Remember that Les Paul: He Changed the Music television special that aired in the late 1980s – the one where Eddie Van Halen awkwardly kisses Les Paul on the cheek? I remember hearing that the one person Les Paul requested to perform at that tribute concert was Danny Gatton, but, at the last minute, Gatton was bumped by the network for rock star Eddie Van Halen. Les Paul had never even heard of Eddie Van Halen.
Anyone who has ever listened to Danny Gatton knows he’s one of the greatest electric guitar players who ever lived—if not the greatest. I only got to see Gatton perform once and that was in 1989 on a triple bill with Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy/Junior Wells at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC. At that time, I was a teenager enthralled with Johnny Winter, so I can’t honestly say I remember Gatton’s performance that well, but I did notice that it was jazzier and more sophisticated than the electric blues I was listening to at that time. Over the years, I have come to appreciate what a master of the instrument Gatton was and the album that opened the door for me was Redneck Jazz from 1978.
The Unfinished Business album pictured above was inscribed to a high school friend of mine back in 1988 when it was Gatton’s most recent album. It’s probably most notable for Gatton’s mesmerizing arrangement of Santo and Johnny’s "Sleepwalk."
In the summer of 2008, I saw Guy Davis perform as an accompanist for Pete Seeger and Pete’s grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger at the historic Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland. After the show, I handed Guy this copy of his debut release Dreams About Life and he was pretty surprised to see it. Before he signed the album, he showed it to his teenage son Martial who had never even seen it before.
Guy made this modest, likable recording for Folkways in 1978 and I’m not sure that he recorded anything else until the 1990s. There aren’t very many albums with double-neck guitars on the cover, but if you want to see more, check out this link.
I still kick myself for not getting Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright to sign an LP when I saw them at Sunset Park back in the early 1990s. Though they basically phoned in the performance—Kitty even looked at her watch a few times during the set—it was very cool to see them at such a legendary venue. According to this fascinating article written by Eddie Dean, Sunset Park closed in 1995, so I got there just in time. During the show, Kitty mentioned that her first time playing the park was back in the 1940s and I know she made regular—if not yearly—performances there for her entire career.
The cover you see pictured was a $5.00 eBay purchase. While it’s not the greatest picture in the world, I like that Kitty signed the front cover with a sharpie. She typically used to sign back covers and use a ballpoint pen.
At 92 years of age, The Queen of Country Music is still alive, though her husband of 74 years Johnny Wright passed away earlier this year at the age of ninety-seven. Was this the longest celebrity marriage in history?
Laura Cantrell released an excellent tribute album called Kitty Wells Dresses earlier this year. I love that she recorded "Amigo’s Guitar," which will always be my favorite Kitty Wells song.
J.D. Crowe and Tony Rice signed this great bluegrass record for me backstage at the Birchmere in 2008. This cover is the second one made for this album and it is the one that most people are familiar with. The first cover has a hilarious photograph of the band with J.D. slyly sticking up his middle finger. When I pulled this record out for J.D and Tony to sign, they both recalled the original cover and had a good laugh over it.