Johnny Gimble dies at 88; legendary fiddle player

Johnny Gimble

Johnny Gimble won two Grammys and played well into his 80s.


Renowned fiddler Johnny Gimble, who played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys before gaining fame for his meticulous backup work with country stars including Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Carrie Underwood, has died.

He was 88.

Gimble died Saturday at a nursing home in Marble Falls, Texas. He had several strokes over the last few years, his daughter Cyndi told the Associated Press.

Gimble, who was born May 30, 1926 in Tyler, Texas, and raised on a farm nearby, was among the nine sons of a railroad telegrapher and his wife. He and several brothers formed a group called the Rose City Swingsters and were hired at $2 a day to perform on a flour company’s flatbed truck outside a grocery store.


“I couldn’t make $2 a day picking cotton, so I was hooked,” he told the Athens Daily Review, a Texas newspaper, in 2011.

Gimble served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Austria, where he acquired a taste for waltzes. When he returned in 1947, he played with a band called the Roberts Brothers Rhythmaires for two years before Wills asked him to join the Playboys.

He later likened his big career move to “throwing a baseball around in your front yard and somebody coming over and signing you to play for the New York Yankees.”

Gimble, who received two Grammy awards, moved to Nashville and recorded with Marty Robbins, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Chet Atkins and others. He also was on TV’s “Hee Haw” as a member of the Million Dollar Band.


He won six Country Music Assn. awards as best instrumentalist and kept playing well into his 80s, touring from his home in Dripping Springs, Texas.

He married his wife, Barbara, in 1949, and the couple had three children. They divorced and remarried three times: “The divorce didn’t work out,” as he liked to say.

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