When imagining a guitar genius, one might envision clichés of an eccentric
artist, probably with unkempt hair, a tormented stare, and a whiff of madness. The
genius leaves behind a list of broken relationships coldly sacrificed in obsessive pursuit of
art. But sometimes that mold is broken.
Sometimes the genius is surprisingly
humble, generous, and caring. Sometimes
a legacy is sustained not only by recordings
and musical breakthroughs, but also by lives
touched and changed. Such is the case with
Jimmy Wyble, an incredibly talented guitar
player and teacher who created a family tree
of musicians built on sincerity and patience.
He played country, Western swing, jazz,
and classical music, yet it’s tough to find
anyone who doesn’t mention Wyble’s personality first when discussing his proficiency
on the guitar.
James Otis Wyble (January 25, 1922-–
January 16, 2010) was born in Port Arthur,
Texas, to Cajun parents who hailed from Port
Barre, Louisiana. He began playing guitar at
12 and received lessons from a machinist at
the oil refinery where his father worked. The
teacher taught Wyble to read music, along
with a few rudimentary chords. By his mid-teens, the young guitar player was performing
with his teacher at parties and small dances.
Wyble’s early influences included bands that
passed through Port Arthur and Houston,
along with the work of jazz guitarists Eddie
Lang and Carl Kress, among others. The
mixture of Texas country and Western music
with Cajun influences provided the base, a
sort of roux, if you will, to which later jazz
inspirations would be added.
Student and close personal friend, Larry
Koonse, has amassed an extensive discography and touring record, as well as being a
faculty member at the California Institute
of Arts since 1990. He says it’s possible
within just a couple of notes to recognize
Wyble’s work. It’s not so much the attack,
the phrasing, or the tone that is easily identifiable. Instead, it’s the combination of
geographical and genre influences.
“He had an identity and sound that was
completely his own,” Koonse says. “It’s the
James Otis Wyble
Born: January 25, 1922
Best Known For: His contributions
to Western swing and jazz, most notably
his etudes and explorations of contrapuntal concepts and technique. Wyble was
also highly regarded as an instructor.