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Today is December 6, 2022

The Dickersons

fill the stage and music fills the air at the Ole Union Opry House

By Nancy Jo Maples

The Dickersons

Three generations of his family make up The Dickerson Family Band. Photo: Gina Riley

    My toes tap to the tunes of a three-generation country music band inside The Ole Union Opry House in central Mississippi.
    “This family’s music will never die,” Union resident Harold Carleton says to me as he wanders among the crowd visiting with friends.
    About 120 locals have gathered for the evening entertainment of the town’s Country Day held every fourth Saturday of August. The Dickerson Family Band has been a mainstay of the annual craft festival since the event began 37 years ago.
    However, the Dickerson family’s music started long before then. Spearheading the group is 86-year-old Doris Dickerson. Doris began playing fiddle at about age 11 when he built his own rendition of one from a ukulele.
    His siblings and offspring make up the band creating the epitome of a family affair. That observation was the cornerstone of Mr. Carleton’s comment.
    Doris’ brother Billy strolls to the microphone with his guitar. Billy’s daughter, Jolene Dickerson Smith, joins him. Side by side they sing and strum a duet, “Rolling in my Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Hands from the crowd clap to the tune.
    The Ole Union Opry House is full this special night. The five recliners and two couches in the back corner were claimed early in the evening. Everyone else found metal chairs or a booth. Spectators visit with one another during songs, but never talk loudly or miss the music.
    The opry house and the musicians who play here embody the soul of this community—good, hard-working families who enjoy old-fashioned entertainment and each other.
    Jim Ogletree and his wife, Melissa, own the Ole Union Opry House, located on Bank Street in downtown Union. The site once housed a retail shop. When the building became vacant, the Ogletrees purchased it and opened it as an entertainment hall in January 2012.
    Ogletree views the venue as a community service. He grew up with community service imbued on him by his late father, who served as mayor of Union for several terms. After the younger Ogletree graduated from the University of Mississippi he returned to his small home town to run the family grocery business.
    Opry house admission costs nothing; however, the Ogletrees appreciate spectators who purchase burgers and soft drinks at the concession stand. Proceeds from snacks help pay the Opry’s electric bill.
    Ceiling fans with pull chains hang from a wooden plank ceiling that reveals its age through chippings of paint. The white walls showcase huge whimsical black lettering that proclaims “The Ole Union Opry House” and feature silhouettes of musicians shouldering guitars or singing into stage microphones.
    It’s a perfect setting for the Dickerson family, who play anywhere from house porches to professional stages. While the band’s ages run the gamut, even the young ones have a following of fans. Josh Dickerson, Doris’ grandson, is popular among central Mississippians. Doris’ sons Dennis Dickerson and Glen Dickerson live in Nashville where they earn livings in the music industry.
    Glen plays at the Grand Ole Opry for legendary singer Jean Shepard. Dennis is an executive for Warner Brothers. Another son, Randy, earned a doctoral degree in music and works in music education at the University of Wisconsin.
    Doris’ other two sons, Ed and Wayne, pastor churches, pick guitars and sing. Ed preaches in Decatur and Wayne has a church in North Carolina.
    Doris’ daughter Sue and her husband, Bo Collier, also sing and play.
    They grew up on a dirt road in Hudson’s Chapel Community between Union and Sebastopol. Doris and his wife instilled in their children the love of Christ and encouraged clean living free of smoke and alcohol.
    Dickersons fill the stage and music fills the air at the Ole Union Opry House. Various ages meander about the room while the musical selections teeter from old country and western to southern rock.
    Before I realize the time, two-and-half hours slip around the clock and the band packs to leave. The night’s party has ended. Yet, I’m at peace recalling Mr. Carleton’s words and knowing that this family’s music will never die.


   Writer Nancy Jo Maples can be reached at 188 Ernest Pipkins Road, Lucedale, MS 39452 or via email at nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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