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Gilmore, Jimmie Dale

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Fell in Love With Acoustic Guitar

A Product of Austin and Nashville

Resumed Music Career After Spiritual Sojourn

Selected discography


Jimmie Dale Gilmore was born in the tiny town of Tulia, Texas, where his father played electric guitar in a honky tonk country and western band. But the family moved shortly thereafter to Lubbockhometown of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Hollywhere Gilmores father went to work as a bacteriologist at the dairy industry plant at Texas Tech University and where the young musician would begin to develop his identity as an artist. In liner notes to After Awhile, Gilmores 1991 release, the singer-songwriter-guitarist mused, People used to ask us why there was so much music in Lubbock, and wed say that maybe it was the UFOs that came through in the early fifties. (In fact, there was a famous sighting there in the summer of 1962, which Gilmore claimed to have seen in a 1993 Pulse! article.) That bit of whimsy aside, Gilmore noted that in Lubbock he lived in two worlds: the nightlife element was one, but then a big portion of my associates were creative and academic, studious types. That split, between the smoky-bar scene of country music and the more rarified life of the mind, continues to define Gilmores life and music.

In a 1993 radio interview with Fresh Airs Terri Gross, Gilmore revealed that country music was almost a religion for his family, and were it not for the influences of folk music and rock and roll in the early 1960s, he may well have become the sort of glitzy country star most often associated with Nashvilles Grand Ole Opry. Radio brought the voices of Bob Dylan as well as Elvis Presley and Little Richard to Gilmores impressionable ears, but it is perhaps more significant to his movement away from pure country music that Gilmore remembers seeing Presley in concert as a boy, in 1955 or 56, though Johnny Cash was the headliner at that show; both performers began as rockabilly stars, but it was Presley who would be more associated with the mature rock style, while Cash would earn a reputation as a country singer, albeit something of a maverick. Still, unlike many of his colleagues, Gilmore never rejected the music of his upbringing, instead serving as a link between rock and folk to his namesake, early country star Jimmie Rodgers, as well as the performers he cites as influences, Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.

Fell in Love With Acoustic Guitar

Gilmore took violin lessons as a child and played the trombone in junior high; when he was 16, he picked up the guitar and his father showed him his first chords.

For the Record

Born in 1945 in Tulia, TX; father was a musician and bacteriologist; married Jo Carol Pierce (a singer), (divorced); third wife named Janet. Education: Attended Texas Tech University.

Performed locally in Lubbock, TX; with Butch Hancock and Joe Ely, formed band the Flatlanders, 1971, and recorded for the Plantation label, 1972; released Fair and Square, Hightone, 1988; toured Australia with Hancock, 1990; released After Awhile, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1991; signed with Elektra Entertainment.

Addresses: Record company Elektra Entertainment, 345 North Maple Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

But the elder Gilmore played an electric instrument, for which Gilmore never really developed a feel. Then he discovered and fell in love with the big, acoustic Gibson J-200, which has become something of a trademark for him.

Gilmore, who began to play solo gigs around Lubbock, had been friends with songwriting legend Butch Hancock since 1957. After Hancock and fellow musician Joe Ely heard a record that a hitchhiker named Townes Van Zandt had recorded and passed along to ElyVan Zandt would later establish a career as one of the finest songwriters ever to have come out of Texasthe three began to play together. Soon the late Buddy Hollys father financed a demo for them. In the meantime, Gilmore was also performing with the Austin Hub City Movers, the first act ever to play the legendary Armadillo Headquarters, located in an old National Guard armory in Austin.

In 1971 Gilmore, Hancock, and Ely formed the Flatlanders, who went on to make a recording in Nashville in 1972 for Shelby Singletons Plantation label. Unfortunately for Gilmore fans, the album, with the exception of the single Dallas, had a limited release on the 8-track format only; it remained a collectors item until Rounder Records reissued it in 1990 as More a Legend Than a Band. If the record company had only been a little bit smarter to realize that [the Byrds countrified] Sweetheart of the Rodeo had just happened, Gilmore reasoned in Request, they could have taken the Flatlanders and done something with it. But everything on that album sounded so different from anything being played on country radio. Part of that difference may have resulted from the liberal use of a musical saw throughout the record.

