Danny Gatton and Stevie Ray Vaughan are two men linked only by dint of both being celebrated guitarists and having died young: Vaughan in a helicopter crash in 1990 at the age of 35, and Gatton, a suicide in 1994 at the age of 49. Both are the subjects of newly published biographies, Unfinshed Business: The Life and TImes of Danny Gatton by Ralph Heibutzki and Roadhouse Blues: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas R&B by Hugh Gregory. While neither book transcends as a literary experience, both are worthy works, well-researched and written with a discerning ear for each man's music as well as the music that inspired them.
Gatton is the more tragic of the two, taking his own life — in what seemed like a sudden act, but had been simmering for years. A disinclination to tour — on his own or with any of the name artists who wanted to hire him — kept him playing mainly in the DC area. A private mane in a public realm, he enjoyed few big pay days and was in fact dogged by money problems, insecurities and guilt over his inability to fully support his family.
Vaughan came roaring out of the Lone Star state, a young firebrand determined to take on the world. His music drew on a host of Texas guitarists along with hefty dollop of Hendrixian invention and flair. The two apparently never met; neither shows up in the index of the other's book. However a brief passage in Unfinished Business has Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmy coming to see Gatton play once, but leaving before the set was over. Frustrated and insecure, Danny was sure they didn't like his playing, but his ever-mindful wife Jan suggested to him that may've not been the case — perhaps they just had to go.