By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


April 7, 2005

Texas singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore gets to repay a debt later this year when his next album is released. It will be a covers project, but one close to his heart: All of the songs will be ones his father loved and passed on to his son.

"My dad died about four years ago," Gilmore says by phone from Spicewood, Texas, about 20 miles outside of Austin. "He died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), so I'm kind of wanting to promote awareness of that and (say) thank you both to the ALS Foundation and the hospice, which was so important to us in that period. Hospice turns out to be one of the most wonderful things in the world. (The new CD) is also like a gift to my mom."

It will be a gift to Gilmore's fans, too, who have been waiting for five years for new music from the Lubbock native.

Gilmore will appear Saturday in a solo performance at the intimate Focal Point in Maplewood with his accompanist, guitarist Rob Gjersoe.

Gilmore has kept busy, however, with the Flatlanders, his legendary band that includes Texas pals Joe Ely and Butch Hancock. The trio reunited and released two albums since Gilmore's solo "One Endless Night" in 2000.

For his new project, Gilmore collected a number of his dad's favorite songs all the way back to the '40s and '50s, "old country songs when country music was still good," he says, with a laugh. "He and I shared a really deep love of this old music."

Artists likely to be represented on the disc include Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, Gilmore says.

"As I grew into loving all other kinds of music, stuff my dad never did too much relate to, I didn't do it the way a lot of my friends did," says Gilmore, who will turn 60 on May 6. "I didn't reject the old music when I came to love rock 'n' roll. And that was a shared bond between us."

Gilmore's father was a guitarist who played in bar bands his entire life. It was especially cruel that the disease -- which destroys the body while leaving the mind intact -- eventually robbed him of his joy.

"There came the day when he couldn't hold the pick and play the guitar anymore," Gilmore says. "That was really hard. It's a horrible disease anyway, for anybody, but in his case, that was one thing that made it really unbearable.

"But I got to spend a whole lot of time with him and play a whole lot of music for him. And one day not too long before he died, Joe and Butch were in town, and Dad always loved the Flatlanders. We sat around one afternoon and played everything he wanted us to play.

"Besides my mom, music was the love of his life. So, this next record is really based on that."

Gilmore says he might not have become a musician were it not for Elvis Presley. Many musicians of the rock era say that. But Gilmore's exposure to Presley also was due to his dad. In 1957, when Gilmore was 12, his father took him to see the King at show in Lubbock that featured Johnny Cash -- and Elvis opened for Cash.

"I think Elvis was really the headliner, but at that particular time in Lubbock, Johnny Cash had the bigger hit on the radio. Elvis was, even at that point, the bigger star nationally."

Gilmore says that what he really remembers about that night was the style of music.

"It was the first time I ever heard loud music," he says. "Elvis and Johnny Cash were both just rock 'n' roll. I mean, it was loud, driving music, rockabilly, the beginnings of rock 'n' roll. Elvis and Johnny Cash weren't that different in the style of the presentation.

"I was playing a little bit at the time. I often thought that it might have been that night that caused me to be a musician. I was always around music because of my dad. That night, it was just so much fun, and that was the big thing about those guys. It was happy music. My old friend Tommy Hancock has commented that he was almost put out of business by rock 'n' roll, because he's a fiddler. In that period, he and his band had a hard time getting work (because) early rock 'n' roll was happy music, and country music was mostly sad music.

"I remember that particular night being really, really inspiring and uplifting."

Many fans also find Gilmore's songs inspiring and uplifting, often describing them as having a Zen or spiritual quality. Part of that reaction stems from the decade that Gilmore spent studying in a Hindu ashram in Denver in the '70s. Ironically, it was while he was out of the music business that his songs became known, primarily through Ely's recordings of tunes such as "Dallas" and "Treat Me Like a Saturday Night."

Gilmore is reluctant to talk about that period of time, not because he doesn't enjoy talking about philosophy -- he loves it -- but because it's hard to do justice to the subject in just a few minutes of interview time.

"Philosophy is something I had a deep interest in from early on, probably in junior high and high school, when I started reading a lot of stuff. It's just a continuation of that in certain respects. It's been slightly misleading for me to be portrayed as some kind of spiritual person, because I don't think I'm any more so than anybody else," he says.

"I don't like to dwell on that as part of my public persona. I'm a professional musician, and not a spiritual person. It's a very important part of my life, but the way it mixes with my music is really subliminal."

Gilmore's CDs have ranged from singer-songwriter fare to rockabilly to hard-core country. His more recent music has added keyboard and string sounds not often found on country or alt-country records.

"From my perspective, from the very beginning, I was always broad-minded about the music and what my influences were," Gilmore says.

"I always listened to a much broader range of stuff. I didn't like the Beatles any more than Hank Williams, but I didn't like them any less. That's just the way it's always been for me. I love Little Richard at the same time I love Grandpa Jones.

"They seem like contradictions to people prone to categorizing things."