A Product of Austin and Nashville

Nonetheless, Gilmore was not bitter about his Nashville experience, maintaining in Country Music: A lot of my friends said I was crazy to go to Nashville at all, you know that big rivalry between Nashville and Texas, but nobody else was interested in even recording us. I dont think theres ever been that much enmity between Nashville and Austin, thats something that just looks good in print. I could just never perceive Nashville as this big ogre, this big enemy, cuz I was always aware that a big portion of my favorite music had come from there.

The Flatlanders soon broke up, and though Ely and Hancock continued their musical careers, Gilmore turned to more spiritual and philosophical pursuits, in which he had become interested when he was a student of Western philosophy at Texas Tech. He eventually became interested in Asian philosophy; after meeting a follower of the guru Maharaji, who had come to the United States at the age of 12 and had a following of several million in India, Gilmore moved from Austin to a spiritual community in Denver, where he lived from 1974 to 1980.

He left, he explained in Country Music, because he had reached the point where I thought Id gotten what I need out of it. I came to the conclusion that music was my calling, and that not only was there not any contradiction between that stuff and playing music, but also that it really went together.... I came to believe I could integrate my life in music with my spiritual life.

Resumed Music Career After Spiritual Sojourn

He returned to Austin and became a fixture on the music scene, playing a free weekly gig at Threadgills. He recorded two albums with the independent label Hightone, debuting in 1988 with Fair and Square, which was produced by Ely. This was followed by Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1989. In 1990, Gilmore toured Australia with Butch Hancock, but it wasnt long before the major labels began calling. Gilmores major-label debut, the 1991 retrospective After Awhile, was a resounding success that garnered him a four-album deal with Elektra. Since then, he has appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival, on the acclaimed television program Austin City Limits, and in a PBS tribute to Jimmie Rodgers. A 1993Tonight Show appearance paired him with pop singer Natalie Merchant.

Though After Awhile demonstrated beyond any doubt Gilmores gifts as a songwriter, he chose to record Hancocks Just a Wave for his critically acclaimed 1993 breakthrough outing Spinning Around the Sun. With its refrain Youre just a wave/Youre not the water, the song fit well with the spiritual tone of the album. Gilmore also included songs by Elvis Presley and Hank Williams.

Perhaps the most distinctive element of Gilmores talent is his extraordinary voice. Instantly recognizable, it has been variously described in Country Music as oddly resonant and like a hinge that needs a shot of WD-40; its closest antecedent in country music is probably the voice of Lefty Frizzell. But Gilmore has always been recognized for his versatile guitar prowess as well, his work often reflecting the influence of rhythm and blues when he is not crooning a heartfelt ballad. Though from Gilmore, everything seems heartfelt. As he related to Fresh Airs Gross, I have a good enough ear to sing on key and I can tell if things are out of tune, but Im not a musician.... Its always been more the feeling, the focus and the meaning of the words. And, of course, the melody and the sound has to be there to make that stuff happen, but thats the focus for me. Clearly, music remained a form of meditation for Gilmore.

Selected discography

(With the Flatlanders) More a Legend than a Band (includes Dallas), reissued, Rounder, 1990.

Fair and Square, High Tone, 1988.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore, High Tone, 1989.

(With Butch Hancock) Two Roads: Live in Australia, Caroline, 1990.

After Awhile, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1991.

Spinning Around the Sun (includes Just a Wave), Elektra, 1993.


Country Music, November/December, 1992.

Guitar Player, October 1993.

Metro Times (Detroit), September 29, 1993.

Pulse!, October 1993.

Request, September 1993.

Rolling Stone, October 14, 1993; March 10, 1994.

Spin, July 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes to After Awhile, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1991; an interview conducted by Terri Gross broadcast on the radio program Fresh Air August 31, 1993; and an Elektra Entertainment press biography, 1993.

