Roller-Farmers Union Funeral Home
Graveside services for Edgar "Leon" Gambill, 71, of Bono who died
Thursday, May 17, at his residence, will be Monday at 10 a.m. at Shilo
Cemetery, with Pete Shelton officiating.
Active pallbearers will be David Bailey, Terry Bailey, Allen Bailey, Allen Lackey, Dennis Mathis and Sonny Ackerman. Honorary pallbearers will include Steve Stacy and Robert Hargraves. Roller-Farmers Union Funeral Home of Jonesboro is in charge of arrangements.
Born at Bono, Gambill was a Jonesboro High School graduate and a lifetime resident of the Jonesboro area. He began his career as a mechanic and driver for Great Southern Coaches, later worked for the National Life
Insurance Company and began to perform as a musician, fronting a
number of bands. He was a supervisor for a construction company in the
Memphis area and was a contributor to the annual Blues Fest activities at
Craighead Forest for several years.
He was a past member of the Jonesboro Jaycees, past president of the Eagles, a member of the IBC and coached Little League.
Survivors include his wife, Leona Gambill of the home; two sons, Danny Gambill of Cleveland, Ohio, and Randy Gambill of Bono; two brothers, Bennie Gambill of Cherokee Village and Tommie Gambill of Vestavia Hills, Ala.; seven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; 12 step-grandchildren; and eight step-great-grandchildren.
Leon Gambill loved making music. His enjoyment was written on his face
while he performed. He wasn't above clowning around and he could cook up
the most outrageous antics with his fellow musicians. I never met Leon
Gambill when he didn't have a kind word or wasn't ready to lend a hand
or help in anyway he could.
I haven't known Leon long. In fact if it hadn't been for Larry Donn Gillihan I may never have met him. His name came up in conversation just prior to Blues Fest 95 when Larry Donn and I were discussing turning the second day into a performance venue for the great early RocknRoll talent that abounds in this area. Larry Donn told me during our conversation that I really needed to meet Leon Gambill. He brought him to Blues Fest that year to perform during his set and from that point onward Leon Gambill had a slot at the festival.
Leon was a RocknRoll pioneer. He recorded his first RocknRoll song in
1951 and loved the music. His son Randy told me once that he remembers
his dad playing music from the time he was a little boy. Randy joined
his dad on stage when he was old enough to go out to play. He has been
with Leon on stage every year at Blues Fest. In a special family show
in 1999 Leon and Randy were joined by Randy's daughter on stage for what
was to become an historic family performance.
One of my favorite memories of Leon is from Blues Fest 97 when he decided to let the zany stuff from his old RocknRoll act take over. Leon's long time friend Toby Shelton had been telling me stories about the old days. Loading up in a pickup truck with all the equipment piled in the back and five guys squeezed into the cab, rolling down back roads with no names, trying to get to the gig on time. They played barn dances, hops, dives, picnics, and anywhere else where there was a need for a bunch of crazy young men with guitars.
Admittedly at age 67 he wasn't sliding across the floor on his knees or whipping the guitar around his head but he was up there on stage having a blast and enjoying all the crazy activity on stage including Toby doing his best Minnie Perle immitation.
This was also the first year that Sonny Ackerman and Dennis Mathes joined him at Blues Fest. These long time friends and musicial partners were the icing on the cake.
Leon at Blues Fest 2000
Photos by Vivian Heyl and Gretchen Hunt
Photos from Blues Fest 97
Blues Fest 98
Photos from Blues Fest 99
Leon on Delta Musicians