Back in the late ’80s and for a brief period in the early ’90s screaming guitars, big hair, and ear piercing vocals dominated popular music. Hair metal, glam metal, and various forms of rock and roll ruled the airwaves. It was the sound of rebellion, young love, and coming of age.
Rock and roll has always spoken to the youth of the world. In the late ’80s a version of rock and roll – Hair Metal – was perhaps the most popular form of music.
Countless bands fought to gain radio play and attention from fans. One of those bands was Giant. In 1990, the group saw their biggest hit reach the #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was Last of the Runaways.
You may be asking – what does this have to do with country music?
The lead singer of Giant would later go on to become one of the most influential people in country music.
And that man is Dann Huff…
Dann Huff, Music Giant
Dann Huff is the ultimate music journeyman. Starting around the early ’80s Dann and his brother David were the founding members of popular Christian rock band, White Heart. The band scored relative hit albums and singles.
As the band gained popularity in the Christian Rock circuit Dann gained attention for his skills in the studio. He soon became a sought after session musician and played on albums for some of the biggest pop stars of the ’80s including Michael Jackson (a few songs on the Bad album).
By the late ’80s Dann and David started the Hair Metal band, Giant. The band released their first album in 1989. The set saw the release of three successful singles on the mainstream rock charts. The third and final single became the band’s biggest hit.
Last of the Runaways reached the top twenty on the Billboard Hot 100, the chart tracking the success of singles in all genres.
The year 1990 was probably the peak in popularity for Hair Metal. Around 1991-1992 grunge took over the scene and garage bands would dominate the ’90s with a new sound as the youth rebelled against the rock of the ’80s.
The death of hair metal spelled the end of many musicians from the era.
For Dann Huff, the end of Hair Metal was only the beginning of his biggest success.
Dann Huff, Country Giant
By the late ’90s and into the ’00s Dann began producing some of the biggest artists in country music.
Prior to this success Dann continued playing guitar on record. He found himself playing for a Shania Twain album when record producer Mutt Lange encouraged him to try his hand at producing.
The former Hair Metal star hadn’t really given producing a thought previously and likely never gave a thought to producing country music. Mutt suggested Huff to Faith Hill and Dann produced a few tracks on her mega popular album Faith in 1998.
Things seemed to kind of snowball from there.
Dann hooked up with Keith Urban for the release of Keith’s superstar album Golden Road. The album was released in 2002 and the songs would make Keith one of the biggest stars in country music history. Keith and Dann co-produced the record. The sound was a mix of rock, pop, and country . Fans couldn’t get enough of the hook-filled album and it sold millions of copies around the world.
The success continued in 2006 when Rascal Flatts released their mega hit album Me And My Gang. The album saw huge singles released and the band continued their superstar climb to the top of country music.
Today, Dann Huff remains one of the most sought after producers by country artists.
And to think it all started back in the ’80s with Hair Metal.
The future likely holds more success for Dann Huff.
If history is an indicator, Huff has the unique ability to know what music people like even as tastes change. He successful moved through the ’80s with Hair Metal and into the era of country music that saw the influence of pop and rock.
As tastes change in country music it’s likely we’ll see more superstars being produced by Dann Huff. He has the ability to bring out the best in artists and that’s the mark of a great producer. The ability to make artists and musicians reach their peak creativity and performance is what every producer looks for, but few actually achieve it.
It’s strange to look back on that old Giant hit song and think that just a decade later the lead singer would become one of the biggest names in country music.
He moved from being in front of the Hair Metal video camera to being the big man behind the scenes in country music.
Who knows, perhaps we’ll see a return to the center stage by Dann.
And if not I’m sure country fans will be satisfied knowing he’ll continue making great country music.