Danny Gatton

Daniel Wood Gatton Jr. (September 4, 1945 – October 4, 1994) was an American guitarist who fused blues, rockabilly, jazz, and country to create a musical style he called "redneck jazz".[1]

Danny Gatton
Danny Gatton
Gatton with his "Mother of Toilet Seat" Telecaster
Background information
Birth nameDaniel Wood Gatton Jr.
BornSeptember 4, 1945
Washington, D.C., US
DiedOctober 4, 1994 (aged 49)
Newburg, Maryland
GenresBlues, rockabilly, jazz
Years active1960–1994


Daniel Wood Gatton Jr. was born in Washington, D.C., in 1945. The son of a rhythm guitarist, Gatton started playing at the age of nine. From 1960–1964 he played jazz guitar with the Offbeats, then worked as a session musician in Nashville.[2][3] When he returned to Washington, he drew attention in the 1970s as a member of Liz Meyer & Friends and other local bands. He recorded his debut album, American Music (1975), followed by Redneck Jazz (1978) with pedal steel guitarist Buddy Emmons appearing as a guest. He founded the band the Redneck Explosion.[2]

Although Gatton could play most genres of music, including jazz, blues, bluegrass, and rock, he was known as a country and rockabilly guitarist.[2] He toured with singers Roger Miller and Robert Gordon.[3] He was sometimes called "The Telemaster" and "the world's greatest unknown guitarist".[2] Guitarist Amos Garrett called him "The Humbler" for his ability to defeat other guitarists in "head-cutting" jam sessions.[4] On this point, however, Gatton declared “The biggest humbler to me, of all time, would be Lenny Breau. He was the best I have ever seen."[5]

Nine years after his last album, he released Unfinished Business (1987), an eclectic collection of pop, rock, and country music that Guitar World magazine named the tenth best album of the 1980s.[6] He got a contract with his first major record label and released another eclectic album, 88 Elmira Street (Elektra, 1991),[3] which contained a cover version of the theme song from the animated TV series The Simpsons.[7]

Gatton turned toward jazz for the albums New York Stories (Blue Note, 1992) and Relentless (1994) with Joey DeFrancesco. For unknown reasons, he committed suicide in 1994.[2][3]


On October 4, 1994, Gatton locked himself in the garage on his farm in Newburg, Maryland, and took his own life by shooting himself.[8] Although he left no note or explanation,[9] family members and close friends believe he suffered from depression for many years.[10] Friend and drummer Dave Elliott said that he thought Gatton had suffered from depression since they met more than twenty years earlier.[8]

Gear and playing style

Gatton played a 1953 Fender Telecaster customized with Joe Barden pickups and Fender Super 250Ls, or Nickel Plated Steel (.010 to .046 with a .015 for the G) strings (Fender now makes a replica of his heavily customized instrument), and a 1956 Gibson ES-350. For a slide, Gatton sometimes used a beer bottle or mug. In the March 1989 issue of Guitar Player magazine, Gatton said he preferred to use an Alka-Seltzer bottle or long 6L6 vacuum tube as a slide, but that audiences seemed to prefer the beer bottle. Unlike many electric guitarists, Gatton played slide overhand only, citing his earlier training in steel guitar [Guitar Player, March 1989]. Among amplifiers, liner notes on his album "88 Elmira Street" cites his use of Fender amplifiers including a 1963 Vibrolux, a 1963 Super Reverb, a 1958 Twin, a 1964 Deluxe, and a 1958 Bassman.[11] Gatton built many of his own electric musical devices, including one he called the Magic Dingus Box, which controlled the speed of the rotating horn in a Leslie speaker cabinet.[12]


When Rolling Stone magazine selected the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time in 2003, senior editor David Fricke ranked Gatton 63rd on his ballot.[13] On May 26, 2010, Gibson.com ranked Gatton as the 27th best guitarist of all time.[14]

