It’s an honor that calls for a sweet fiddle lick to accent an illustrious career: Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble is now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Gimble joined singer, guitarist and bluegrasser Ricky Skaggs and singer Dottie West as the latest inductees to the prestigious hall, news announced by country stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood in a ceremony Tuesday at the hall in Nashville. The Country Music Association honor was a posthumous one for both West and Gimble. Gimble died at the age of 88 at a Marble Falls nursing facility in 2015. West died at age 58 after a car crash in 1991.
The three new inductees bump the hall of fame’s membership to 136. The Texas musician was selected as the Modern Era Artist and Recording and/or Touring Musician Prior to 1980, Skaggs as Modern Era Artist and West as a Veteran Performer.
Gimble’s son Dick, a musician and McLennan Community College music faculty member, attended the ceremony with sister Cyndi, his daughter Emily, an Austin musician, and son Jon, McLennan County District Clerk.
Dick and Emily performed Johnny’s composition “Under the ‘X’ in Texas” while the Nashville Tennessean reported Cyndi told the audience, “The money, the awards, that stuff’s nice. But the magic, that’s what keeps you playing. That’s what never wears off.”
Reached last week for comment about his father’s Hall of Fame honor, Dick reflected on growing up as Johnny Gimble’s son and sharing his music as a fellow performer, saying simply, “I’m a lucky guy.”
Johnny Gimble becomes the fifth musician with a Central Texas connection named to the Country Music Hall of Fame, joining Hank Thompson (Waco), Willie Nelson (Abbott), Lefty Frizzell (Corsicana) and Cindy Walker (Mexia).
Born near Tyler in 1926, Johnny Gimble progressed from playing fiddle at weekend farm and town dances to becoming a fiddler with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He blended the East Texas dance music of his youth with Wills’ West Texas, swing-influenced sound and a healthy dab of humor to become one of the great western swing fiddlers.
After his years with the Texas Playboys, Gimble and his wife Barbara moved their family — son Dick and twin daughters Cyndi and Gay — to Waco in 1955. He hosted the KWTX television show “The Homefolks” among other things, but Nashville called in the mid-’60s. They moved there, where Gimble became a sought-after studio musician, his fiddle flourishes heard on albums by such country stars as Connie Smith, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard and George Strait.
He and his family returned to Texas in 1978 where he continued his studio work but also played in bands and led his own. He recorded at least seven solo albums and wrote songs including “Under the ‘X’ in Texas” and “All Night Long Listen to the Fiddle.”
In a career that stretched more than 60 years, Gimble and his fiddle and mandolin work tallied two Grammy Awards, nine Academy of Country Music awards and five Country Music Association Awards. He was named a National Heritage Fellow in 1994 and is in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.
A large bronze medallion with Gimble’s face and career details will go on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Texas wing with a formal medallion ceremony in the fall.
Dick Gimble did not know if any memorabilia from his father’s career would accompany the medallion in the hall of fame, but he said a recent “Austin City Limits” exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum had shown Grammy, CMA and ACM awards as well as one of his fiddles.