John Morrow

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Gilmore, Jimmie Dale


Born: Amarillo, Texas, 6 May 1945

Genre: Country, Folk

Best-selling album since 1990: Spinning Around the Sun (1993)

Although his recording career has stretched over thirty years, Jimmie Dale Gilmore achieved recognition only at its bookends, with a sixteen-year gap in between. The soothing twang in his voice epitomizes the high and lonesome sound that is the essence of traditional country music. Both country and pop artists have recorded his songs. With his long, stringy hair and Zen-inspired lyrics, the iconoclastic Gilmore operates on country music's fringes, wedding philosophical musings to a honky-tonk sound.

Part Irish and part Native American, Gilmore was raised in Lubbock, Texas, a fertile musical town in West Texas that also gave birth to Buddy Holly. After playing in bands as a teen (Holly's father financed his demos in 1965), he joined in with Lubbock locals and aspiring songwriters Joe Ely and Butch Hancock. Calling themselves the Flatlanders, the group recorded its debut album for a small Nashville label, Plantation Records, in 1972. It was released only on 8-track and was subsequently ignored. The group moved to Austin and ended up launching solo careers.

Although Ely and Hancock immediately poured their energies into music, Gilmore retreated. He studied philosophy at Texas Tech, then dropped out in 1974 and moved to Denver to join an ashram, a secluded religious community led by the Indian guru Maharaj Ji. In those six years of study, his music leaked out. Ely recorded his songs, particularly "Dallas" and "Treat Me Like a Saturday Night," which later became staples of Gilmore's live performances.

Gilmore returned to Austin in 1980. In the years that followed, he refined his songwriting, creating rich emotions from simple images. After performing around town for years, he finally released his solo debut album, Fair and Square, in 1988. A second album followed the next year; around that time he attracted the attention of Natalie Merchant, the lead singer with the folk/pop group 10,000 Maniacs. She helped get him signed to Elektra, a major label that released After Awhile in 1991.

Gilmore's breakthrough came with Spinning Around the Sun in 1993. Combining traditional country songs, a few Hancock covers, and his originals, the album was a crosscurrent of American musical styles: country, swing, rock, folk, and bluegrass. Rather than sell the music hard as most contemporary country stars do, Gilmore sang the songs with the sweet but mournful twang of an earlier era. The album's success gave Gilmore a level of exposure he had never experienced. He was soon playing to capacity crowds, appearing on television and on the covers of magazines, and even briefly collaborating with the Seattle grunge rock group Mudhoney.

A more commercial album, Braver Newer World, arrived three years later. Its atmospheric production and rockabilly songs made it a departure from his earlier work. Gilmore was later dropped from Elektra and ended up releasing One Endless Night, a collection of covers of Texas songwriters on the Windcharger Music imprint.

Meanwhile, throughout the 1990s, Gilmore, Ely, and Hancock experienced an unexpected bit of serendipity. The album they made in the early 1970s began circulating a decade later, and by 1990, the Massachusetts roots music label Rounder Records re-released it with the fitting title More a Legend Than a Band. It became the holy grail for a younger generation of rock fans who were beginning to discover country music giants like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. The building buzz around the Flatlanders led them to record the song "South Wind of Summer" for the soundtrack for the Robert Redford film The Horse Whisperer in 1997. They began touring together again, and in 2002thirty years after their debutthe Flatlanders recorded a second album, Now Again, to critical acclaim.

His sublime vocal style and subtle, philosophical lyrics helped to make Jimmie Dale Gilmore a leading voice in the 1990s resurgence of traditional country music.


Fair and Square (HighTone, 1988); Jimmie Dale Gilmore (HighTone, 1989); After Awhile (American Explorer/Elektra, 1991); Spinning Around the Sun (Elektra, 1993); Braver Newer World (Elektra, 1996); One Endless Night (Windcharger Music/Rounder, 2000). With the Flatlanders: More a Legend Than a Band (Rounder, 2000); Now Again (New West, 2002). With Butch Hancock: Two Roads (Caroline, 1993).


mark guarino

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"Gilmore, Jimmie Dale." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . 21 Nov. 2017 <>.

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"Gilmore, Jimmie Dale." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved November 21, 2017 from