In 1960, the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, called a six-year-old boy to the stage during a concert in Martha, Kentucky. He put the strap of his Gibson F-5 mandolin on the child’s shoulders, and the tiny musician picked out a tune and wowed the audience.
Monroe died in 1996, and the priceless instrument has lay silent behind glass for years. On Sunday night, that boy, who grew up to be bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs, played his hero and mentor’s mandolin once more.
Skaggs, the late Johnny Gimble and the late Dottie West were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday during a private medallion ceremony in the Hall’s CMA Theater.
‘A musician through and through’
For more than 60 years, inventive and influential fiddle great Johnny Gimble played on some of country music’s most indelible recordings by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Marty Robbins, Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, George Strait and countless other legends.
Time Jumpers’ fiddlers Joe Spivey, Kenny Sears and Larry Franklin, joined by singer David Ball, kicked off the night’s stellar performances with a toe-tapping rendition of “Right or Wrong.” Gimble, this year’s Recording and/or Touring Musician inductee, played on both Wills’ and Strait’s recordings of the Western swing classic.
Michael Cleveland and Jeff White played Gimble’s instrumental composition “Gardenia Waltz,” and Connie Smith sang “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)” — Gimble’s deft playing on her 1972 recording made the song a duet, she said — accompanied by fiddler Deanie Richardson.
Gimble died in 2015 at the age of 88. Smith presented his medallion to his widow, Barbara, and children Dick, Cyndi and Gay.
“He was a musician through and through,” said Mrs. Gimble of her husband during a Sunday afternoon press conference. “He loved his work … he never did want to do anything else but play music and he was lucky enough to get to do it.”
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