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Unfinished Business - The Life and Times of Danny Gatton (Book) Paperback – July 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in Bass Player, DISCoveries, Goldmine, Guitar Player, and Vintage Guitar, and he is a regular contributor to the All Music Guide.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087930748X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879307486
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born and raised in southwest Michigan, I've been writing since I was old enough to put pen to paper.

The collision of music and culture has been a crucial interest from my preteen years; it remains a major motivation for any project I take on today.

I hold a B.A. degree in journalism from Michigan State University, but my real writing education has been forged by experience; the more atypical, the better. How else would I have played bass for a London garage-punk combo, at the height of Acid House mania?

To keep up my landlord's confidence, I've freelanced for assorted music rags and Web sites since well as good old-fashioned print journalism.

I remain in the wilds of Michigan, where inspiration is never at a premium.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Martin A. Miller on July 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally! The long awaited biography of Danny Gatton by Ralph
Heibutzki has arrived. The best biographies provide insight
into the character, motives, and personality of their subject.
Who was Danny Gatton? In answering this question, Heibutzki
has done an admirable job. Through many, many interviews from
all the people who were part of Danny Gatton's life; family and
friends, I know so much more about this brilliant musician
who Steve Vai (no slouch guitarist himself!) describes on the
cover jacket, "...Danny Gatton comes closer to anyone else to
being the best guitar player to ever live."
What drove Gatton to suicide? How did he view himself as a
musician? Why was he at once once blase about fame and at
the same time so driven to acquire it? At one point, he
forgot to call John Fogerty back to join his band, but was
clearly very excited to be signed to Elektra Records.
He craved the notoriety and money that came with stardom,
but would rather play small clubs close to home and
work on customizing vintage cars.
Why wasn't he more famous? Wasn't he arguably the best?
Maybe it was precisely because of his extraordinary skill
level. Can it be that he could only be appreciated by other
musicians or guitarists? Many people (non musicians) I play
his music for elicit a "ho hum" reaction, while my mind is
reeling with his stunning technique and musicianship. Who
knows? As someone who knew him observed, "he never threw
away a note".
Those issues, and more, are addressed in this biography,
and I feel after reading it that I know Danny Gatton, the
person, a bit more. Good job Ralph!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book overall. It gives one a good enough idea of who Danny Gatton was and what made him such a respected guitarist. I knew a little about Gatton going in, not a lot though, and I feel like the author succeeded in filling in the blanks. I also thought the book handled Gatton's unfortunate death in an objective fashion while remaining sensitive to the emotional issues involved.

[Reviewer note: This review was edited on 02/07/2005. After looking it over again, I decided it appeared a bit more negative than I had actually intended.]

But this book also has a couple of problems, I think. The most significant being that, in an effort to give Gatton the status he deserves, the author includes a fair amount of material that puts down other great guitarists as a way of building Gatton up. You can see this, for example, on page 76 with regard to Chet Atkins, and at other times throughout the book with some other guitarists.

This happens most often, though, in relation to Roy Buchanan. And I particularly think that's a shame. Danny and Roy were both great guitar players, two of the greatest of all time, in fact, and neither one gets near the recognition he deserves. That being so, I don't see where pitting them against each other adds much to the discussion. But regardless, which one was 'better' is highly debatable, and the relative status of the two should be presented fairly as such, as was done in Phil Carson's Roy Buchanan: American Axe.

The other thing I thought could have been improved would have been for the book to have spent a little more time giving us an idea of who Danny Gatton was as a person.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By tonguepaste on August 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was not an initiate of Gatton's music before reading this book, but I had heard of Gatton and was familiar with the legends surrounding his guitar heroism. I was curious, but, being a fan of songwriters more than instrumentalists, I never felt motivated to dig deeper until reading this book. Now, however, I am listening to Danny Gatton's music for the first time, propelled into his history by Heibutzki's excellent biography. Heibutzki has done a wonderful job penning a living, breathing *story* here, far beyond what is usually done in rock bios of this sort. He pays all due homage to Gatton's technical bent and & instrumental artistry, but he never forgets to illuminate the human being behind it all. Yes, for you gearheads, everything you ever wanted to know about the pick-ups Gatton used, the type of guitars he favored, and how he invented his own effects box is all here ... But those of us who want just to know why Gatton was so special will not be disappointed either. This isn't a story of a guitar-player; it's the story of a friend, husband, father, and man of principles. Heibutzki has covered all of the bases here. Recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By johnny2bad on October 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
The other reviewers have discussed the merits of Danny's playing, so I will mostly stick to extolling the book. Heibutzki talked to just about everybody, and found most if not all of the print material and used this in his thoughtful, comprehensive biography.

As an interviewer, the author got his subjects to open up, and what they say frequently tells as much about themselves as about Danny. As a consequence, the reader gets a sense of the mileau of clubs, studios, band and record label politics, and Washington DC and Southern Maryland music and lifestyle from the 60's to the 90's. A great deal of attention is paid to Danny's interest in cars, and his family life, as well as his early days gigging in various teenage bands and with Liz Meyer & Friends before he became "unfamous".

Also, the book comes with a bibliography and discography, as well as a useful index, showing the author's almost academic thoroughness.
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