Johnny Gimble (John Paul Gimble, May 30, 1926 – May 9, 2015), was an American country musician associated with Western swing. Gimble was considered one of the most important fiddlers in the genre.
Gimble was born in Tyler, Texas, United States, and grew up in nearby Bascom. He began playing in a band with his brothers at age 12, and continued playing with two of them, George and Jerry, as the Rose City Swingsters. The trio played local radio gigs, but soon after Gimble moved to Louisiana and began performing with Jimmie Davis Gubernatorial campaign. He returned to Texas after completing his service in the U.S. Army in World War II.
After serving in World War II, Gimble returned to Texas and continued to hone his fiddling skills with a number of Texas radio and dance bands. In 1948 he made his first recording, playing with Robert Bro's Rhythmairs in Corpus Christi. A year later he joined Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, with whom he toured for most of the next decade. With Wills, he played both fiddle and electric mandolin, and distinguished himself by using a five-string fiddle (most fiddles have four strings).
His fiddling style was influenced by other Texas fiddlers who played the "breakdown" fiddle tunes. What came to be known as the "Texas fiddling style" emerged during the first half of the twentieth century among fiddlers such as Cliff Bruner, Louis Tierney, and Jesse Ashlock. Gimble learned from them, and further developed while playing with Wills, who epitomized and promoted a new sound known as Western swing. Western swing rose to national prominence in the 1940s, combining the old-time, Southern-derived Anglo string band tradition, with its breakdowns, schottisches, waltzes, and reels, with the big band jazz and pop music of the day.
After Gimble married Barbara Kemp of Gatesville, Texas, in 1949, he settled in Dallas, where, in the 1950s, he began doing radio and television shows with Bill and Jim Boyd (of the Lone Star Cowboys) and performed on The Big D Jamboree, a weekly variety show broadcast live from the Sportatorium in Dallas. He broke off to form his own group in 1951, performing as the house band at Wills's club in Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, but rejoined in 1953 and continued to play with Wills until the early 1960s. He played fiddle on Marty Robbins' #1 hit "I'll Go on Alone".
In 1955 Gimble, moved to Waco and supplemented his income from hosting a local television show Johnny Gimble & the Homefolks by working as a barber and at the V.A. hospital. In 1968, after repeated encouragement from his peers, Johnny moved his family to Nashville, TN. From then on, his steady work as a session musician included sessions with Merle Haggard on his Bob Wills tribute album, A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills), Conway Twitty, Connie Smith, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, and Chet Atkins on Superpickers in 1973. The following year he took a cue from a song ("Fiddlin' Around") which he had written and performed on the Atkins' Superpickers album, and recorded the first of ten solo albums, Fiddlin' Around.
From 1979-81, Gimble toured with Willie Nelson worldwide. In 1983, Gimble assembled a Texas swing group featuring Ray Price on vocals, and charted a country radio hit with "One Fiddle, Two Fiddle", featured in the film Honkytonk Man. He appeared in the 1970s through the 2000s on Austin City Limits on TV and Garrison Keillor's broadcasts (radio). He was a member of the Million Dollar Band.
Gimble died at his home in Dripping Springs, Texas on May 9, 2015, aged 88. His daughter stated that her father was "finally rid of the complications from several strokes over the past few years." His granddaughter, Emily, is a notable vocalist and keyboard player who has performed with Johnny Gimble and other bands. Emily currently plays with Asleep at the Wheel as keyboardist and vocalist, a band that frequently partnered with Johnny to bring the music of Bob Wills to newer generations. Gimble's grandson, Jon Gimble, was as of January 2015, the District Clerk in McLennan County.
From 1975–90, he won five Best Instrumentalist awards from the Country Music Awards and nine Best Fiddle Player awards from the Academy of Country Music. Gimble was awarded two Grammy awards: in 1994 for his arrangement of "Red Wing" on the Bob Wills tribute album by Asleep At The Wheel; and in 1995 for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Hightower" with Asleep At The Wheel. Gimble was nominated for a Grammy for his performance on the 1993 Mark O'Connor album Heroes. In 1994, Gimble was awarded the National heritage Fellowship as a Master Folk Artist from the National Endowment for the Arts.
His final album, Celebrating with Friends - 2010, features duos with long-time collaborators Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Dale Watson, and his son Dick and granddaughter Emily Gimble, and was produced by Ray Benson.
A Case of the Gimbles - 2005. A collaboration with Johnny, son Dick Gimble, and granddaughter Emily Gimble.
Under the X in Texas - 1992. Gimble's self-published classic featuring several self-compositions.
Still Fiddlin' Around 1988. Gimble's LP featuring standards and self-compositions published by MCA Records
Glorybound - 1987. Gimble's instrumental gospel album, originally published by Word Records in Waco, Texas
Texas Fiddle Collection - 1981. Gimble's double LP published by CMH Records
Johnny Gimble & the Texas Swing Pioneers - 1980. Double LP produced by CMH Records
Johnny Gimble's Texas Honky Tonk Hits
Johnny Gimble's Texas Dance Party - 1976. Gimble's live album recorded at the Chapparal August 29, 1975. Produced by Columbia Records
Fiddlin' Around - 1974
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