Danny Gatton, the incredible player who has become such a legend, and who took his own life in 1994, was someone who at the time of his death, was truly my best friend.
We had shared many great times together, both musically as well as personally, and though it was not an easy friendship to maintain, due to distance and Danny’s constant “disappearing” it was still incredibly rewarding. He used to get me gigs up in NY even before I knew him, or had even heard him play. One time, I got a call from a producer who was doing a “Kentucky Fried Chicken” –type jingle, and hey wanted some hot chicken pickin’ for it. He said that he had called Danny for it, and Danny said “why send all that way for me, when you’ve got Arlen Roth up there in NY!” This was a wonderful gesture on his part, and must have been almost 10 years before we ever even met!
We finally did start to correspond with each other around 1988, and in ’89, when he was featured on the cover of Guitar Player magazine, holding that half-mask, being touted as the “world’s greatest unknown guitarist”, we finally got together in NY. He had a gig planned at the Riverside Memorial Church in NYC, and he and I had been talking a lot before that gig about our mutual love and passion for old cars and Hot Rods. Sure enough, when he heard that I had a ’53 and a ’54 Buick Skylark, he said he had a set of the rare wire wheels for them, and he’d bring them up to the show!
So, there we were, sitting in the back of his pickup truck, in a snowstorm, mind you, outside of the gig, negotiating the price for the wire wheels! Once we arrived at the price, which was extremely fair, by the way, he then changed his focus and started thinking about the gig at hand! Even once we got inside and were hanging out in the dressing room with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy, who were also on the gig that night, we all ended up talking about cars!
Danny was an amazing player, but an even better person, and the days with him were so precious but few. He and I accomplished a lot together in those few years…..2 landmark Hot Licks videos, working on my Toolin’ Around album together, appearing on Conan O’Brien and so much more, but there was a lot more that could’ve been accomplished if the tragedy of losing him had not taken place.
I will always cherish those days with him, and in the future, I will be writing more about this deeply personal subject.