Johnny Gimble 1926-2015

The first name in Texas fiddlers

Johnny Gimble 1926-2015

Over the weekend, Texas lost one of its greatest musicians. Renowned fiddler Johnny Gimble set down his bow and walked off the stage of life on Saturday morning. The 88-year-old icon of Texas swing died of stroke-related ailments at a nursing home in Marble Falls.

Aside from his onetime boss Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble remains the first name in Texas fiddle players. Anytime his fingers touched the strings of a fiddle – or mandolin, for that matter – undeniable magic occurred. It happened for decades.

The Tyler native’s career extended from the late Thirties well into the millennium. Throughout that time, he played with top Texan talent, including Wills and his Texas Playboys, Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, and Merle Haggard. Gimble’s masterful sawing also starred in a stack of solo albums that ranged from Texas Swing to gospel and included a collaboration with bassist son Dick Gimble and pianist granddaughter Emily Gimble, entitled A Case of the Gimbles.

“He was my hero and a lot of the reason I play music is because of him,” Emily Gimble told the Chronicle by phone Sunday night. That influence extended beyond the family circle. “Every person he played for or met, he sparked something in them.”

Gimble frequently meets admirers of her grandfather at her own shows.

“People come up every night and say, ‘I saw your grandpa at a dancehall in 1970!’”

On of those admirers is Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson, who considers Johnny Gimble the Wheel’s “musical guide.” Last summer, he asked Emily to join the band.

“I didn’t really grow up listening to Asleep at the Wheel, but there were pictures of Ray Benson in our family photo albums,” says Emily. “It’s cool to play the same songs, like ‘San Antonio Rose’ and ‘Faded Love,’ with them just like I did with Poppa.

“They even use his arrangements.”

Due to the effects of multiple strokes, Johnny Gimble lost his ability to play music at the end of his life, according to Emily. And yet, right up to his final days, he was visited by friends who came to the nursing home and sang and played for him.

“I’m thankful that he’s in a better place now,” says Emily. “That takes the edge off.”

Funeral plans for Johnny Gimble haven’t been made public yet, but his granddaughter was excited at the suggestion of a tribute concert.

“It would be so wonderful to get all the fiddle players that were influenced by him to have some kind of celebration.”

For an in-depth look at the life of Johnny Gimble, revisit the Chronicle’s 2002 cover story, “King of the Swing Fiddle.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Johnny Gimble
Texas Platters
Johnny Gimble
Celebrating With Friends (Record Review)

Jim Caligiuri, Feb. 12, 2010

Texas Platters
Johnny, Dick, and Emily Gimble
A Case of the Gimbles (Record Review)

Margaret Moser, Nov. 11, 2005

More by Kevin Curtin
Jason Isbell Headlines Old Settler’s 2019
Jason Isbell Headlines Old Settler’s 2019
Brandi Carlile, Del McCoury, and Los Legends also stock initial lineup

Nov. 13, 2018

Musician Hurt in Panhandler Attack Outside Show
Musician Hurt in Panhandler Attack Outside Show
Assault highlights worsening criminality in the live music district

Nov. 12, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Johnny Gimble, Emily Gimble, Bob Wills, Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys, Ray Benson, Alseep at the Wheel, Dick Gimble, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle