Please take the time to read about the special people who make the MSA Family what it is!
I got my first guitar at age 7 and taught myself to play. I later took up the fiddle, banjo, bass, and harmonica. I played in a couple of bands in Jr High and High School. About 1974 I became interested in woodworking. I built some furniture and such. With encouragement from a violin maker acquaintance, and my wood working mentor I built a fiddle in 1975. That led to a short stint working at Phillip Kraus’ violin shop in Dallas a few years later.
While attending college, I saw Tom Morrell playing an MSA pedal steel at a club. I knew right then I wanted to play pedal steel. In about 1975 I bought a
S-10 Howard with two pedals and two knee levers and taught myself to play, probably incorrectly. In 1979 I bought a MSA D-10 Vintage XL 8 & 4 Black lacquer. What an instrument! I played it twenty years and wish I still had it.
Around that time, I had met Mitchell Smithey at a club, the Texas Tea House in Dallas. We became friends and I took a couple of lessens from him.
I needed more lessons, but life got in the way. I was playing steel, guitar, and fiddle regularly in a band by then, playing country, blues, Western Swing and some old Rock and Roll.
About 1990 I mentioned to Bud Carter that I would like to build steel guitar bodies if he ever decided to build steel guitars again. Hearing the conversation, a friend of Bud’s ask if I would build him an electric guitar. I agreed and eventually built three guitars for him.
By 1991 I was building acoustic guitars and mandolins. The first acoustic guitar was for my father-in-law. The second was to be mine but ended up going to George Strait. He was playing it when he made the movie “ Pure Country” and is playing it in the opening concert scenes. Johnny Bush, along with other notable musicians, play a Giles guitar. I still build guitars and fiddles when I have time.
In 1992 I got a call from Bud Carter wanting me to build the bodies for Carter Steel Guitars. I built for Carter until mid 2006, about 1700 total.
During this time, others began asking me to build for them. I’ve done work for
Fessenden, JCH, Pedalmaster, Zum, Rains, Sierra,Show Pro, Franklin, Infinity, American, Texas Steel Guitars, along with building my own Star Steel Guitars.
After MSA began building steels again, introducing the carbon fiber “Millennium “ , Jim Palenscar wanted a new MSA. However, he told Reece he wanted a wood body. Reece said they had no one to build wood bodies to their specs. Pali brought Reece to see me, and I began building MSA bodies.
The “Legend” was the result.
In addition to my full and part time jobs, I’ve built about 3000 steel guitar bodies for all the various builders over the years. My goal was to bring inlays and finishes to the steel guitar world that have been available to the guitar world for years. Being a player and owner, I try to build each one as if it were going to be my own personal guitar.
A stroke in 2009 left my left side paralyzed. After months of rehab, I was able to regain some use of my left arm and leg. I couldn’t play pedal steel because I couldn’t operate the pedals or knee levers. At the suggestion of Frank Carter, I moved the pedals to the right side and learned to play with my right foot. Now I can play again. After forty plus years, I’m back where I started. Two pedals and two knee levers on E9, four pedals and one knee lever on C6. But....still playing and still learning.
I’ve been married to my beautiful wife Carla for 36 years. We have two wonderful daughters and four precious granddaughters. In 2005, after 29 years, I retired from the Duncanville Fire Department as a firefighter/paramedic. In 2015 I was honored to be inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
We are so honored to have Mark build and finish the Legend bodies. You will not meet a finer more talented man than Mark Giles. We are we very proud to have him in our MSA Family.
At 62 years of age, I feel pretty blessed. I have two great kids, (Son & Daughter) 2 sweet little Granddaughters, and a beautiful wife, far too good for me, who loves me, and not only allows me my love of steel guitar, but encourages it. Most definitely my biggest fan.
I started playing music when I was about 6 years old on accordion. The first song being a song we did in church, I Surrender All. I started out playing by ear, but did take some lessons on accordion, learning how to read music. Accordion was never my instrument of choice, being more interested in my Dad’s Fender Jaguar, but not daring to touch it. I played the Accordion many times in both church and in nursing homes when I was young, while never being fully invested in the instrument.
