Western Swing: March 2013 Archives

Johnny_Gimble-Texas_Fiddle_Collection.jpgI thought I read some sad news about legendary western swing fiddler Johnny Gimble tonight, and I'm hoping I imagined seeing it. I'll hold off on publishing what I thought I read until I can confirm it, but in the meantime please remember Johnny and his family in your prayers, and please enjoy the following tribute to this great musician.

Johnny Gimble's big break came in 1949 when he was hired to play for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. After a few years playing professionally, he became a barber, playing as a sideline until 1968, when he moved to Nashville to become a studio musician. Gimble appeared on several of Bob Wills's recordings for Kapp Records. Some of the best cuts from that period were collected by MCA on The Best of Bob Wills, which includes a version of "Milk Cow Blues" with no vocal except Johnny Gimble scat-singing along with his fiddle solo.

Gimble was one of the six Texas Playboys who performed on Merle Haggard's tribute to Bob Wills, and Bob Wills picked Gimble and Keith Coleman to play fiddle on the 1973 album that would become known as "For the Last Time."

Even if you're not a western swing fan, you may have heard Johnny Gimble as a guest on "A Prairie Home Companion." Gimble is also a virtuoso on the mandolin, and there are some wonderful videos circulating of an "Austin City Limits" episode featuring Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, and Jethro Burns on mandolin, David Grisman on drums, and Eldon Shamblin on rhythm guitar.

Here is a biographical documentary from 1981, with a lot of great music, including several songs filmed at the Caravan Ballroom in Tulsa, where the house band included Eldon Shamblin, Billy Dozier, Glen "Blub" Rhees, and a trumpeter who looks like a very young Mike Bennett. (And I'm kicking my 17 year old self, wondering why I didn't make it down to the Caravan.) You'll also get to hear Johnny play mandolin and sing, backed by steel guitarist (and Texas Playboy) Maurice Anderson, and singing with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. The film includes some cuts that you'll find on his 1981 album, "The Texas Fiddle Collection," which every fan of fiddle music and western swing should own.


Johnny Gimble 2007 interview with British western swing aficionado Graham Lees

Johnny Gimble newspaper interview from 2010

Bob Wills Radio, an amazing collection of interviews with western swing musicians, has a two part interview of Johnny Gimble by Stacy Phillips. Here's a transcript of an excerpt and direct links to the audio:

Johnny Gimble on Bob Wills Radio, part 1
Johnny Gimble on Bob Wills Radio, part 2

Happy Pi Day! This evening at 6:28 Eastern time, applicants to MIT will learn whether or not they've been admitted. For those hopefuls and anyone else in need of worthwhiling away a little time, some links of interest:

Tyson Wynn, who runs local news site WelchOK.com, has been bombarded with complaints from Canadian animal rights activists and their allies about a nearby event that he knew nothing about and has nothing to do with. Among other things, these people have threatened never to vacation in Welch (pop. 619). Tyson offers some advice on how not to advocate for your cause.

Aerogramme Writers' Studio: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: From some of the most compelling storytellers of our time. Rule 9 begins, "When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next."

Somewhat related: Ace ponders the Mystification/Revelation Model of Teaching. First you puzzle and frustrate your student, then you relieve his frustration with a solution. You're going to be much more interested in information if it answers a question that's bothering or intriguing you. Ace sees this technique used in good movie storytelling. Seems to me that Jesus' parables fit the same pattern.

My Tulsa friend Erin Patrick gets a mention in a Wall Street Journal article about grown kids who stay on their parents' family plans for phone and digital entertainment. Erin's daughter is on the family phone plan; her 16-year-old son is paying for some of his own subscriptions out of the money he earns.

TiffanyTranscriptions.com: "Ole Buttermilk Sky": A song-by-song description of a British CD collection of mid-1940s recordings by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, mainly songs from the Tiffany Transcriptions that were not included in Kaleidoscope's LPs. The article by Tom Diamant includes some interesting info on the Crosley Transcriptions (aka Presto Transcriptions) and how to tell a sloppy re-issue from a careful dubbing.

Did you know that Southern Hills Country Club is in a low-income "food desert"? The U. S. Department of Agriculture has an interactive food desert map. That SHCC is in a low-income food desert is an example of the hazards of aggregation. I guess the number of households in the apartments on the east side of Lewis north of 71st outnumber the households in the massive homes backing up to the golf course, but they're all in the same census tract.

StateImpact has a Google Map of municipal water rates in Oklahoma. It's not close to complete, but interesting nevertheless.

Rex Brown says in-home filters may be the cause of your slow DSL internet and offers a solution -- an outdoor splitter where your phone service comes into the house.

Warren Buffett praises John Maynard Keynes, but his father Howard Buffett was a friend of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, who sent a copy of his Panic of 1819 to Howard for Warren. Thinking that Warren must have lost that copy, economist Mark Thornton sent him another.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal documents the rising popularity of home-brewing among Christians. One of the churches mentioned appears to be part of the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (although they take pains to hide their affiliation on their website; I deduced it from where their pastoral staff went to college and seminary); there's an elder at our local PCA congregation who makes some very nice beers. (An unanswered question: Why do home brewers and craft brewers feel obligated to go overboard with hops?)

Tomorrow (Saturday) night, March 2, 2013, the historic Cain's Ballroom at 423 N. Main St. in downtown Tulsa's Bob Wills District will ring with the music that made it famous. Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, led by vocalist Leon Rausch and guitarist Tommy Allsup, will headline the annual Bob Wills Birthday Celebration. The Tulsa-based western swing band the Round-Up Boys will open the dance. It's an all-ages, family-friendly event. Doors open at 6, show starts at 6:30.

Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan, and a horse read a newspaper

Rausch and Allsup have over a century between them as western swing musicians. Both were with Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys in the 1950s. Rausch joined the Texas Playboys in 1957 and took over as band leader when Bob retired in 1964. Allsup produced the Liberty Records albums that brought Bob Wills and vocalist Tommy Duncan back together after a decade apart, produced the final album (For the Last Time) and played guitar and bass with the band. Allsup was also a sideman for Buddy Holly, backing Holly on hits like "Heartbeat" and "It's So Easy" (that's Allsup with the famous guitar lick) and touring with him through the January 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. (Allsup lost a coin toss with Richie Valens for a seat on the plane.)

The resurgence and on-going popularity of western swing owes much to the advocacy of Merle Haggard. In the first flush of mega-stardom, Haggard took the opportunity to promote the music and musicians that had shaped his music. Haggard produced albums of Jimmie Rodgers (Same Train, Different Time), gospel music (Land of Many Churches), and, in 1970, he gathered six Texas Playboys (Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, Alex Brashear, and Joe Holley) to join his band for A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or My Salute to Bob Wills). That led to a reunion and recording for Capitol (unreleased) at Haggard's Bakersfield home in 1971, this time with Bob himself on hand and many of his sidemen from Tulsa in the 1930s and 1940s. That in turn led to the final 1973 album for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, which included Haggard as vocalist on several tunes, putting the music back in record bins and on the radio.

Shamblin and Moore joined Haggard's band, playing with the band off and on through the '70s and '80s. Here they are, along with Johnny Gimble, on Pop Goes the Country with a strikingly hirsute Ralph Emery, singing "Cherokee Maiden":

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from March 2013.

Western Swing: December 2012 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: April 2013 is the next archive.

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