As the months go by I continue to be gratified by occasional messages from Danny afficianados who, by one reason or the next, have found their way to it. The feedback has been very positive. Many of the writers ask if I wouldn't mind sharing a bit more about Danny, another anecdote or tidbit of personal information. In response to these requests, I have the following thoughts and observations.

Playing with Danny | Taking Lessons
1975: Meeting Danny | Danny Interview (Realaudio)

Playing with Danny
He was incredibly self-effacing and modest, and liked to express his appreciation to those who played with him. When you played a good gig, and afterward, sitting around packing up, it was not unusual for him to comment to the effect "You guys are such great players. I'm so lucky to be able to play with you." Can you imagine? My reaction was usually "Get out of here Danny - I'm the lucky one." Or something like that.

The very idea that he was LUCKY to play with US...

But make no mistake -- he knew who he was. He held no misguided notions about his abilities; he knew EXACTLY how great he was. He did not suffer (musical) fools gladly. When he found himself onstage with someone he didn't care for, he'd often play only the minimum, or even make the person look like a beginner if he felt they were too full of themselves.

I guess the point is he always made you feel special, that you were doing HIM a favor. I last played with him in Dec. '91, after that tour. Somehow I knew it would be that last time for a while, but of course, had no clue it would be the last time, period. So I kept the last set list, and also asked him to sign an '88 Elmira St.' poster. He graciously obliged and wrote something that blew me away:

"Brian - Thanks for saving our butts again!
  - Danny Gatton"

Danny's nice autograph

Incredible. In fact, Danny could've had any drummer around, and there are only about ten million who play better than I do. That was just his way of raising other musicians up to his level, so he wasn't stuck always looking down.


One of many lessons
Perhaps the most significant musical thing Danny taught me was how to hang on for dear life to the 'one' of a measure of music - critical skill for a drummer. Early on, he could lose me with the snap of a finger by simply playing something so rhythmically complex and interesting, I was 'gone' in a flash. That is, I suddenly had no idea where I was in the measure. So I had to learn to overcome that impulse; to ignore my musical responsibilities for the sheer fun of listening to, and being amazed by Danny. When there's so much happening, it's that much more important for the drummer (or for me anyway) to hold down the groove so he and the rest could play with the kind of abandon that leads to great music.


1975: Meeting for the first time
I was a first-year student at the University of Virginia 'working' at WUVA radio when I met Danny, about 9 years before we would first play together. Danny and the Fat Boys had just released their (now reissued) album American Music. We had scheduled interview to coincide with their appearance in Charlottesville, making the arrangements with Billy Hancock, the band's bass player and meister-hustler.

Comes time for the deal, and Danny and (drummer) Dave Elliot are there, but no Billy. We wait for a while, but no Billy. Danny and Dave began to express some impatience, so we go ahead and do the interview. We have a great time. Good conversation, relaxed, talking about music,the record and a variety of topics.

They made sure to take advantage of Billy's absense by giving him a merciless hard time on a number of fronts. Pretty jovial all around, and we (the interviewing team) are collectively impressed with how down to earth good natured and unpretentious these guys are, and get no small grins from the fact that they are goofing on Billy.

So the interview comes and goes; Danny and Dave head off. They're gone only a few minutes when screaming around the corner comes this big white Cadillac, a flustered and harried Billy Hancock behind the wheel. Late, but he's made it. When he finds out what happened he takes it in pretty good stride. Oh well, as long as we got on the air and all that. He then gives us promotional copies of the LP. Quite a few in fact - about a dozen. Plenty for us to each take one and have a pile to spare for the radio station. A number of them were slightly warped, but playable. (Remember warped records?) Regardless, we were pretty happy about the whole deal.

Anyway, Billy zooms off as hurridly as he arrived, and that, is the end of the story. We didn't mention to Billy that he'd taken a severe ribbing from his bandmates during the interview.


A Danny Gatton Interview
This is very cool, and worthy of your time. Resident on the Definitive Danny Gatton Website, this by-permission Realaudio NPR interview with Danny occurred on April 9, 1989, and features the great musician discussing his tone, guitars, styles, musical influences and more. The always professional Liane Hansen is the interviewer. I'll be honest, hearing this for the first time brought a pretty big lump to my throat...

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


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