Legendary Texas Fiddle Player Johnny Gimble Has Passed Away
This story has been updated.
Texas Playboy, Million Dollar Band member, and legendary country and Western Swing fiddle player Johnny Gimble has passed away. He died on Saturday morning, May 9th after dealing with complications from several strokes over the past few years, according to his daughter Cyndy. Known best as one of the primary fiddle players in Bob Wills’ Western Swing band the Texas Playboys, Gimble spent his life charming audiences and being revered as one of the Godfathers of Texas fiddle music. “My hero passed away today. Godspeed Johnny Gimble. We love you,” said current Western Swing fiddle maestro Jason Roberts upon hearing the news.
John Paul Gimble was born in Tyler, Texas on May 30th, 1926, and grew up in the nearby community of Bascom. Playing fiddle in bands since age 12, Gimble first appeared with his two brothers Bill and Jack in the Rose City Swingers before moving to Louisiana and playing fiddle for Jimmie Davis. Gimble eventually joined Bob Wills full time in the late 1940’s after Wills discovered Johnny while he was playing in a band called the Rhythmaires. Johnny became a member of the most legendary lineup of the Texas Playboys. Gimble also fronted his own band from 1951 to 1953 that played as the house band at Bob Wills’ “Ranch House” club in Dallas. Gimble also appeared on the Marty Robbins #1 hit, “I’ll Go On Alone.”
By the late 60’s Gimble was a sought after session player, and played on Merle Haggard’s Bob Wills tribute record, and recordings from Chet Atkins. Gimble also played mandolin in both live and studio sessions. He was also known for being one of the very few five-string fiddle players—adding an extra lower string to hit lower notes.
Johnny Gimble’s most high-profile position may have been as a member of the Million Dollar Band—an All-Star group of session musicians that most notably appeared on the television variety show Hee-Haw. He also toured with Willie Nelson as his fiddle player from 1979 to 1981 after moving from Nashville back to Texas, and in 1983 assembled a Texas Swing group that featured Ray Price on vocals that had a hit with the song “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle” after the song was featured in the Clint Eastwood move Honkytonk Man.
Gimble was nominated for a Grammy for appearing on Mark O’Connor’s Heroes album from 1993, and made numerous appearances on Austin City Limits in the 90’s and 2000’s. A good friend of Western Swing revivalist Ray Benson and his band Asleep at the Wheel, Johnny Gimble has appeared with the group many times. He also was awarded the Academy of Country Music’s Fiddle Player of the Year awards nine times.
Johnny Gimble’s granddaughter Emily Gimble is also a noted singer and keyboard player for Asleep at the Wheel.
Beloved as a fiddle virtuoso in Texas and beyond, Johnny Gimble will the deeply missed in the country music community.
He was 88 years old.
May 9, 2015 @ 2:17 pm
RIP…… The greatest Fiddle Player Ever,my Thoughts & Prayers to your Family Sir.
May 9, 2015 @ 2:24 pm
He will be greatly missed, but he will be remembered.
Lee Roy Parnell
May 9, 2015 @ 2:58 pm
The Sweetest Fiddle I ever heard. Johnny and his family were like blood kin to us.
Our hearts are with You all. The world is better place because of Johnny Gimble.
May 10, 2015 @ 9:46 am
What ever happened to you. I was a big fan back in the 90’s
May 10, 2015 @ 10:31 am
“Lee Roy Parnell was born on December 21, 1956 in Abilene, Texas, but raised in Stephenville, Texas. His father had performed with Bob Wills, and Parnell gave his first performance at age six on Wills’s radio show.
May 10, 2015 @ 10:33 am
Right. But I’m asking him what happened with his career, not his childhood.
May 9, 2015 @ 3:05 pm
RIP Johnny. 🙁
May 9, 2015 @ 3:24 pm
Johnny played on many of my husband’s records..George Kent was amazed by his talent..
May 9, 2015 @ 4:22 pm
Rest in peace, Johnny.
Another legend is gone…
May 9, 2015 @ 4:38 pm
Here’s another good video – Johnny Gimble plays twin fiddles with Merle Haggard.
May 9, 2015 @ 5:10 pm
The sweetest fiddle I ever heard. There was no mistaking his unique style & sound and that great smile! Condolences to his family. RIP, Johnny. You will always be a national treasure and a true legend!
May 9, 2015 @ 5:24 pm
I loved that Man’s fiddle playing. He will always be remembered. He is just
the best. I will put on a c.d. and listen to him again. RIP. Thoughts are
with his family.
May 9, 2015 @ 5:52 pm
Johnny was also a barber in Bellmead, Teas, a suburb of Waco. He cut my hair numerous times. When Johnny was doing the HeeHaw show we went to church with him and his wife. He would barber on Monday thru Wednesday, then drive to Joplin, Mo o film the show, then drive back. He was such a nice guy and always had a smile on his face. Rest in Peace Johnny.
May 9, 2015 @ 6:59 pm
Thanks for the music and the memories.
TX MUSIC JIM
May 9, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
Best fiddle player ever God bless Johnny
May 9, 2015 @ 7:32 pm
CONDOLENCES GO OUT TO THE ” JOHNNY GIMBLE ” FAMILY IN THERE SAD TIMES.
JOHNNY WAS ONE OF THE GOOD GREATS OF THE COUNTRY MUSIC WORLD.
I REMEMBER HIM ON TOUR IN ENGLAND, WHAT A VERY NICE PERSON HE WAS, AND SO NICE TO TALK TO, ALWAYS A SMILING FACE, HE WILL BE SADLY MISSED…..RIP JOHNNY !!
May 9, 2015 @ 10:25 pm
The fiddling in that video is a gorgeous mix of jazz and country that shows talent at the highest level.
