Dick Gimble put in 39 1/2 years of service to McLennan Community College and retired on December 7 of last year. But there’s a whole lot more to his story than being a professor of music for nearly four decades.
Gimble is the son of the late Johnny Gimble, the legendary Western swing fiddle player who was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as an early influencer and member of Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys, and as an individual performer in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He’s also the father of Emily Gimble, a musician who lives near Austin and regularly plays gigs. All three generations of the Gimbles have, at one time or another, played with Asleep at the Wheel.
Dick Gimble was born in Oklahoma, where Wills’ band was based. The night he was born, his dad was on the road playing a gig … in Waco. The family — including Gimble’s younger twin sisters — eventually moved to Waco when KWTX-TV founder Buddy Bostick offered Johnny Gimble a daily 30-minute show, “Johnny Gimble & The Homefolks.”
Dick Gimble played trombone in junior high and high school when he was a student at Midway. He started out on the football team, on the offensive line. But after being manhandled by a much larger defensive lineman from Valley Mills, he decided to give up football. The school principal said Gimble would have to join a PE class or the band, so he chose band. He wanted to play trumpet, but there were too many of those already, so he was moved to trombone. He did well and was first chair trombonist for three years and was band president as a senior.
He was kicked out of band in 1968, his final year, after missing a Friday night football game to play alongside his father in a backing band at the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo. The musical star of the rodeo that night was Leonard Nimoy, who gained fame as Mr. Spock in the “Star Trek” television series. Nimoy had just released an album of folk songs and was touring. (In his defense, Gimble had told the band director early in the school year that he would be absent for that game.)
While studying classical guitar at the University of Texas, Gimble lived a couple of doors down from several members of Asleep at the Wheel.
“There were seven that lived in that house,” Gimble said, “and they stayed up every night until 2 or 3 in the morning, smoking weed and drinking beer.” And playing music.
Eventually Gimble started his own band. He ended up as a session player in Nashville, then moved back to Austin, playing gigs around town before accepting a teaching job at MCC. In addition to teaching music, he also instructed students in the commercial side of the industry, in classes like Music Business, Concert Promotion and Venue Management.
The payoff to teaching for as long as he did, Gimble said, is letters from former students, like Dan Immel, the son of former KWTX news anchor Lloyd Immel. Dan is a freelance musician based in Rio de Janeiro.
“Hey, Gimble,” the letters usually start. “Thank you so much for helping me get started.”
Reunion Swing Band Star
Dick Gimble’s studio contains numerous musical instruments. There are a couple of stand-up basses, a mandolin, a few electric guitars and eight or so bass guitars. On the walls are framed posters advertising gigs his father played. On the wall next to Gimble’s desk is a rarity: a platinum album awarded to his dad. Johnny Gimble wrote two songs that appeared on the soundtrack from “Honeysuckle Rose,” a 1980 movie starring Willie Nelson. Dick Gimble appeared in the film as a member of the Reunion Swing Band. “I got to act like a bass player in a country band,” he said.