The son of a West Texas cotton farmer, Rocky Gribble’s musical roots began when he first picked up his dad’s guitar at the age of thirteen. Before he turned fourteen, Rocky was making weekly television appearances on a country music show in Lubbock, Texas. His high school years in Post, Texas were dotted with awards recognizing his talents on the guitar. A Bachelor Of Arts degree in music from Bethany Nazarene College in 1974 would soon follow as Rocky embarked on a career in his first love. A proficient multi-instrumentalist, Rocky’s studio and stage experience spanning almost four decades greatly augment his many roles as session musician, background vocalist, musical arranger and producer. His abilities on the electric lead guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, nylon string classical guitar, five string banjo and mandolin keep him busy contributing to the music of countless singers and songwriters, including playing on Miranda Lambert's demo which got the country superstar her first recording contract. He is also called upon occasionally to contribute his musical skills to local, regional and national commercial jingles, ad campaigns and trade shows, both recorded and live. He has also produced and / or written for Miss Texas pageant participants and winners. From time to time, Rocky also acts as judge and talent scout for various talent competitions and showcases.
As producer of the internationally known Grapevine Opry since 1987, Rocky has had a profound influence on countless up-and-coming performers and serves as president of Yellow Rose Productions, the company responsible for the show. Rocky also acts as band leader as well as head writer and arranger for the numerous special productions for which the production is known.
Rocky’s musical talents have taken him across the United States and to such exotic locales as Switzerland, Japan, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, playing for a broad variety of musical artists including Englebert Humperdink, LeAnn Rimes, B.J. Thomas, Ronnie Milsap, Linda Davis, the Judds, Gary Morris, Carol Channing, Wanda Jackson and Hank Thompson.
Rocky is a member of the Grapevine Opry Association's Entertainer Hall Of Fame and was named the West Texas Music Hall Of Fame's 2010 Entertainer Of The Year. He has served as a board member on the GCISD Partners In Excellence committee, as an officer and board member of the Grapevine Rotary Club, awarded the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce 2011 Don Ramey Community Spirit Award and 2013 Citizen of the Year. Rocky is quick to donate his skills for various civic and community functions.
Now for those of you with REALLY inquiring minds, the following is a slightly edited article that appears in the hardback publication "Grapevine's Unforgettable Characters".
ROCKY GRIBBLE - A HOBBY BECOMES A JOB
I was born the son of a West Texas cotton farmer in 1952 and grew up in the farming community around Grassland, Texas (population 31 according to “1001 Texas Place Names“, University Of Texas Press). I remember my dad H.C. and his buddy Bo Creighton singing at the Tahoka “Hootenanny” and I decided I wanted to join them. I had no idea what I was in for when I first picked up my dad’s old guitar at the age of thirteen other than I hoped it would get me out of farm work. I remember listening to Chet Atkins records and trying my best to sound like Chet. I also remember my dad telling me not to be a farmer. Before I turned fourteen, my dad carted me off to Lubbock to audition for a country music show sponsored by a furniture store. “Al Hayes’ Country Junction” was presented live every Saturday on Channel 11 and I auditioned for THE Mr. Al Hayes at, you guessed it, Al Hayes’ Furniture Store. I suppose I passed the audition because I was asked to become a weekly performer on the show. I performed on the show for about a year and a half, during which time my parents took me to a Chet Atkins concert at Texas Tech and while waiting in the lobby for the doors to open, some lady came up to me and said she watched me on TV every Saturday. Move over, Chet Atkins! Some people couldn’t resist the sight of a skinny farm kid playing a guitar that was bigger than him.
My high school years in Post, Texas (Grassland didn’t have a school) were dotted with awards from nearly every talent show within driving distance of our farm, which wasn‘t very many. After graduating Post High School in 1970, I sought a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Southern Nazarene University, located in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany. It was during my college years that I was in a couple of bands, traveled with the college quartet, started teaching guitar at a music store and the college, and then stumbled into recording studio work as a session musician. Somewhere during my college career, the motion picture “Deliverance” was released and suddenly everyone and his dog wanted to play “Duelin’ Banjo.” The music store where I taught guitar wanted to help all of those prospective banjo players (and sell them a prospective banjo) so they approached me about teaching banjo (I was the only country musician on the 12-15 person teaching staff). The store loaned me a banjo and an instruction book on a Tuesday and I started teaching banjo the next Monday. Upon college graduation in 1974, I continued to teach guitar and banjo at the music store and the college, eventually becoming so busy at studio session work that the teaching fell to the wayside. It was also a few years after graduation that I met and married Brenda Kaye Fipps, a SNU college coed from Temple, Texas. My musical career continued to occupy life as I played for everything from the Oklahoma Opry to the Cowboy Hall Of Fame to Broadway productions with the Oklahoma Symphony for shows including “Annie,” “Oklahoma” (with the conductor from the original big screen musical) and “Sugar Babies” with Mickey Rooney. Studio work kept me performing on 125 to 150 albums and commercials every year.
