Danny Gatton was born on September 4, 1945 in Washington D.C. Danny’s passion for guitar was inherited from his father. The elder Gatton played rhythm guitar professionally and had a distinctive percussive sound. Danny’s father gave up his life as a musician in order to provide a more stable foundation for his new family. The passion that his father instilled in him though, would lead his Danny to become the man that Guitar Magazine would later call, “The World’s Greatest Unknown Guitarist.”
Danny first began playing the guitar at the age of 9. By the time he was 12 years old was already in his first band, the Lancers. In 1960, Gatton took an interest in jazz music and joined a group known as the Offbeats. The pianist and organist for the group, Dick Heintze would go on to become one of Gatton’s biggest musical influences. Danny stayed with the Offbeats until the band broke up, four years later.
With the Offbeats disbanded, Gatton sought session work in Nashville. While in Tennessee, Danny polished his guitar skills under the tutelage of Roy Buchanan. Buchanan was also Gatton’s roommate for a time. While in Nashville, Gatton was well on his way to earning his eventual title of “Master of the Telecaster”, but his big break would come after he returned home to Washington D.C. and entered the club circuit with his backing band, the Fat Boys.
After building a reputation as premier guitar player in those Washington D.C. clubs, Gatton and his band recorded their first album in 1975. It was called ‘American Music’, and was followed up three years later with ‘Redneck Jazz’. It wasn’t so much the commercial success of these albums that brought Gatton his due, but the response of other musicians to the albums.
After the release of ‘American Music’ and ‘Redneck Jazz’, Gatton received offers from several musicians to join their bands. The first was Lowell George, who had just left the band Little Feat. George was found dead two days after extending the invitation and Gatton ended up with country artist Roger Miller and rockabilly artist Robert Gordon. During his time with the two, Gatton received national exposure and became a cult sensation among guitar fans.
Like his father before him, Gatton wanted to spend more time with his family. Instead of giving up the music business entirely, he limited his touring to the East Coast. He played with several bands during this time and also contributed to various albums as a session guitarist.
in 1989, Gatton released his first solo album in ten years. The album was called ‘Unfinished Business’ and attracted the attention not only of guitar oriented magazines, but of mainstream music magazines such as Rolling Stone. The exposure led to a contract with Elektra records that resulted in his major label debut in 1991, with ’88 Elmira’. Two years later he would make his solo touring debut in support of his third record with Elektra, ‘Cruisin Deuces’. The album was not a big success and ended Gatton’s relationship with the label.
Gatton went back to playing session work to earn a living, but sadly, committed suicide in 1994. The guitarist locked himself in his garage and shot himself. He left behind no explanation, although close friends said that they suspected he may have been suffering from depression off and on for much of his life.