Monday, November 28, 2011

Danny Gatton

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."


  1. I remember going to this show, as well. I had heard that Gatton was a guitar master, but this was the first time I heard him play. Because it was so much more complicated and sophisticated than the pentatonic jangling which I exclusively loved at the time, I didn't exactly know what to make of Gatton. I still remember he opened up with the Peanuts theme which really made me pause to marvel at his completely quirky and remarkable abilities. It was pretty amazing hearing it played on guitar. I remember the rest of it being mostly over my head at the time, playing weird jazz chords, crazy volume swells, and pedal steelesque phrasing. It really was like nothing I'd heard on guitar before. Pretty good show when Danny Gatton is 1st on a 3 band bill...

  2. Your comment prompted me to view some more Danny Gatton videos on youtube such as this one, which is totally amazing:

    I think the only other guitar player I've seen with skills in Gatton's ballpark is Redd Volkaert, who is equally comfortable playing country, jazz, Western swing, or rock.