Among his admirers are Buckethead, Joe Bonamassa, Lenny Breau, James Burton, Chris Cheney, Vince Gill, Johnny Hiland, Evan Johns, Bill Kirchen, Albert Lee, Les Paul, Arlen Roth, Richie Sambora, Ricky Skaggs, Slash, and Steve Vai.[9]

Gatton has been described as possessing an extraordinary proficiency on his instrument, "a living treasury of American musical styles."[15] In 2009, John Previti, who played bass guitar with Danny for eighteen years, stated, "You know, when he played country music, it sounded like all he played was country music. When he played jazz, it sounded like that's all he played, rockabilly, old rock and roll, soul music. You know, he called himself a Whitman sampler of music"[10] Guitarist Steve Vai reckons Danny "comes closer than anyone else to being the best guitar player that ever lived."[16] Guitarist Albert Lee said of Gatton, "Here's a guy who's got it all."[17]

On January 10–12, 1995, Tramps nightclub in New York organized a three-night tribute to Gatton featuring dozens of Gatton's musical admirers, the highlight of which was a twenty-minute performance by Les Paul, James Burton, Arlen Roth, and Albert Lee.[18] Those shows (with all musicians performing for free) raised $25,000 for Gatton's wife and daughter.

Blue Skies Calling (2011), an album by Boy Wells, includes nearly an hour of Gatton and Wells playing in his living room. "Danny called me before he died and asked me to put a vocal tape together for his label at the time. He needed a singer after his singer, Billy Windsor, had passed. He remained a friend, a good one all those years. This lesson was in the late '70s; it's me and Danny in the living room of his house on Holly Lane in Indian Head, Maryland. It's killer stuff."[19]

Gatton was given nicknames such as "The Humbler",[20] "The Telemaster",[21] and "the world's greatest unknown guitarist".[21]

Awards and honors


  • 1975 – American Music
  • 1978 – Redneck Jazz
  • 1987 – Unfinished Business
  • 1990 – Blazing Telecasters
  • 1991 – 88 Elmira St.
  • 1992 – New York Stories with Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Bobby Watson, & Franck Amsallem
  • 1993 – Cruisin' Deuces
  • 1993 – Toolin' Around with Arlen Roth
  • 1994 – Relentless (with Joey DeFrancesco)
  • 1995 – Redneck Jazz Explosion
  • 1996 – The Humbler (with Robert Gordon)
  • 1998 – In Concert 9/9/94
  • 1998 – Untouchable
  • 1998 – Portraits
  • 1999 – Anthology
  • 2004 – Funhouse
  • 2004 – Unfinished Business
  • 2005 – Oh No! More Blazing Telecasters (with Tom Principato)
  • 2006 – Redneck Jazz Explosion, Vol. 2
  • 2007 – Live in 1977: The Humbler Stakes His Claim


