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Johnny Gimble

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Johnny Gimble Obituary

Johnny Gimble, who played fiddle for Bob Wills in the Texas Playboys and went on to become one of country music's most accomplished and respected musicians, died Wednesday near his home in Dripping Springs. He was 88.
Gimble's wife, Barbara, posted a public notice on Facebook "to let you know of Johnny's peaceful passing early this morning." An Associated Press report quoted his daughter, Cyndy, as saying Gimble was "finally rid of the complications from several strokes over the past few years."

Gimble had been in declining health since his first stroke in 1999, but he continued to be musically active into his 80s. His last album, "Celebrating With Friends," came out in 2010 and included contributions from Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill and Garrison Keillor, whose "A Prairie Home Companion" program featured Gimble on many occasions.

Gimble also appeared often on the music TV show "Austin City Limits," both as a headliner and as a sideman with acts such as Chet Atkins and Willie Nelson, with whom he toured in the late '70s and early '80s. "Before Lloyd Maines set the current record, Johnny played more times on ACL than any other musician," said Terry Lickona, the show's exaexuive producer."

Lickona added that "aside from being a Texas Playboy, most would agree he was the finest country and western swing fiddler who ever played." Gimble's impressive list of credits bear that out: the website allmusic.com lists more than 800 records he appears on, including a who's-who of country royalty from Johnny Cash to Dolly Parton to Merle Haggard to to Ray Price to George Strait.

Gimble's presence still looms large on Austin music. His granddaughter, singer and pianist Emily Gimble, last year joined Austin's renowned Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel, which has helped to keep alive the fiddle-heavy country-jazz style that Gimble helped pioneer in the 1940s and '50s. Over the years, he mentored many aspiring fiddlers who are now fixtures on the Austin scene, including the Mastersons' Eleanor Whitmore and longtime Asleep at the Wheel member Jason Roberts.

"Johnny has a jazz mind, and Western swing is just jazz played by country musicians," Roberts told the American-Statesman's Michael Corcoran in 2010. "He's a great improviser and he's a master of that big, round, warm, buttery fiddle tone, so he was perfect for the Playboys."

Published in Austin American-Statesman from May 10 to June 5, 2015
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