This year’s Texas Swing Festival, scheduled for Saturday, May 28, in the East Texas town of Athens, will honor legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble: two-time GRAMMY Award winner, five-time CMA Best Instrumentalist, eight-time Academy of Country Music Best Fiddle Player and regarded by millions as “the best American fiddle player, period.” Music starts at noon Saturday, May 28, in the Cain Center, 915 S. Palestine St. in Athens; the lineup includes The Lost and Nameless Orchestra, Warren Hood and The Goods, Slim Richie and The Jitter Bug Vipers, and the Marshall Ford Band featuring “a case of the Gimbles,” with Johnny Gimble, his son Dick on bass, and his granddaughter, Emily, on piano and vocals. The first Texas Swing Festival, held in 2010, was an outgrowth of the Old Fiddler’s Reunion in Athens, which Gimble attended many times. This year’s Texas Swing Festival features veteran and up-and-coming acts that are expressing themselves, like Gimble (now in his mid-80s), in the genre that mixes country and jazz. JOHNNY GIMBLE: CELEBRATING WITH FRIENDS (2010, CMH Records) is the legend’s latest album. Produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, it includes contributions from granddaughter Emily Gimble, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Dale Wats
on, Jesse Dayton, Garrison Keillor and Asleep at the Wheel fiddler Jason Roberts, one of Gimble’s protégés. Gimble started playing the fiddle at age 9. By age 12, he and his four brothers were performing as the Rose City Swingsters — gigging regularly on Tyler radio and across East Texas; listening to Fort Worth radio, the Lightcrust Doughboys and then the Bob Wills band; and teaching themselves
the pop songs they heard. Gimble went on to carve a busy career, including playing five-string fiddle and electric mandolin for Wills’ Texas Playboys; leading the house band at Wills’ club in Dallas and on “The Big D Jamboree”; moving to Nashville for 10 years and doing studio work with Haggard, Charley Pride, Chet Atkins, Porter Waggoner & Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney, George Strait in Jimmy Buffett; playing
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roles in the movies “Nashville,” “Honeysuckle Rose” and Clint Eastwood’s “Honkytonk Man,” which featured Gimble’s country hit “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle”; performing on Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” and on “Austin City Limits”; and recording more than 10 albums. For fiddlers around the world, there’s no escaping Gimble’s influence. Slowed only slightly by a stroke in 1999, he’s apparently become a “mere mortal” on the fiddle, although he still plays mandolin with no restrictions. For more Festival information, visit (new Web site) www.athenstexasswingfestival.com.
Posted by: Sam Moore