Why You Should Know Him
Dann Huff is the man, and in our humble opinion, the reason why you should know him is because, simply, he is the man. To the serious shredders out there, he needs no further introduction. But for those of you who are unfamiliar with this studio guitar veteran turned Nashville producer legend, prepare to be enlightened.
Huff is the guitarist from one of the finest AOR bands to emerge from the ‘80s — Giant, a “supergroup” that came together when a bunch of the L.A. studio scene’s first call-session guys decided that it would be cool if they formed a rock band of their own. Huff had already done session work for some of the biggest names in pop music and country including Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Michael McDonald, Wynonna Judd, Clint Black, and Peter Cetera (trust us, this is only the short list).
Today, he is a huge name in country music as a producer, having produced hit music for artists such as Keith Urban, Rascal Flats, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba McIntire, and many others.
By the time Huff was twenty, he and his musician brother, David (drums), had joined a local Christian rock band, Whiteheart. After making two albums, Dann left the band to pursue session work while David stuck around with Whiteheart to make another album.
During this time, the two brothers went down different paths. Dann played the memorable lead guitar on the Kenny Loggins hit, “Danger Zone (Top Gun song).” Not too long afterward, though, Dann and David reunited, saying goodbye to Christian rock and making their deal with the devil by creating the hard rock band, Giant.
Giant released two major albums beginning at the end of the ‘80s with Last of the Runaways and Time to Burn. With the first song on Last of the Runaways, “I’m a Believer,” Huff opened the album with a half-minute solo guitar piece, providing a taste of his definitive “L.A. Tone” and effortless technique that many guitarists would subsequently try to replicate (unsuccessfully, of course). If you listen to the signature way that Huff bends notes on his Floyd Rose tremolo while soloing, you will begin to recognize some of his trademark lead work.
Though their power ballad, “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” was the only real radio hit, their legacy lives on today among serious musicians. Their two albums are must-haves in the collection of serious hard rock guitar players. With a style that is one part classic rock, one part neoclassical shred, and one part blues, Huff puts so much passion, precision, technicality, and soul into every note. He knows just where to shred and just where to hold a note and make it sing. If you were going to describe the perfect AOR album with a hard rock vibe, the first Giant release would easily set the benchmark.
Huff has been known to use a wide variety of equipment. Within the Tyler brand he has been known to use the Tyler Classic Signature Model and the Tyler Ultimate Weapon with active mid-boost circuitry, a recessed Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo and dual humbuckers that give off a “warm fat sound.” (James Tyler himself has described it as “a sort of Les Paul-meets-Telecaster.”)
For his other acoustic/electric guitars, Huff uses a range of Stratocasters and Telecasters, a Tom Anderson Classic T, and Gibson Les Pauls. When it comes to amps and effects, Huff has more gear than most mortals. Some of the featured gear from the Giant days includes:
- Peavey 5150
- Mesa/Boogie Quad preamp with VHT stereo tube power amp
- Mesa/Boogie Mark II
- TC Electronic 2290
- Yamaha SPX90
- Roland SDE3000
Where Is He Now?
Since the early ‘90s, Huff has gone back to his old love (session work), and has continued to produce music, mostly for country artists, but also for rock and metal acts.
In 2010, Giant released a new album, Promise Land, with Terry Brock on vocals, Mike Brignardello on bass and backup vocals, John Roth on guitar, and David Huff playing the drums. Unfortunately, due to Dann Huff’s busy production and session schedule, he wasn’t able to fully commit to joining the band on the new album. However, he co-wrote seven of the songs and played on two of them.
In 2016, Huff won the CMA Award for Musician of the Year. He currently continues to be a well-sought-after producer for country artists with some of his many credits being Keith Urban’s Ripcord, Martina McBride’s Reckless, and Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke among others.
Back to the Top 40 Under-Appreciated Guitarists of the 1980s.