Danny Gatton aka “The Humbler” and “The World’s Greatest Unknown Guitarist”

Wikipedia does a great job of illustrating what other guitarists — very good guitarists — thought of Danny Gatton:

Gatton’s playing combined musical styles such as jazz, blues and rockabilly in an innovative fashion, and he was known by some as “the Telemaster.” He was also called “the world’s greatest unknown guitarist”. His most common nickname was “The Humbler”, owing to his ability to out-play anyone willing to go up against him in “head-cutting” jam sessions. It was Amos Garrett, guitar player for Maria Muldaur, who nicknamed Gatton “The Humbler”. After a successful gig, Garrett would pull out a tape of Gatton and tell his band, “You think we played well tonight. Let’s take a minute to listen to the Humble-lizer.” A photo published in the October 2007 issue of Guitar Player magazine shows Gatton playing in front of a neon sign that says “Victims Wanted”.

However, he never achieved the commercial success that his talent arguably deserved. His album 88 Elmira Street was up for a 1990 Grammy Award for the song “Elmira Street Boogie” in the category Best Rock Instrumental Performance, but was beaten by Eric Johnson with “Cliffs of Dover”.

His skills were most appreciated by his peers such as Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, and his childhood idol Les Paul. During his career, Gatton appeared on stage with guitar heroes such as Alvin Lee and Jimmie Vaughan, the latter literally walking in one night on a Gatton club gig. There is also an apocryphal rumor about an on-stage “head-cutting” jam between Gatton and fellow Washington DC-area resident (and Telecaster player who also held the title of The Greatest Unknown Guitarist) Roy Buchanan. (Gatton had roomed with Buchanan in Nashville, Tennessee in the mid ’60s and they became frequent “jamming partners”, according to Guitar Player magazine’s October 2007 issue). He also performed with old teenage friend Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen (from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) as “Jack and the Degenerates”.

and

Danny Gatton has been described as possessing an extraordinary proficiency on his instrument, “a living treasury of American musical styles. ”[8] In 2009, John Previti, who played bass guitar with Danny for 18 years stated: “You know, when he played country music, it sounded like all he played was country music. When he played jazz, it sounded like that’s all he played, rockabilly, old rock and roll, soul music. You know, he called himself a Whitman sampler of music”[6] Legendary guitarist Steve Vai reckons Danny “comes closer than anyone else to being the best guitar player that ever lived.”[9] Accomplished guitar veteran Albert Lee said of Gatton: “Here’s a guy who’s got it all.”[10] (Continue Reading…)

Gatton tragically took his own life in 1994.

Above is “Funky Mama” and below is “Remington Ride.” The video quality is marginal and, according to the notes, the piece really is an impromptu medley and not a set song. I bet the venue was called “Remington’s” or something like that.

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