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. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 in the early influences category as a member of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
|Birth name||John Paul Gimble|
|Born||May 30, 1926|
Tyler, Texas, United States
|Died||May 9, 2015 (aged 88)|
Dripping Springs, Texas, United States
|Genres||Country, swing, jazz|
|Johnny Gimble: 'The King Of The Swing Fiddle', interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, 21:51, April 8, 2010.|
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 the Jimmie Davis gubernatorial campaign. He returned to Texas after completing his service in the U.S. Army in World War II.
Back in Texas, Gimble 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. Gimble's fiddling style, while uniquely his own, came to be known as the "Texas fiddling style" that 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 early 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 Dallas Sportatorium. He broke off to form his own group in 1951, performing as the house band at Wills's clubs 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, Texas, and split time between running a barber shop at the regional VA Hospital and music. In 1960 he quit touring with Bob Wills and hosted one of the first locally produced television shows on KWTX, Johnny Gimble & the Homefolks. Gimble's show featured a young bass player from nearby Abbott, Texas named Willie Nelson, and a lifetime friendship and partnership was born. In 1968, after repeated encouragement from his peers, Johnny moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee. From then on, his steady work as a session musician included sessions with Merle Haggard and The Strangers on their 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, Loretta Lynn, 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 his first solo album, titled Fiddlin' Around.. He recorded nine other solo albums.
From 1979-81, Gimble toured with Willie Nelson worldwide, and appeared in a supporting role in the film Honeysuckle Rose. 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 Clint Eastwood film Honkytonk Man in which Johnny had a supporting role portraying Bob Wills. He appeared from 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's career spanned into the 21st century, recording with Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker, and performing at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards with Carrie Underwood in 2007. "Until Lloyd Maines surpassed him, Johnny held the record for most appearances on Austin City Limits. He played with heart and soul and had an infectious spirit and sense of adventure - both in his music and personality," said ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. Johnny was also a regular on Minnesota Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor, who in 1994 penned "Owed to Johnny Gimble" as a tribute to his friend after Gimble received the NEA's National Heritage Fellowship, and who performed the song again on May 9, 2015 to commemorate Gimble's life.
Gimble and his wife Barbara were divorced twice and remarried twice. They had two daughters and a son, and as of 2015 they had four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Johnny and his son Dick Gimble, a college professor of music, started a fiddle camp and with the help of daughter Cyndy ensured that the western swing style of country music was passed on to the next generation.
Gimble's granddaughter, Emily, is a notable vocalist and keyboard player who has performed with Johnny, Asleep at the Wheel, Warren Hood, and Hayes Carll. Emily was a regular member of Asleep at the Wheel as keyboardist and vocalist from 2014-2016, a band that frequently partnered with Johnny to bring the music of Bob Wills to newer generations. She has since launched a solo career, based out of Austin, Texas.
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 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 Chaparral August 29, 1975. Produced by Columbia Records 
- Fiddlin' Around - 1974
From 1975–90, he was nominated 15 times for Instrumentalist of the Year and won the Country Music Award five times. Johnny garnered nine Best Fiddle Player awards from the Academy of Country Music. Gimble garnered 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.
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