In 1985, Brenda and I decided to move back to the promise land. I continued pickin’ and grinnin’ with a band that counted American Airlines as one of their clients, affording me the opportunity to play for various product shows both here and abroad. In 1987, I was on the team that reopened the Grapevine Opry, which had been closed after reaching its zenith of existence in the early 1980’s. After the closure, a college chum, Kenny Marchant (now a United States Congressman in Washington, D.C.) purchased the declining theater and began an extensive remodeling. Kenny’s brother Ron (best friend, college band mate and best man at my wedding) contacted me and outlined plans for reopening the aging facility and offered me the position of bandleader. On Saturday, November 14, 1987, the Grapevine Opry reopened to a mediocre reception. At one time a well-attended country music show, the doors had been closed for some time. For two years or so, the show struggled to regain its original popularity while Kenny negotiated and executed the sale of the property to an area businessman.
In 1991, just as the show was beginning to pull its own weight, the new owner and corporation that owned the theater filed for bankruptcy. Ready to walk away to greener pastures, I was approached by Grapevine businesswoman Beverly Bartley (whose daughter Lani, now Mrs. Brian Stacy, began singing on the show on the 1987 opener at the ripe old age of 8) approached me about staying in Grapevine. Beverly recognized the Grapevine Opry as an asset to the community and asked me to stay involved as producer / band leader and try to save the show. The bankruptcy issue was resolved through somewhat of a miracle when Paul (P.W.) McCallum of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, realizing the value of the historic theater to the heritage of Grapevine, approached Beverly and me with the idea of persuading Grapevine city council to acquire the property, an unthinkable proposition if the facility did not have and anchor tenant (and unless we would sign a blood oath agreeing to continue producing the Grapevine Opry through thick and thin). Mayor Tate and city council approved the acquisition, guaranteeing the existence of the theater for future generations. At this juncture, Yellow Rose Productions, Inc. was formed with the partnership of Beverly, Brenda and I with a ton of invaluable help from Jean Bartley. A few years later, I bought Beverly’s share of the company and she went on to help Lani pursue a career in music.
I have had the privilege of performing across the United States as well as in such exotic locales as Switzerland, Japan, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, playing and / or recording for a broad variety of musical artists including Englebert Humperdink, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, B.J. Thomas, Ronnie Milsap, Linda Davis, the Judds, Gary Morris, Carol Channing, Wanda Jackson and Hank Thompson. However, I am most proud of the fact that the Grapevine Opry has become a premier live county music show and has established a tradition of excellence that keeps performers and patrons alike coming back time and time again. With one of the most acclaimed house bands in the Southwest, the show attracts artists from all over the nation and has become what one Nashville music industry insider called “one of our farm clubs.” The show offers the best in new and traditional country, bluegrass, Western and Western swing, and performs special theme shows dedicated to musical styles as diverse as big band swing and fifties rock and roll. As president of Yellow Rose Productions, I serve as executive producer, director and head scriptwriter for the show. My experience and ear for a great performances and tight arrangements has given the Grapevine Opry a reputation as an innovator of quality family entertainment in the region (and I'm a ham). I have had influenced countless up-and-coming performers who are just beginning a serious journey in a career of performing.
These days, my time is spent playing electric lead guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, nylon string classical guitar, five string banjo and mandolin (something I picked up a few years ago because I thought the show needed it). In addition to my instrumental abilities, I routinely fulfill the role of background vocalist, musical arranger and record producer for singers and songwriters. I occasionally contribute my musical skills to local, regional and national commercial jingles, ad campaigns and trade shows, both recorded and live. I have produced and / or written for Miss Texas pageant participants and winners and from time to time act as judge and talent scout for various talent competitions and showcases. One thing I enjoy most is playing for various functions in Grapevine, whether a benefit, promotional event or just for fun.
Since my hobby of guitar playing became my vocation, I had to find something else for a hobby. I enjoy fly-fishing for bass and trout, tying flies, playing with our dog Boo and just tooling around our house in Grapevine, reveling in the life of my second hometown.