2009 - Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award
March 3, 1952 – January 2, 2009
Through his mother’s insistence on piano lessons, Ralph Gatton developed an appreciation for music early in life and never let it go. His love for music, coupled with an inspiration from his family ties to Danny Gatton fueled Ralph’s devotion to his career as a musician, which spanned over four decades.
In 1966, at the age of 14 he joined his first rock & roll band, and so began the long and winding road of Ralph Gatton’s musical career. From 1966–1988 he played keyboard in several different bands, with a highlight in 1981 while in the band “Monterey” receiving the “Sunbird Award” for being the best rock band in the Midwest .
In the late 1980’s Ralph became interested in a technique called sequencing, working as a musician with several contestants in the “Miss Iowa ” pageants. Over the years, Ralph custom sequenced 2,000+ tunes including several songs by other artists as well as his own original recordings. His play list included music from the ’40’s through the ‘90’s, however he specialized in hits from the ‘60’s, being an intense Beatles fan and having a true love for the music of that generation.
In 1994 he went solo as Gattunes and over the following years had the privilege of opening for several well-known musicians, including: Head East, Leon Russell, Steve Luongo & Friends (drummer for the John Entwistle Band), Brian Stoltz (guitarist for the Neville Brothers and Funky Meters), Marty Balin (lead singer for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship), Shakespeare's Pipe (featuring Joey Molland of Badfinger), Moe Denham Trio (keyboardist for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown), Grass Roots, Pete Best Band (former drummer for the Beatles), Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Tommy Allsup (guitarist for Buddy Holly), Johnny Rogers Band (lead singer for Tommy Allsup), John Jorgenson Quintet (guitarist for the Hellecasters and Elton John) and Black Oak Arkansas.
Although Ralph enjoyed these opportunities, he found his most rewarding and memorable gigs were those where he shared his music on a more personal level. He looked forward to his annual “Boathouse Gig” on East Okoboji; playing oldies for the veterans at the VFW and for class reunions; performances at local diners, bars & wineries; gigs for the disabled residents at Sunshine Center in Spencer; and his all-time favorite -- playing in the atrium at University of Iowa hospital one Christmas Day. He delighted in the enjoyment that his music brought his audience and looked forward to uplifting them through it.
In 2001 Ralph added a small-scale recording studio to his Gattunes business in Milford , editing and producing CD’s for local artists. Upon a referral from his good friend Lyle Steece, Ralph recorded the “Pavement Ends” CD for “All Strung Out”, a bluegrass string quintet featuring Heidi Thies and four of her music students from Sioux Central Schools. Ralph was pleased with the final product and felt it was one of the most accomplished works from the Gattunes studio.
In 2003 after playing three Mardi Gras fests in Bogalusa, LA , Ralph was thrilled to receive the "Key To The City" from the mayor. But his greatest joy came in the fall of 2008, when he received word that he would be inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 2009, receiving the IRRMA Dan Matousek Lifetime Achievement Award. In spite of his ill health, battling liver and colon cancer since February 2007, Ralph made the trip to the Arnolds Park last September and accepted his award. He was deeply touched by the honor. On January 2, 2009 Ralph lost his battle with cancer, but his great sense of humor and love for music will live on in the hearts of his many friends and fans.