We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the passing of the great Johnny Gimble, Texas swing and C&W fiddler extraordinaire. The Tyler, Texas native and Dripping Springs resident was 88.
Following a stint in the army, Gimble played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in the late 40s, appearing on the classic 1950 recording of “Faded Love.” After spending a few years in Waco working as a barber and raising a family, the fiddle virtuoso moved to Nashville and became a first-call session musician. Gimble appeared on recordings by Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Ray Price and his longtime musical running buddy Willie Nelson, with whom he toured in the late ‘70s. Gimble was also recruited for Nashville session supergroups the Million Dollar Band (frequent performers on Hee Haw) and the Superpickers, and backed Carrie Underwood at the Grammy Awards in 2007. He also scored a country hit of his own in 1983 with “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle,” featuring Ray Price, and appeared in Clint Eastwood’s film Honkytonk Man as his old boss Bob Wills. His most recent album is 2010’s Ray Benson-produced Celebrating With Friends, recorded in collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame. That album also includes performances with his singer/pianist daughter Emily, who makes her ACL debut later this year as a member of Asleep at the Wheel.
Gimble was also a frequent guest on Austin City Limits, appearing numerous times with Willie Nelson, as well as making memorable appearances with the Superpickers in Season 4 and on the Season 6 Mandolin Special, on which he demonstrated his expertise on his other instrument, the electric mandolin. Gimble fronted a double-header episode in Season 5, headlining the first half and leading the Texas Swing Pioneers in the second half.
“Aside from being a Texas Playboy, he was the most renowned Country and Western Swing fiddler – ever!” remarked ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He played with heart and soul and had an infectious spirit and sense of adventure – in both his music and personality. Before Lloyd Maines set the current record, Johnny played more times on ACL than any other musician. There was a time when everybody wanted Johnny Gimble to play on their show.”
Our condolences go out to his family and friends, of which he had hundreds. May he rest in peace.