Background Information and Experience



by John D'Agostino
Award-winning Music Critic, Los Angeles Times


D.R. Auten...
Anyone who loves great guitar music should repeat that name---chant it if necessary---until it comes naturally to the mind and lips whenever talk turns to "originality" and "innovation." Auten is that rare guitarist who contributes new forms of expression to the guitar language, who forces us, with the sheer audacity of his creativity, to listen to this ancient art form in a new way.

Warning: Those who prefer to "discover" artists before they become public property, would do well to book passage on the Auten Express while there's still room. Fueled by a restless and ambitious artistry, Auten's career is gaining that certain momentum reserved for players of destiny. Although he has pursued the "guitar muse" since childhood, and boasts an extensive and impressive portfolio of professional credits, it is only in the last couple of years that Auten's playing has begun to tap the public consciousness.

Like an old-style traveling preacher, Auten has won converts a handful at a time, both with his bold, resourceful playing, and with original compositions that form a seamless quilt of musical idioms. Blues, R&B, country, folk, pop, classical, jazz, Celtic and Asian modes---Auten steeps them all in southern comfort and stitches them together with the Kentucky-fried pickin' he learned from members of his very musical clan....

"My family is from Russellville, Kentucky. My grampa was known for his 'thump' style of guitar playing, but he never recorded anything. Each of my uncles inspired me in a different way. My uncle Sam lost his thumb when he was a little boy, so he had a very specific influence on my style. 'Donnie,' he'd say, 'you have a thumb ---use it!' My uncle Donald left his guitar at my house so that I'd have something to practice on. My uncle Ray was a lead guitarist, and he taught me some cool licks.

Skills learned at home formed the foundation of a talent that young Auten further developed as an electric and acoustic guitarist and banjo player in several famous and infamous rock, pop, and country bands of the '60s and '70s. by Taylor Guitars, the Southern California-based manufacturer of high-end acoustics for whom he had worked 20 years earlier. Auten found new inspiration in being surrounded by the finest acoustic guitars in the world, and began to hone his fingerstyle chops with a fervor he hadn't felt in years. Before long, he was writing and recording new music and performing as a solo act in concert halls, clubs, and coffeehouses all over San Diego. People began to notice, and word of Auten's talent began to spread, attracting the attention of national magazines in the process. Auten, apparently, had found his niche.

"I'd always been one among many, playing fills and background stuff as a member of a band. But when I started performing solo, I turned a lot of heads in a way I'd never done before, so I stayed with it. After all these years, I'm finally doing exactly what I need to do. Solo guitar is a perfect medium for my self-expression and a great outlet for all this creative energy."

Auten's recordings attest to the wisdom of his career choice. If you had to describe his guitar style in terms of well-known artists, you might say he grafts Chet Atkins to Albert Lee. But Auten's instrumentals are more than clumps of notes and chords thrown together to invoke familiar influences or to exhibit technical prowess---although he has that in abundance. They are more like finger-orchestrated songs with silent vocals, their expressive phrasings and thoughtful transitions speaking of the joys, heartaches, humorous musings, and simple pleasures that can't find expression in mere words.

From adrenaline-pumped breakdowns to bittersweet tone poems, from sly, country-fied ambles to high concept epics employing otherworldly "special effects" (with nothing but his hands and guitar, he variously evokes a cat's meow, Scottish bagpipes, a swamp frog's ribbit, a locomotive's rhythmic chuff and lonely whistle, a bass guitar, a spider's crawl, or a Chinese parade), Auten's solo compositions have the depth, breadth, and texture of "acoustic paintings" (which, not coincidentally, is the name of one of his finest albums).

"My songs are musical sketches of experiences I've had. For example, my mom once told me that when she was a little girl in Kentucky, she'd put a penny on the railroad track and wait for a passing train to flatten and stretch it to the size of a pancake. The power of that train, as I imagined it, inspired the song, 'Runaway Train.' Likewise, childhood days spent in the swamp looking for pollywogs and other critters inspired 'Funky Frog.' On another occasion, I found myself very entertained by this playful spider making its way across the table, so I wrote 'The Spider,' in which I mimic the spider's movements on the guitar fingerboard. And so on."

As if his guitar playing weren't enough gift for one human being, Auten also is an exceptional singer. Indeed, fans of his guitar work are blown away when they hear his voice, which seems to blend the emotional delivery and sensitive phrasing of Kenny Logins with the dulcet, Dixie tenor of Vince Gill.

D.R. Auten is a complete package---a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter-composer, performer, and recording artist whose spark of originality is beginning to set some brush fires in the music world. Someday soon, everyone will be feeling the heat. I heartily urge the discriminating music lover to check him out now, while it's still possible to "discover" him.



R. Has Shared The Stage With:

Chuck Berry
Jose Feliciano
Joan Baez
Roger Miller
Three Dog Night
Johnny Cash
Ricky Lee Jones
Leon Redbone
Asleep At The Wheel

Tommy Emanuel

(Australia's top guitarist)

Sylvain Luc

(One of my Favorites)

Lawrence Juber

(Former guitarist with McCartney and Wings)
Stanley Jordan

(Two hand technique specialist)
Tom Bresh

(Son of Merle Travis)
Doyle Dykes

(Grand Ole Opry Favorite)
Pat Kirtley

(Winfield Champion)
Muriel Anderson

(Winfield Champion)

Vice President Al Gore

(At the Hermitage, TN)

Noteworthy Appearances:

Knott's Berry Farm
Lake Tahoe
The Calgary Stamped (Canada)
State and County Fairs
The Belly Up Tavern
The Troubadour
The Whisky
Palomino Club
The Bluebird Cafe (Nashville)
NAMM Show (Los Angeles & Nashville)
National TV and Radio
Major Concerts
Chet Atkins Convention (Nashville)
Atkins/Dadi Convention (France)
The Bluesman Cafe (Austria)
Trade Show (Italy)
Clinics in (Belgium, France, Italy)


Hold On To The Moon (Vocals and Solo Electric Guitar)
Acoustic Paintings (Solo Acoustic Guitar)
Songs From The Heart (Vocals with Acoustic Guitar)
The Boogieman (Vocals with Solo Electric Guitar)
GuitarToons I (Solo Acoustic Guitar) Story and Coloring Book

GutiarToons II (Solo Acoustic Guitar) Story and Coloring Book (in progress)

 Christmas Guitar with D.R. Auten (Solo Acoustic Guitar)

Soundtracks of a Dream (Guitar and Vocals)

String and Strang (Ying and Yang) (Electric and Acoustic)

Christmas Guitar with D.R. Auten (Solo Acoustic Guitar)

 D.R. Auten Solo Guitar and Vocals Vol. 1

 D.R. Auten Solo Guitar and Vocals Vol. 2

 Guitar Fingerstyle (NARADA/dist. by BMG

Featured In Magazines:

Fingerstyle Guitar
Slam Magazine
Acoustic Guitar
Guitar Player


In Association with:

Mel Bay
HFA (Harry Fox Agency)
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers)




Last Modified: Aug. 18, 1999
Copyright © D.R. Auten 1994-1999 All Rights Reserved.