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. Addresses: Record company-- Elektra Entertainment, 345 North Maple Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
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 Lubbock--hometown of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly--where Gilmore's 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, Gilmore's 1991 release, the singer-songwriter-guitarist mused, "People used to ask us why there was so much music in Lubbock, and we'd 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 Gilmore's life and music.
In a 1993 radio interview with Fresh Air' s 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 Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Radio brought the voices of Bob Dylan as well as Elvis Presley and Little Richard to Gilmore's 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.
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. 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 Ely--Van Zandt would later establish a career as one of the finest songwriters ever to have come out of Texas--the three began to play together. Soon the late Buddy Holly's 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 Singleton's 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 collector's 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.
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 don't think there's ever been that much enmity between Nashville and Austin, that's 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 I'd 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."
He returned to Austin and became a fixture on the music scene, playing a free weekly gig at Threadgill's. 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 wasn't long before the major labels began calling. Gilmore's 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 1993 Tonight Show appearance paired him with pop singer Natalie Merchant.
Though After Awhile demonstrated beyond any doubt Gilmore's gifts as a songwriter, he chose to record Hancock's "Just a Wave" for his critically acclaimed 1993 breakthrough outing Spinning Around the Sun. With its refrain "You're just a wave/ You're 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 Gilmore's 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 Air' s Gross, "I have a good enough ear to sing on key and I can tell if things are out of tune, but I'm not a musician.... It's 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 that's the focus for me." Clearly, music remained a form of meditation for Gilmore.
by John Morrow
Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Career
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.
- Selective Works
- (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.
February 24, 2004: Gilmore's album, Don't Look for a Heartache, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_4/index.jsp, February 26, 2004.
August 16, 2005: Gilmore's album, Come on Back, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, August 18, 2005.
- 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.