The Sad Slide of Danny Gatton

Danny Gatton was one of the best and finest guitar players in the world.  Danny befriended Arlen Roth early in Arlen’s career and helped find him work and a career in music.  Danny was so beloved by Fender that they created a special one-off Telecaster for him:


That Danny Gatton guitar was a shining beacon in a dark world.

Fender loved and appreciated Danny so much that they made a “Danny Gatton Telecaster” and sold it to the public:

Arlen Roth made a several Hot Licks videos starring Danny.

Then, in October 1994, Danny Gatton threw away his life and rotted his talent by committing suicide with a gun in a locked garage.

Danny’s death drowns us in the human condition, and makes one wonder how Arlen Roth feels about Danny’s suicide in light of the horrible deaths of his wife and daughter in a 1997 car crash.  Here are Arlen and his beautiful daughter, Gillian, performing together in better times.

This is Danny Gatton in concert playing his Telecaster with a beer bottle and then later a kitchen towel:

Here are Arlen and Danny playing together on Danny’s album “Toolin’ Around” — neither of them read music — and there is no doubt Danny is the better and swifter guitarist.  The song “Tequila” starts around the 2:44 mark and the final minute of the video is the best as Danny tries to get his overdubs correct:

What makes one man choose death over life and how does another man deal with two deaths he never wanted?

15 comments

  • It’s tremendously sad when someone so brilliant extinguishes their own flame like that.

  • I’m with you, Gordon. I understand the darkness, but I’m always surprised when the leap is taken into it.

  • Kathakali Chatterjee

    Danny Gatton sounded like a true genius…it was gut wrenching reading about his end. His bio says something like him getting in/ out of depression/, his talent was not recognized/ appreciated enough…
    I think at some point some people think they don’t have anything more to look forward to in life and some people just try finding a way to excel their yesterday.
    I think Arlen fell in the second category.

  • Danny knew he was a genius — but the only way to get people to remember you is to stick around as long as possible to leave behind the deepest possible legacy. He may have been tired from digging.
    I agree Arlen found a way to reinvent his love of the guitar while still increasing the shine of his talent.

  • Pingback: Bored by the Blues: Joe Bonamassa’s Black Country Communion Sin | Boles Blues

  • Sorry but I just had to point out, that didn’t make a lot of sense…yeah it’d be nice to know what Danny’s sentiments were about that situation, but…how could Danny have possibly thought anything about Arlen’s loss, when it happened 3 years after his own demise?

    • Thanks for the comment, Eddie. I fixed the error. We had some translation problems with the article when we moved from Movable Type back to WordPress.com and lost the right versions of some articles in that process. I was able to get the corrected article back online with YouTube videos now embedded.

  • No matter how you slice it, suicide is a selfish act. He left behind his own family for the sake of killing himself and did it at home for his own family to see their husband/daddy in a garage dead from a self induced gunshot wound. You know that was a gruesome sight. Gees, who cares how good he could play guitar at that point; that act shows a pretty messed up selfish person.

    • I agree, but if suicidal people aren’t of the right mind — and they clearly are not — should we mourn them or pity them or celebrate them for finally being free from their pain?

  • I think what people have to understand is depression is an illness caused by imbalance of certain neoro-chemicals and the electric charge in the brain.
    If someone has diabetes one gets medical help…THIS is what DG required although he avoided it.
    MANY people dont accept they have the condition and tend to self medicate with alcohol etc.
    But in DG’s case i think there were also many other factors that have been kept hidden.
    Sometimes there are specific problems keeping the person in a cycle of fear…and depression is basically FEAR.

  • TOOLIN’ AROUND was ARLEN ROTH’S album, not Danny Gatton’s….Danny appeared on “Tequila” with Arlen, and that same year of his suicide, he also was invited by Arlen to play on Conan O’Brien with him and his band. Danny once passed on a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial job to Arlen in NY, saying,”why use me, when you got Arlen up there in NY!”, but he certainly did NOT give Arlen his start! Arlen was already a legend by the time he and Danny became friends! [redacted by David W. Boles]

    • Thank you for your comment.

      I removed the last line of your comment about the reason for Danny’s suicide. Unless you have verifiable proof of what you said, and you provide evidence of your real identity here, we can’t publish that sort of inflammatory statement.

      • It’s just that I notice lots of people hypothezing here about why they think he did it…obviously, you have to be “pre-disposed” to do this kind of thing to begin with, but there’s no question that his depression and private life played a larger role in his suicide than other factors, in my opinion……………

  • Every day that I pick up a guitar I’m inspired by the great ones and Danny was a Great one. His loss forever makes me sad but then as long as there’s his music he’s never far away. I Love you Danny.

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