Hello, I’m Danny Dolinger, owner of Fret Boss Guitar Works. You can click here to see my resume of lutherie experience & training.
Or, if you prefer the narrative version, read on…
I’ve never opened a musical instrument case without being excited about what’s inside. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me back to the place he grew up—Rugby, Virginia—and we would often go visit a man named Wayne Henderson, who, as it happens, is one of the best guitar builders in history—perhaps the best. I always thought that Wayne had the job I wanted. In addition to the beautiful instruments he created, there were always pickers coming through to jam in his shop, and every so often, Wayne would go out on the road for a while to make some music.
I began playing in bluegrass bands in high school, and rock and roll and country bands soon thereafter. I didn’t have my first mandolin for a day before I’d removed the pick guard because that’s how John Duffy’s was. When I got a full time job at 18, my first paycheck went to a brand new Stratocaster. That weekend, I pulled it apart & put it back together, and I was hooked. Ever since, I’ve always done the tech work on my own instruments, doing set-ups, adjustments and improvements, replacing various parts and comparing tone and playability.
In my late 20s, I acquired an absolutely gorgeous 1970 Martin D-18; the guitar was twenty years old. After a torrid two months of passionate interplay, my 1970 D-18 Martin neck went south, never to return. I could not afford to get it fixed, so I had to sell it to somebody who could. At that point, with a broken heart but an undaunted vision, I deepened my commitment to learning the craft of stringed instrument repair.
Over the next few years, I began my collection of books and tools and took every opportunity to spend time with luthiers in Denton, Dallas, and Austin, Texas. After studying fretted-instrument repair at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, I was invited to apprentice full-time with Mark Erlewine, a truly gifted builder and repairman with a list of clients that is a who’s who of contemporary guitar playing. Those years working with Mark and taking part in the Austin music scene were an indescribable gift and blessing (I even got to work on one of Bob Dylan’s guitars—thanks Mark!).
Another outstanding mentor and part-time employer was Bill Giebitz, owner of Guitar Services of Austin. Bill’s knowledge, ability, and experience with repair, restoration, and set up are second to no one.
I went on to spend a little time making hundreds of dollars a year as a professional performing musician in the pubs, bars, and coffee shops of this great nation… until fate and a beautiful woman brought me to the Shenandoah Valley. Being as the best pickers in the world live here, I decided helping folks get their stringed instruments to play their very best was about the highest calling possible for a man such as myself.