  1. ^ Heibutzki, Ralph (2003). Unfinished Business – the Life and Times of Danny Gatton. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-748-X.
  2. ^ a b c d e Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  3. ^ a b c d Huey, Steve. "Danny Gatton". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Danny Gatton, The Humbler | RCR | American Roots Music". Rubbercityreview.com. 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  5. ^ Newton, Steve. "Guitar god Danny Gatton says Lenny Breau is the biggest humbler of all time". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  6. ^ Schulte, Tom. "Unfinished Business". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  7. ^ Koda, Cub. "88 Elmira St". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b Harrington, Richard (1994-10-06). "October 4th, 1994 – Danny Gatton". Thehumblermovie.com. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  9. ^ a b Heibutzki, Ralph (2003). Unfinished Business: The Life & Times of Danny Gatton. Backbeat Books, San Francisco. ISBN 0-87930-748-X.
  10. ^ a b "Danny Gatton: 'World's Greatest Unknown Guitarist'". NPR. October 4, 2009. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  11. ^ Jesse Gress (2007-10-02). "10 Things You Gotta Do to Play Like Danny Gatton". GuitarPlayer.com. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  12. ^ Scott (2008-11-26). "The Audio Museum: Danny Gatton's Original Magic Dingus Box!". The Audio Museum. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  13. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  14. ^ "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time – 30 to 21". Gibson. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  15. ^ "Chairman Ralph's Ministry Of Truth". Chairmanralph.com. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  16. ^ "Playlist: Danny Gatton « Guitar Aficionado". Guitaraficionado.com. November 15, 2011. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  17. ^ "Albert Lee Interview : Guitar Interviews". Guitarinternational.com. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  18. ^ Herndon, David (January 9, 1995). "A Tribute to Danny Gatton". Newsday. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  19. ^ "Bman's Blues Report: Marcel Marsupial Records artist: Boy Wells – Blue Skies Calling – New Release Review". Bmansbluesreport.com. December 1, 2011. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  20. ^ Fanelli, Damian (June 8, 2017). "Danny Gatton Solos with a Full Beer Bottle and Towel, Guitar World Magazine". guitarworld.com.
  21. ^ a b "Readers Poll Results: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Guitar World. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  22. ^ Graham, Jonathan (14 February 2019). "Forgotten Guitar: Danny Gatton Performs on 'Nightwatch' in 1989". guitarworld. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  23. ^ "The Definitive Danny Gatton Web Site". Dannygatton.com. Archived from the original on June 4, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-24.

Further reading

  • Heibutzki, Ralph (2003). Unfinished Business: The Life and Times of Danny Gatton. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-748-X.

External links

88 Elmira St.

88 Elmira St. is a 1991 album by guitarist Danny Gatton. The album was Gatton's fifth, but his first on a major record label—Elektra. The instrumental album covers a number of genres, including jazz, country, rockabilly, and blues.

Arlen Roth

Arlen Roth (born October 30, 1952) is an American guitarist, teacher, and author. From 1982–1992, he was a columnist for Guitar Player magazine. Those ten years of columns became a book, Hot Guitar.

Bearsville Studios

Bearsville Studios was a recording studio in Bearsville, located just west of Woodstock, New York, United States. The Bearsville Records label was under the same ownership.

Bill Holloman

Bill Holloman (born c.1956) is an American jazz and blues tenor saxophonist and trumpet player.Holloman is noted for his highly energetic solos on both instruments. Holloman featured in the bands of Nile Rodgers (Chic), Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers and alongside Danny Gatton. He has performed many times at the Montreal International Jazz Festival and has also recorded or performed with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Slash, Elton John, Steven Tyler,

Simon Le Bon, Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross and Les Paul. Holloman is also noted for his recordings with top American television network shows including HBO, CBS and ESPN, notably NASCAR. He shares an Emmy Award for the HBO Sports documentary Legendary Nights.

He has two children, Thomas and William Holloman, and still plays in the band Chic.

Canadian Sunset

"Canadian Sunset" is a popular song with music by jazz pianist Eddie Heywood and lyrics by Norman Gimbel. An instrumental version by Heywood and Hugo Winterhalter reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 7 on the R&B chart in 1956. A version sung by Andy Williams was also popular that year, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard chart. The Sounds Orchestral, conducted by Johnny Pearson, hit the Easy Listening chart reaching No. 14 and the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 reaching No. 76.

Evan Johns

Evan Johns (July 12, 1956 – March 11, 2017) was an American guitarist specializing in a variety of music, including rockabilly.

