Danny Gatton Interview
Guitarist Danny Gatton has been winning praise the world over for his newly
released CD - "88 Elmira Street" (Electra Records).
"Guitar Player" magazine wrote Danny's got "mind-boggling
chops, impeccable taste, a thorough grasp of theory, and an advanced harmonic
"Guitar World" magazine called him "the world's greatest unknown
How did Danny Gatton get from Washington, D.C. to Elektra Records?
Q. Danny is this the first tour you've ever done?
A. Last night was the first gig we've done since the record came out, as
a band. We actually did two little rehearsal gigs in D.C, that didn't really
count. We're on tour with the Radiators for a couple of weeks.
Q. Well, how do you like the road?
A. Well it's not the first time I ever left home. (Laughs) I've been out
over the years for extended periods of time. I don't really like it that much.
But, I wasn't doing it under my own name, so I've got more of a reason to do
it now than I did before. I worked for Roger Miller and Robert Gordon,
and just playing in some road bands in general. Nothing that would matter.
Q. So where did Howard Thompson (Electra's A and
R rep.) enter the picture?
A. I guess he entered the picture because of our manager, Ellis Duncan contacted
him, and possibly had him come down to the Cat Club in New York City. He saw
us a couple of times. It took him awhile to make his mind up to sign me.
We had offers from a number of major labels, well ready to go in the talking
stages, not offers per se. But they all had the same problem. What do we do
with him? What do we call it? What record bin do we put this in? What is it
that this guy does? I picked Elektra because of the freedom I have with them,
the control of the music, getting to produce it, just do whatever I want.
Q. That's pretty unusual for a new artist isn't it?
A. Yeah, especially when it’s the first time out. But then, I have
been doing this for a long time.
Q. You struggled for years to get recognition and a deal. What would go through
your mind when you'd see someone with lesser talent than yourself go to the
top of the charts and make a lot of money?
A. Depends on what day it was. If you see someone who's really awful
make it, make a lot of money, and they can't play, and they've paid no dues
whatsoever, sure it makes veteran performers jealous. But, by the same token,
the music business is so competitive. God Bless anybody who can be successful
in this. I don't begrudge anybody who can make a dollar out of it. You earn
every dollar you get whether you've practiced your instrument a lot to
get to the level where I'm at. You still got to get out there and work real
hard to do it. What's the public want to hear? I can't blame the performer,
if there are performers that aren’t so good, musicians that are awful,
because there are obviously people out there that can't tell the difference.
There's something for everyone. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla.
I'm not bitter about it. Plus, I didn’t really try all that hard to get
a record deal, ever. This is the first time I tried really hard to get one,
and I got one. I was just for years, more pre-occupied with building cars,
building street rods, and customs, restoring my house, and just doing mechanical
things. I played music for a living, but I still never practiced. I never played
unless I had a gig.
Q. Where did you meet Roger Miller and Robert Gordon?
A. A fella named Randy Hart, a keyboard player from Washington, D.C. used
to play in a band there called "Tractor." Now, I knew two of the
guys in Tractor, but I never knew Randy. This would've been around 77 or so
and I was living in Santa Cruz, CA for awhile and I had migrated down to LA.
I was doing an album with Commander Cody and Randy Hart knocked at the door.
Somehow he found out I was in LA., through someone else, and he lived out there.
But, he was Roger Miller's keyboard player. Somehow or another he had gotten
into that thing. And he asked me if I was looking for a gig, and at the time
I was. He took me down to meet Roger Miller. I passed the audition. I
worked on and off with him for about 5 years. I met Robert playing in
a club in Georgetown, in Washington. He knew the guy that was singing
in the band. He came down to see us and asked me if I wanted to play on a record
he was doing, so I said sure. So, I played on the record "Are You Gonna
Be The One?" Marshall Crenshaw wrote a lot of tunes on that. Marshall
was actually in the band when I joined, playin' bass. Duke Robillard was in
that band for awhile too. So, I was working with Roger and Robert for a few
years, juggling the schedule, and somehow it always worked out.
Q. Your first band was in 1957?
A. That's the first band I ever played in that was working and I was getting
paid for it. I was 12. The other guys were a lot older than me.
Q. Do you remember the material you were playing back then?
A. Sure. Buddy Holly stuff. Chuck Berry. Whatever kids would be doing
in those days. Top 40 rock 'n' roll, right off the radio, most all of the good
stuff I learned when it was new, all current.
Q. Most kids today would probably be impressed
with how fast a guitarist can play, right?
A. How fast he appears to be playing. It wasn't like that when I was a kid.
I always liked playing real fast and being flashy, but it didn't matter to
anybody at all.
Q. Danny, you were around at the wrong time.
A. Yeah I was. I was either born way too early or way too late. Now that
playing fast got to be the vogue thing to do, I stopped doing it.
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