations to be a singer. He started that career when he appeared on a West Virginia radio station singing old-time songs and cowboy ballads.

When he moved to WHAS in Louisville, his oldest son “Little Jimmie” joined him. And, in 1933, they took their music and song to Nashville, WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry. They were to remain there as a popular act for about ten years. During the 1930s, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, and Pee Wee King became members – and would become country and blue grass stars for much of the twentieth century.

Jimmie reportedly started singing when he was three years old. By the mid-1930s, he had a repertoire of over 200 songs. He sang solos and would often sing duets with his father.

The two continued to appear on the Louisville radio station, and they recorded frequently as well as toured throughout the Midwest. The youngster had a considerable following, and the father built a successful mail-order service for the Sizemores’ annual books of “Hearth and Home Songs.”

Their selections were labeled “Songs of the Soil,” and contained mountain ballads, old hymns, children’s songs, and cowboy ballads. The young Kentuckian’s talent combined with his father’s business savvy helped to sell thousands of those books and supplement their income.

Among Little Jimmie’s popular renditions were “Has Anybody Seen My Kitty?” “Little Feet,” “The Booger Bear,” and his best-selling record was “…Goodbye to Jimmie Rodgers.”

Before his death in 2014 at age 86, Little Jimmie lived in Wisconsin and kept up-to-date with friends and family via Facebook. Other internet sources on his life and times include Byron Fay (Fayfare’s Opry Blog), Gary’s Country (A Tribute to Old Time Country Music), and the Opry’s roster of members by decades since its founding in 1925.

Of the many outstanding country artists who claim Eastern Kentucky as their home, Jimmie should take his place alongside them as a history-making early member of the Grand Ole Opry.

William H. Baker, native of Claiborne County and former resident of Middlesboro, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu