Jeff Huss retiring from Huss & Dalton Guitar Company

Kimberly Dalton, Jeff Huss, Brian Dickel, and Mark Dalton of Huss & Dalton

Jeff Huss, co-founder of the Huss & Dalton Guitar Company, has announced his retirement after more than 25 years building top flight steel string acoustic guitars in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. His partner, Mark Dalton, will maintain the company with a new partner, Brian Dickel, former bass player with The Steel Wheels.

In a brief conversation this morning, Jeff expressed his deep satisfaction with what he and Mark have built, a profound respect for Brian as a suitable replacement, and a sense of joy about getting to have time for his primary passion again – playing bluegrass music! Like so many people who have sought careers supporting their love for this music, he found that the demands of business ownership and operation eventually keep you at arm’s length from the music itself.

Huss had moved to Virginia from his native North Dakota in pursuit of bluegrass, and got started in luthiery through a nine year stint with Stelling Banjos. While perfecting his skills making banjo necks, he was building guitars in his off hours in a home shop. He and Mark Dalton met at a jam session in the early ’90s, and they struck up a friendship based on their mutual interests in luthiery. Mark was an experienced finisher who soon wen to work for Stelling as well.

One supposes that it was inevitable that a gifted woodworker and a finishing expert would launch their own business, and so it proved after Mark visited Jeff’s garage shop. The two began discussing guitar building in earnest, and the company was formed in 1995. Now they ply their trade in a modern shop in Staunton, VA, with a complement of seven employees assisting. Since that time the Huss & Dalton name has become synonymous with high quality, hand made professional guitars, with innovations like their gently radiused soundboards and top bracing. 

Dickel first came to Huss & Dalton in 2000, fresh from the Bryan Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair in Michigan. Within a decade he was promoted to production manager, while playing weekends with The Steel Wheels, and Jeff tells us that he and Mark began to see Brian as the future of the company.

“When The Steel Wheels went full time in 2011, Brian left, and we were very disappointed. He would come help us out when they were off the road, but he saw his life as a touring musician. When COVID hit and they lost all their gigs, he came back and did some part time work, which turned into full time, and we started talking about him taking over for me. He took a couple of months to think it over, and decided to go for it. Now he has left the band, bought my shares, and will be a partner to Mark.”

They will retain the Huss & Dalton name, and Jeff will stay on for six months to a year to ease the transition. After his exit, he will remain as a consultant, helping out when and where he may be needed. Or as he told us, “Once I don’t have to go in every day, I may start enjoying the work again like I did at the beginning.”

“There are two floors in our shop. I always worked upstairs with the neck and body building, and Mark works downstairs with assembly and finish. Brian is an excellent luthier, and will eventually transition into my job.”

Speaking on behalf of the company and its employees, Mark admits that he is sorry to see Huss go.

“Jeff’s humor, demeanor, and steady leadership will be missed. Not one to seek the spotlight, Jeff has remained behind the scenes quietly innovating guitar design and building techniques since those early days in his garage. If you’ve played a Huss & Dalton, you have most likely played on a Huss neck. Having carved nearly every one of the 5,500 plus necks to perfection, it is just one of the tasks that Jeff has quietly attended to with a desire to figure out solutions to the many challenges presented daily. Jeff will continue working at Huss & Dalton during this transition and has made himself available for consultation in the future to ensure the legacy and craftsmanship that you have come to expect remains high.”

In addition to professional grade acoustic guitars, Huss & Dalton also builds solid body electric guitars and five string banjos. You can see all the models on offer online, along with a full line of H&D merch. Guitars can be ordered through a network of dealers all over the world.

Congratulations to Jeff Huss on all the achievements of Huss & Dalton Guitars, and on his impending retirement. These is no doubt that he is leaving the company in good hands.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.