Danny Gatton


© Copyright 1991, 1996
by Brian Alpert;
All rights reserved.
The Concert Tour
One drummer's journal of a pretty damn good time…

Danny Gatton was one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Before his shocking and tragic suicide in 1994, this fact was well-known only to an informed contingent of musicians and music devotees. Today Danny's legend lives on due to his astonishing musical legacy and the enormous impact he had on anyone ever to see him play. Another sad note: longtime Gatton friend and road manager Billy Windsor (mentioned extensively below) is also gone, dying of natural causes some months before the Gatton suicide. The following piece, began in 1991 and finished in 1996, remains in present tense so as to preserve the immediacy of its journal form.

Sept. 18th, 1991

[T]

here's a message on my machine. It's from Billy Windsor, inquiring about my availability in October. The entire month. Billy is Danny Gatton's local organizer, and road manager. If you're not aware, and that is easily possible, Danny Gatton is Washington D.C.'s musical legend, described in the Washington Post Magazine as "The Greatest Guitarist You've Never Heard." Danny is well-known to the likes of Chet Atkins, Les Paul, and Buddy Emmons. He was once on the cover of Guitar Player magazine as part of a feature called "Unknown Greats."

Danny and Brian; 1983I have been playing with Danny off and on since 1983. Recently, I've been substituting for his full-time drummer Shannon Ford. Shannon is playing out his last gigs with the Gatlin Bros. (a gig he acquired through his association with Roger Miller, who he met through Danny). Shannon played on Danny's first major league album, 88 Elmira St. (Elecktra) and has lately been touring full-time with the Gatton Band. Now however, he's been called to tape "Hee Haw!" for three weeks—a big break for someone trying to break into the legit, in-town Nashville scene. The Gatton Band isn't all that happy about it, but they accede to his pleas and call me to sub.

Over the years I have done a lot of subbing. Danny describes my ability to play unfamiliar music as "amazing." I don't know if it's so amazing; I've worked to develop my 'ears' and can play quite a few styles. Whenever possible I prepare extensively by listening (repeatedly) to a group's gig tapes.

I suspect another reason Danny likes me as a sub is that my playing is in some respects - and quite by accident - similar to Shannon's. When I hear him, I typically think: 1) amazing - I would play that exactly the same way, 2) I would never play that! and 3) I wish I could play that! Shannon is a very adept, entertaining player.

So I get this phone call, and believe me, I'm thrilled. Danny's music is fun and ultra-challenging. It's a musician's gig. To add to the excitement, we will be opening for the Kentucky Headhunters, who are basking in the success of a hit record and "Entertainer of the Year" award. Now I have done a lot of road work, but never a genuine concert tour complete with tour bus, good pay, a per diem to cover expenses and an appearance on the prestigious syndicated TV show, Austin City Limits. In contrast, my experience has meant a van, low pay, bad food, cheap motels, etc. In fact, "thrilled" doesn't do it justice.

Next: Big shoes to fill, in A Hot Band…

Introduction || A Hot Band || The First Gig || Tour Plans
Day One || Day Two || Day Three, pt. 1 || Day Three, pt. 2
Day Four || Day Five || Day Six || Day Seven
Day Eight || Day Nine || Days 10-11
Epilogue || Feedback

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© 1991, 1996 by Brian S. Alpert. All rights reserved.