Johnny Gimble (May 30, 1926 – May 9, 2015) was an American country musician associated with Western swing…..who was considered one of the most important fiddlers in the genre….as 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.
In 1968, after repeated encouragement from his peers, Johnny moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee ….and 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 thus recorded his first solo album titled Fiddlin’ Around…..as he recorded nine other solo albums.
In 1978, Gimble appeared with his own band The Bosque Bandits on Austin City Limits (as seen in this video herewith)….and then again in 1982 on the ACL stage with another of his bands The Texas Swing Pioneers…..both of which we have in our Music section here at ImaSportsphile.
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”….which was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Honkytonk Man…. in which Johnny had a supporting role portraying Bob Wills. He appeared from the 1970’s through the 2000’s on Austin City Limits on TV….as well as on Garrison Keillor’s broadcasts on radio…..and was also 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…..for until Lloyd Maines surpassed him, Johnny held the record for most appearances on Austin City Limits.
“Johnny Gimble played music 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.
There are no two ways about it….Johnny Gimble was beloved around Austin, TX…..a place that considered him to be “one of their own”……and any time that the news got out that Johnny was playing with Willie Nelson or Dan Del Santo or Jerry Jeff Walker or George Jones or with his own bands The Bosque Bandits and The Texas Swing Pioneers….you could pretty well bet that the “house would be jammed-packed”…..cuz Johnny Gimble was a “one of a kind” treasure.