One Step Forward, Two Steps Back - A Randy Elmore, Johnny Gimble Story
Boy, I think I have this right. I know the Randy Elmore part is right because he told me the story. And I’m pretty sure the Johnny Gimble part is right but if it’s not, I’m hoping someone will help me out and correct me. Honestly, whether or not it was Johnny isn’t the full point of the story so we’ll just soldier on for now.
Many years ago, when Randy Elmore was in high school he was going to school five days a week and playing fiddle in a country bar band three or four nights a week. He was making good money and playing music. Not much more a 16 year old kid could ask for. And I’m guessing he was a pretty good fiddler by that point. The way he plays now, one might imagine that he started out strong.
One night, the great Johnny Gimble came through town, playing fiddle with some touring country artist. Randy wouldn’t have missed that for the world, Johnny being a hero of his. After the show, Randy got a chance to meet Johnny and making the most of the opportunity, Randy asked his hero to check out his playing and help him get the beautiful, fluid bow hand that Johnny is famous for. Johnny took one look at Randy’s hand and told him that if he wanted to really have the wrist movement he needed, he would need to alter his bow grip altogether. A daunting prescription but Randy knew Johnny was right. And he wanted to look and sound like the greats, so there was no other option. He would change his bow grip.
It’s probably fair to say that many of you reading this are fiddle players. And you are currently picturing what it takes to make a change like that, especially if you’ve been playing that way for over a decade. Pretty scary, right? Very. But Randy decided that he was going for it. And the next time the band played Randy tried out his new bow grip and it would be an understatement to say that it did not go well. The bandleader pulled him aside after the show and asked him why he sounded so awful. Not exactly the reaction he was going for. Randy explained the change in bow grip and that Johnny Gimble himself told him he needed to do it. The bandleader said that was all fine and good and that he admired Randy’s desire to improve, but that he had four weeks to get it together or he was fired. He couldn’t wait around while his fiddle player sounded like cats fighting. People don’t like to dance to cats fighting.
Every morning Randy woke up at 4 a.m. and practiced. He practiced until he had to go to school and then when he got home he practiced some more. Then he’d go play with the band, come home at 2 a.m., fall asleep and start all over again. And in four weeks he had it. He kept his job, and he had a bow arm people spend their lives trying to duplicate.
I don’t really have to spell out the moral of this story do I? Actually there are several. Sometimes things have to get worse in your playing in order to get better. Sometimes you have to sacrifice to get the results you want. Sometimes you have to want it so bad you can’t sleep. How bad do you want it?
Here’s a little Randy Elmore and his fantastic bow arm…