Worthington native Big Tiny Little dies at age 79WORTHINGTON — On Saturday nights during the mid-to latter 1950s, local residents could tune in to the “Lawrence Welk Show” and view one of their own, Dudley “Big Tiny” Little, as he performed as a regular on the popular television program.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — On Saturday nights during the mid-to latter 1950s, local residents could tune in to the “Lawrence Welk Show” and view one of their own, Dudley “Big Tiny” Little, as he performed as a regular on the popular television program.
Videos of several of those performances — featuring introductions by Welk and Big Tiny’s fingers flying over the keyboard to a ragtime tune — can still be viewed today via the YouTube Internet site.
Big Tiny died Wednesday in Carson City, Nev., at the age of 79, according to sources close to his family.
Born Aug. 31, 1930, in Worthington, he was the son of prominent musician and bandleader Tiny Little, who rose to musical prominence with the big band known as Tiny Little’s Toe Teasers of Texas. Big Tiny followed in his dad’s footsteps, taking up the piano at age 5 and becoming an accomplished pianist. He played in his dad’s band for a while before striking out on his own.
Through his dad’s musical connections, Big Tiny joined the Welk orchestra in 1955 and that’s where he picked up the Big Tiny nickname.
“Lawrence Welk was a friend of my dad’s,” Big Tiny was quoted as saying in an article posted in an online biography. “When I joined the show, they wanted to call me Tiny Little Junior, and when I left the show, I dropped the Junior.”
On the Welk show, Big Tiny became renowned for playing ragtime, the first time the style had been heard on the TV show, but he also was accomplished in jazz, honky-tonk and Dixieland.
Big Tiny left the Welk production in 1959. The July 18, 1959, Los Angeles Evening Mirror News announced in a banner headline on the front page, “TV Champagne Lady, Piano Star Quit Welk: Both Off Program Tonight.” The accompanying story revealed that Champagne Lady Alice Lon left the Welk show due to a dispute over her displaying “too much knee” on a recent program. Big Tiny’s departure was attributed to a desire to “make a go of it with his own band,” a move of which Welk obviously disapproved.
Big Tiny went on to record numerous albums and make guest appearances on other television shows, including the first Mike Douglas show and programs hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin and Dinah Shore. One memorable appearance on Shore’s TV show featured four well-known pianists playing different interpretations of songs at the same time: Peter Nero playing jazz; Ray Charles playing rhythm and blues; Liberace playing classical style; and Big Tiny playing Dixieland. Big Tiny also performed at Ronald Reagan’s presidential inaugural ball in 1985.
In 2001, Little participated in a PBS special, “Lawrence Welk: Milestones and Memories,” which featured a reunion of Welk show stars. He began touring in 2004 with other Welk alumni in the “Live Lawrence Welk Show.”
Most recently, Big Tiny had lived in Carson City. He is survived by seven children.
No funeral service is planned.
On the Net:
Big Tiny Little playing “Spaghetti Rag” and “Caldonia” on Lawrence Welk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBR9hsNS0dg&feature=related