Then in 1972, I heard Cal Smith on the radio, singing, “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking”. I was sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s 63 Coupe De Ville, when that came on, and although the steel on it was spectacular, it suddenly grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I told Dad, that’s what I want to play. It wasn’t too long after that he got me a Fender 400, that I could make no sense out of, and was soon returned. Someone said you need to get a Sho~Bud, so I ended up with a Maple 3x1 Maverick. I had no one to show me how to play the thing, but somehow, what little I know about guitar helped me to make some sense out of the E9th tuning and as soon as I mashed down on the AB pedals, I had an idea what the steel guitar might be about.
I spent a lot of time playing Steel in church back then, with my brother on Bass, and couple other friends with piano and rhythm guitar. We did a lot of Country Gospel Music back then in a town and in church’s where only “High-brow” music was played. Interestingly we were always well received and started getting a bit of a name for ourselves, playing all over the Pacific Northwest.
By then I was on my second Sho~Bud Pro lll. Since then, I’ve had a couple of Mullen’s, and then in 2016, I went to the Dallas TSGA Jamboree. My buddy Scott Anderson and I got a room together, and Scott brought along his Studio Pro that had belonged to Junior Knight. Even though this guitar was set up 180 degrees from what I was used, I was blown away and fell in love with that guitar. It sounded tremendous. Then down in the MSA room, I saw Mitchell Smithey play a Red and Black D10 beauty that would eventually be mine, and again was totally captivated by what I was hearing. MSA had never been on my radar, but these new MSA’s have made such an impact on me, from their construction, and “Just Makes Sense” features, to the tremendously even balanced tone that comes out of them. To me these guitars ARE the Class of the Field. So much so that I got a 2nd MSA, this time a fully loaded S10 5x6 stunning Purple Sunburst Beauty. And to tell you the truth, if I can sell some stuff and free up some money, I’ll be buying another, and have a 3rd Legend in my house. Unless of course I get an endorsement deal.
We are so honored to have Dale in our MSA Family. Truly one of the “Good Guys”.
Duane Dunard is from Troy, Missouri. In 1974 he began playing pedal steel guitar in local weekend bands, then became a full-time road musician in 1976 where he began working the Holiday Inn and the Ramada Inn lounge circuit until 1980.
Returning home, he and his wife, Donna, opened a small steel guitar shop, Duane’s Music, in Troy, MO that served the steel guitar community until 2016. Duane sold his business in 2016 and retired. MSA was very fortunate to have Duane as a valuable resource for pedal steel trade-ins. His knowledge of pedal steel is second to none.
Currently, Duane works night clubs, dance halls, and occasional fairs & festivals throughout the Missouri and Illinois region.
Duane’s equipment includes two MSA Millennium guitars built in 2004 by his friend, Johnny Cox. One is set up with standard tuning, and one with the popular
Nashville drop tuning. He uses a Telonics amplifier, Boss RV-3 Delay, and Telonics volume pedal.
We are very honored to have Duane as a part of our MSA Family. He is one of the kindest men you’ll ever know. A family man, good friend, and a great musician.
Johnny started playing steel in 1967 at age 10. Johnny's first steel was a home built 8 string non-pedal given to him by a family friend in 1968. By 1970 Johnny was playing with local school bands and shows around Nashville.
In 1972 he began his professional career with Lonzo and Oscar. Thoughout the years Johnny worked the road, the Grand Ole Opry and recorded with such artist as Del Reeves, The Singing Rambos, Roy Drusky, Jim Ed Brown, Cal Smith, Ernest Tubb, Charlie Louvin, Jimmy C. Newmen, Connie Smith, Gene Watson and others.
In 2002 Johnny got his first MSA Millennium. A few months later Kyle and Maurice invited Johnny to join the team as a builder at MSA. Johnny moved to the Dallas area and worked with MSA until 2008 helping to develop the the MSA Millennium, Legend and Studio Pro pedal steel guitars.