Johns was born in McLean, Virginia, and began his musical career in the Washington, D.C. area. There, Johns met and played with guitarist Danny Gatton, writing three songs (including the title track) for Gatton’s 1978 album, Redneck Jazz. After his stint with Gatton, Johns founded his own band, called "the H-Bombs", which became popular playing regular gigs in the DC area. Among the group's fans was Jello Biafra, founder of the Dead Kennedys, who in liner notes to an H-Bombs EP, described the H-Bombs' music as "a little Tex-Mex here, garage power there, all whipped into a witch's brew of spitfire guitar and Evan's trademark vocal growl. This is the real stuff."In 1984, Johns relocated to Austin, Texas, to join the band The LeRoi Brothers. In Austin, Johns performed on the 1985 compilation album, Trash, Twang and Thunder by several Austin guitarists who styled themselves as Big Guitars From Texas; the album earned a Grammy Award nomination for rock-instrumental music.In 1985, Johns re-formed the H-Bombs in Austin and continued as its leader. Johns and the H-Bombs played together for several years thereafter, becoming known for their eclectic repertoire, summarized by one reviewer as "cajun, rockabilly, punk, surf, blues, country – even spaghetti Western soundtrack music."In the mid 1990s, Johns began to suffer alcohol-related and other health problems and stopped playing regularly in 1998, but continued to write and record music until his death.Johns died on March 11, 2017, from complications following surgery, in Austin, Texas.

Farewell Blues

"Farewell Blues" is a 1922 jazz standard written by Paul Mares, Leon Roppolo and Elmer Schoebel.


Gatton may refer to:


Gatton, Queensland, Australia

Shire of Gatton, former administrative region

Gatton, Surrey, former village in England

Gatton (UK Parliament constituency), rotten borough based in the villagePeople

Gatton (family), Norman land-owning dynasty in Southern England

Danny Gatton (1945–1994), American guitaristEducation

Gatton College of Business and Economics, University of Kentucky

Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky or "Gatton Academy"

Harlem Nocturne

"Harlem Nocturne" is a jazz standard written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939 for the Ray Noble orchestra, of which they were members. The song was chosen by the big-band leader Randy Brooks the next year as his theme song.The version by the Viscounts has the distinction of being released twice and rising high on the Billboard charts each time: first in 1959, when it peaked at #53, and again in 1966, peaking at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart."Harlem Nocturne" was the theme song of the television series Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and The New Mike Hammer.Harold Faltermeyer recorded a version for the soundtrack to the film Tango & Cash.

In 1990, the pianist Kofi Wilmot gained popularity in the instrumental world for his cover version from the album of the same name, Harlem Nocturne.Danny Gatton released a version in 1993 on his album Cruisin' Deuces (Elektra/Rhino).

The Sonny Moorman Group released a version on their 2009 “Live As Hell” album (Atlas Records).

Some singers have recorded "Harlem Nocturne", adding lyrics. Mel Tormé recorded a version with lyrics for his 1963 album Sings "Sunday In New York" And Other Songs About New York, beginning with "a nocturne for the blues". Sylvia Brooks recorded a different version, arranged by Jeff Colella, on her album Dangerous Liaisons in 2009, starting with "deep music fills the night", which has since been covered. Other vocal versions are by Ernestine Anderson, Carla White, Denise Jannah, Bonnie Bramlett, and Jacintha. Brian Setzer does a version loosely based on the theme called "Hollywood Nocturne".

Jerry Donahue

Jerry Donahue (born September 24, 1946, Manhattan, New York City) is an American guitarist and producer primarily known for his work in the British folk rock scene as a member of Fotheringay and Fairport Convention as well as being a member of the rock guitar trio The Hellecasters.

Joey DeFrancesco

Joey DeFrancesco (born April 10, 1971) is an American jazz organist, trumpeter, and vocalist. He has released more than 30 albums, including recordings with Miles Davis and Jimmy Smith. DeFrancesco signed his first record deal at the age of 16 and has played internationally with musicians that include David Sanborn, Arturo Sandoval, Larry Coryell, Frank Wess, John McLaughlin, Benny Golson, James Moody, Steve Gadd, Danny Gatton, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, George Benson, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, and recorded with musicians that included Ray Charles, Bette Midler and Van Morrison.

Michael Fath

Michael André Fath (born November 8, 1952 in Washington, DC) is an American guitarist and record producer from Loudoun County, Virginia. Michael has two children, Jade Arden Fath and Sierra Marie Fath.

