Part of the great power of musicians is that they can offer listeners a look into their souls. In the case of the late Danny Gatton, this was a cathartic and ultimately heartbreaking experience.
For years the Washington DC native was called ‘the world’s greatest unknown guitar player.’ So prodigious were his skills - if he didn’t have a slide, a mug of beer would do just fine - that he was also named ‘The Humbler.‘ Pity the axeman who would go up against him in a jam session.
Gatton’s potent blend of blues, bebop, jazz and rockabilly all came together on 1987’s Unfinished Business, on which he hybrid picked his way through dazzling originals as well as near-definitive versions of Sleepwalk and Melancholy Serenade (The Jackie Gleason theme). Gatton mostly played a 1953 Telecaster with Joe Barden pickups. In 1990 Fender introduced a Danny Gatton signature model, based on his ’53.
On 4 October 1994, Gatton locked himself in his garage and shot himself. He left behind no explanation for his suicide.