While in Texas he played with Ray Price, Johnny Bush, Jody Nix, Jason Roberts, Justin Trevino and others. Johnny was Mel Tillis' last steel player and now lives outside Nashville.
Johnny is a family man and now drives truck for Tyson Foods and still plays his MSA Legend D12 for fun. Johnny is one of the most talented pedal steel players in the business. His style, tone, and touch are second to none. We are fortunate to call him family.
"I've played and/or owned most ever brand of pedal steel and MSA is hands down the best guitar I've ever played."
Darvin Willhoite started playing pedal steel around 1972 and wanted an MSA soon after he saw them at the ISGC in 1974, but there was no way he could afford one then. The first one he bought was a nice, used Classic SS, around '98. After that one, he was hooked for sure, buying a new Legend, and a new Millennium, within a few months of each other in '06. Then a new Studio Pro and a Superslide.
Darvin Willhoite has always played in the Praise and Worship band at the churches he attended. He never had the time or inclination to play with any other bands. Darvin could never see the sense of driving a long distance to a gig, and returning late at night or early morning and all for a very small paycheck. He’s never aspired to be a professional musician, and always treated it as a hobby. Darvin played at Christian Life Church in Austin for around 17 years, playing steel about 98% of the time, occasionally subbing on guitar or bass. He did a few songs where he also played mandolin. He had a great group of musicians, but about 5 years ago it was time for some life changes since he’s getting close to retirement age. Darvin moved about 14 miles farther from CLC, which made it about 45 miles away.
Darvin has retired from playing although he has played steel a few times at LCRR.
Darvin has several MSA's in his shop to be refurbished and has very little time to work on them, so it may be a few years before they're all finished. Darvin has bought, refurbished, and sold, several Classics and others through the years, and currently has two Classic SS's, a Classic S12, and an SD12 Vintage XL either awaiting, or in various stages of restoration. A couple of his highly prized MSA's are Maurice's "The Universal" that he restored with Mark Giles help on the body, and the Plexiglas Classic that was built in the early '70s. He plans to hang on to these as long as he can attempt to play the steel guitar.
Darvin is a devoted family man and one of the kindest men you will ever meet. Needless to say, Darvin is one of our most treasured MSA Family members.
Joan Cox has been playing steel guitar professionally since age 18. She is originally from Troy, MO. While living in Nashville, Joan played for Grand Old Opry stars Jeannie Seeley, Jack Greene, Johnny Russell, Del Reeves, and Connie Smith.
Joan moved to Texas in 2004, and was the steel guitarist for the house band at the Silver Saloon in Terrell, TX for eight years. Since being in Texas she has worked for Texas favorites Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Justin Trevino, Bobby Flores, Tony Booth, Doug Stone, Monte Good, and Gary Morris.
Since 1990, Joan has been a featured steel guitarist on the Texas Steel Guitar Jamboree held in Irving Texas every year. She was a regular part of the International Steel Guitar Convention schedule of players since 1999, as well as other state and local steel guitar shows around the country for the past thirty years.
She has three instrumental projects to her credit. She was awarded the Texas Steel Guitar Association Player of the Year (Honorable Mention) in 2012.
She enjoys playing music, funny movies, doing puzzles, reading, and hanging out with her musician friends. She plays regularly with different bands in the DFW area, and mainly works now with the 104 Proof Band. She has been with them for close to 3 years. They work a lot in the East Texas area.
During the day, she works for Parkland Hospital as the Manager of the Cancer Registry. She’s been there for 9 years. She holds a degree in Health Information Management and is a Certified Tumor Registrar. She has worked in the field of oncology medicine/cancer registry for the past 24 years.
Joan plays one of the very last MSA Millennium M3’s with factory Lfrets. Her words...“I love this guitar so much. It’s beautiful! It’s very comfortable like putting on a glove. I always get compliments on my tone and Lfrets is a high cool factor.”
Joan is was one the sweetest, kindest ladies you will ever meet, but a “killer” on the pedal steel guitar. We are honored and blessed to have her as a member of our MSA Family!
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