I just love Johnny Gimble. 🙂
An exemplary member of “The Great Generation”, Gimble was born May 30, 1926 in Tyler, Texas and grew up in Bascom. He and his brothers had a band during their teenage years. Johnny played fiddle. Got so good Johnny was invited to play for Jimmie Davis’ campaign when he ran for governor of Louisiana. Then World War II started up, and Johnny left to serve his country.
He came back and started “fiddlin’ around” again, and in 1949 he joined Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. With Wills, he played fiddle, electric mandolin, and an unusual 5-string fiddle. Gimble’s fiddling style came to be known as the “Texas fiddling style”–a style that produced a new sound called Western swing, a combination of musical styles that was distinctly American, distinctly “Texas.”
Gimble married a Gatesville girl, Barbara Kemp, and settled first in Dallas and then in Waco (my stomping grounds). He played steadily for Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Connie Smith, Lefty Frizzel, Ray Price, Willie Nelson (another central Texan), and Chet Atkins. All the while, he supplemented the family income by hosting a local television show and by working as a barber and for the V.A. Hospital. He appeared regularly for 30 years on Austin City Limits and on Garrison Keillor’s radio show.
In 1999 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influencer of the Western Swing style, and influence he did! After Johnny Gimble passed away May 9, 2015, I had the privilege of attending a memorial performance in his honor in Lukenbach, Texas in June of that year. His children and grandchildren and any number of other musicians in whose careers Gimble had invested put on a wonderful show of the music he loved so well. That memorial performance will always be one of my favorite “I was there” memories.