May he rest in peace and may his loved ones find comfort.
May 10, 2015 @ 6:07 am
It was such a pleasure to meet Johnny when we got him to come to Gilley’s to produce Floyd Tillman’s album back in ’81. He even played on two of my songs. I’ll never forget that wonderful smile and sweet sounds coming from those fingers. My condolences to Dick and the family. I know we’ll meet again on the other side.
Marion (Bub) Rives
May 10, 2015 @ 6:31 am
My true Friend was with him in Alaska for almost couple of years would pick him
up on Sunday morning and we would go all over the best fiddle player.
May 10, 2015 @ 6:36 am
The best! What a loss!
May 10, 2015 @ 8:33 am
True legend. RIP.
pennie tabor hausman
May 10, 2015 @ 8:42 am
I had the pleasure of being one of his caregivers and he will be greatly missed! I was with him when he went to heaven and it was a sad sad day. God speed Mr Gimple.
May 10, 2015 @ 8:52 am
My husband, Deaniebird Reynolds, played bass. One time Willie said give me Dean Reynolds on bass, Johnny Gimble on fiddle, give me a recording studio and I’d die a happy man!
May 10, 2015 @ 9:06 am
I never got to meet Johnny Gimble but I knew his music and loved every note, learned gardenia waltzs from him and many more, Johnny Gimble was the high water mark for fiddle players and they will tell us that. Johnny carved new new fiddle paths and notes with such feeling. He will be missed but never forgotten by all of us musicians in the world. Thank you Johnny for creating and leaving for us your increadable music RIP
May 10, 2015 @ 10:31 am
that violin really does sound sweet.
May 10, 2015 @ 11:16 am
Rest in peace; Johnny
Duke & Cindy Gilleland
May 10, 2015 @ 7:22 pm
Johnny carried the Western Swing flag all his life. Western Swing dance music is better because of him. Cindy & I always knew it was gonna be a great dance if he was on that bandstand!
May the Lord be with his family at this time. He hurts no more.
Rod Grounds, Coleman TX
May 10, 2015 @ 7:43 pm
My Dad, Millard Grounds from Millersview TX & Johnny’s older Bro. Jack came in from Pearl during
WW2 for leave to visit the Gimble Family there @ Tyler. Dad often talked about the Talent of the
Entire Gimble Family, especially Johnny who was just a Teen @ that time, and was already showing
“World Class” potential, as my Dad showed him being the same, and Johnny was good enough to
recognize & aspire to the art by emulation. My Dad, Brother Adkin Grounds & Jack Gimble met
@ Pearl after the attack, & became best of friends & played USO’s etc. I have a collection of 45’s,
in particular an Audio Letter (45 record) to the Grounds Family back @ Millersview where Dad & Adkin
talk “Fishing the Concho” to Jack to describe their Pioneer Heritage and Jack gives his regards to all
the home people of Millersview while “fighting from their bunks @ Pearl”, all 3 being Navy & Similar.
Jack gave Dad several 45’s that had been recorded by the Gimbles, home spun 1 of a kind, and one is
by Johnny he had sent to Jack, called “Milk Cow Blues”. Some don’t play, but with Laser & Digital
Filter/Processing Technology some might be brought to life or better !
I met Johnny Gimble Spring Break 1982 or so @ Taos Ski Valley NM where Johnny’s daughter was
working, & He played sessions w/ local talent there @ the Lodge, and after all those years just after
saying Millersview (Tx), with a big grin and a second or 2 of thinking, he said … Millard, ah … Grounds?
I said yea & told him that Dad had followed his Career & Thought So Much of his talent & family.
Johnny, from those days as a kid meeting Dad, recognized he was World Class Fiddler who just did not
like the lifestyle as Johnny didn’t “dig so much” as evident by his becoming a barber for a break thereof.
There @ Taos I made a request for one of Dad’s old tunes, “Rubber Dolly” and sure enough Johnny
remembered it & played with mention of Millard Grounds’ memory & his son , Rod’s request; singing
the entire tune with complete lyrics from memory.
What an exception Man, Fiddle Player, Memory & Child of God. We all need to be eternally grateful in
the knowledge his music will live forever, he is in bliss without doubt, and the Glorious Music of Heaven
has a “Texas Flavor” of the twin fiddles of Johnny Gimble & Millard Grounds welcoming God’s Children
as We All Someday Meet Again.
Thank You Johnny Gimble ! ! !
May 10, 2015 @ 9:07 pm
I grew up in the Texas Panhandle in Bob Wills back yard. Bob Wills music which Johnny Gimble was such a big part of has always been a excetptionally important to me. One of my best memories in life was listening to Bob Wills and dancing around the den with my kids when they were young. Years ago when I took up the mandolin one of my dughters asked what I was playing and I told her that it was the mandolin. Having heard a lot of Bob Wills in our home she replied, “Oh! the tiny mandolin like Mr Johnny Gimble!”. Geat memory. Thank you for all the great music Johnny Gimble. I’ll bet you and Bob and Eldon and Leon and all the rest are swinging tonight!
May 11, 2015 @ 12:47 pm
I was very saddened to hear of the passing of this wonderful man.over the years we developed a friendship thro our love of fiddles and music. i have very fond memories of the times we have spent together and the tunes we have played together . i will miss you johnny !!
May 12, 2015 @ 9:41 pm
Lee Roy Parnell
May 30, 2015 @ 8:35 am
As a fiddle player myself, I remember when the LP Fiddlin Around came out…it changed my world…I have been carrying it with me all these years on the road…through 15 years as Dwight Yoakams fiddle player and now 14 with Merle Haggard it is still my ” go to” music for inspiration. I hope the good Lord throws him a ride on every song they play in heaven…