Johnny Gimble Fiddles With Famous Friends
A few years ago, at age 80, fiddle-playing legend Johnny Gimble backed Carrie Underwood during a Grammy Awards show performance, but young country fans who caught that performance might not realize just how legendary the humble, unassuming Mr. Gimble happens to be.
From working with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the late 1940s to playing on scores of Nashville sessions with the likes of Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and George Strait (to name just a very few), Johnny Gimble is no less than the gold standard for country music fiddlers.
And there's no slowing him down -- the 83-year-old icon has just released 'Johnny Gimble: Celebrating With Friends,' a collection produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and featuring guest shots from Willie, Merle and Vince Gill, among others. While Johnny may be unstoppable, he and his producer on the project acknowledge the music business can sometimes grind things to a halt.
"That record was supposed to come out on my 80th birthday,'' Johnny tells the Boston Globe.
Ray Benson explains that the three-year wait was so that the CD's executive producers could obtain written clearances for the guest artists.
"Merle and Willie did it because they love Johnny,'' he says. "All that paperwork was unnecessary.''
Throughout the ups and downs of his career, including a massive stroke he suffered in 1999, Johnny Gimble has obviously kept his sense of humor.
"When the doctors showed me an X-ray of my brain, they pointed to a black hole on the upper left side and told me that all memory from that spot was dead,'' he says. "I thought to myself that I hoped that's where I kept 'The Orange Blossom Special.'"
"You can debate who was the greatest fiddle player, but Johnny Gimble has definitely been the most versatile. And he's also the greatest jokester,'' says Ray.
'Johnny Gimble: Celebrating With Friends' is available now.