He has been a member of the rock bands Wizzard, Orphan, King Dazzle and the Cherry People; and during his subsequent solo career has released nearly 30 instrumental solo albums. He has released numerous guitar instructional videos as well, including the acclaimed Rock Guitar Project.Best known for his wide array of guitar recordings primarily in the progressive instrumental rock genre (and including straight-ahead jazz, fusion, blues, country, bluegrass and classical), his career began receiving serious national and international attention in the early 80’s. He has been favorably compared to some of the best rock guitarists in the world such as: Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and Edward Van Halen; with like acclaim to other infamous talents: Danny Gatton, Joe Pass, and Doc Watson. Michael is now actively involved with his current rock instrumental group, and producing new acts, along with developing a major rock/vocal project.

Michael Andre Fath is also a published novelist: "The Girls of Yesterday" and "The Village Squires -Tales of Mayhem and Revenge", and poet: "Reflections of Darkness and Light" . Fath was also a published columnist;

Newburg, Maryland

Newburg is an unincorporated community in Charles County, Maryland, United States. Newburg has two stores, a lodge hall, and a fire department, as well as Piccowaxen Middle School and Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary, both serving the entire Cobb Neck peninsula (i.e. all along MD 257 to Cobb Island). Newburg also is the northbound terminus of the Harry Nice Memorial Bridge serving U.S. Route 301.

Ralph Heibutzki

Ralph Heibutzki is a musician from Michigan. He is the author of Unfinished Business: The Life and Times of Danny Gatton.

Robert Gordon (musician)

Robert Gordon (born March 29, 1947) is an American musician and actor, best known as a neo-rockabilly singer.

Roy Buchanan

Leroy "Roy" Buchanan (September 23, 1939 – August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician. A pioneer of the Telecaster sound, Buchanan worked as a sideman and as a solo artist, with two gold albums early in his career and two later solo albums that made it to the Billboard chart. He never achieved stardom, but he is still considered a highly influential guitar player. Guitar Player praised him as having one of the "50 Greatest Tones of All Time." He appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits in 1977 (season 2).

The Snakestretchers

The Snakestretchers band featuring Roy Buchanan on guitar was originally organized by Danny Gatton to play a PBS documentary on WNET in New York City, hosted by Bill Graham. The original band was Roy Buchanan (lead guitar), Dick Heintze (keyboard wizard), Michael "Pokey" Walls (drums & vocals), Chuck Tilley (vocals & rhythm guitar) and Danny Gatton on bass. Danny Gatton and drummer "Pokey" Walls left the group before the show was taped and teamed up at Gus N' Johns Restaurant, also in "suburban MD". (Peter Van Allen '72-74 Bass)

Tom Principato

Tom Principato (born 1952) is an American electric blues and blues rock singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

Principato has recorded more than twenty albums over the years. One of his most recent releases, Robert Johnson Told Me So (2013), featured keyboard work by Chuck Leavell. Pat Metheny stated of Principato that "he has an enormous talent at telling stories in his solos; he doesn't play 'standard' licks."

Unique Recording Studios

Unique Recording Studios was a technologically innovative five room recording studio operating in New York City from 1978 until 2004. The business got off the ground as a rehearsal studio with a Tascam 8 track recorder in 1978, but soon expanded to 16, and then 24 tracks with the first Otari MTR-90. Some of the biggest names in the music world recorded at Unique. The still operating Unique Recording Studio website lists the following among their former clients: Madonna. Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, Anita Baker, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Billy Ocean, Maniquin, Michael Bolton, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Donna Summer, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Danny Gatton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, Billy Idol, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Aztec Camera, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Pet Shop Boys, Cheap Trick, James Brown, George Clinton, Bee Gees, Arthur Baker, Stevie Nicks, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Al B. Sure! New Edition, New Kids on the Block, Jimmy Cliff, Queen Latifah, Run–D.M.C., The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Nas, Kanye West and Alicia Keys.

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