Monday, May 9, 2011

Charvel Jackson Guitars

Wayne Charvel

Wayne Charvel ran a guitar repair business in southern California, in the town of Azusa.  Charvel had begun this endeavor in the late 1960’s and was successful.  One of his employees was a Tennessee native named Grover Jackson

Grover Jackson
Charvel sold the business to Jackson in November of 1978. 

The company had been building guitars under the Charvel name, and had built up a good reputation, so Jackson continued to use the trade name. 

Jackson was able to offer his line of Jackson built Charvel guitars at the 1979 Summer NAMM convention, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia at the time.

If you are unfamiliar, NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, holds a trade show twice a year (it might have been once a year in the 1970’s) so that manufacturers of musical instruments and related products can display the wares to wholesalers and retailers.  

It has grown over the years, and one can bump in to not just the merchants, but also some of the world’s great players. 

These were the days leading up to Heavy Metal Music. Marshall Amplifiers and pointy guitars were the forte of the day. Record labels were hot to sign contracts to promote Metal.  

In 1980, the management of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Black Sabbath asked Jackson to build a special guitar for their new guitarist, Randy Rhoads. Rhoads had just left Quiet Riot and signed on to play lead guitar for Ozzy.  Jackson and Rhoads got together for dinner and lay down their plans for the style of what would later become the Jackson Concorde.

The guitar was sketched on a paper napkin. It was V shaped with an offset and very angular. The distinctive six-on-a-side headstock bore the Jackson name and became Jackson’s trademark.

Rhoads began using this instrument in concerts, but soon asked for changes to the guitar. The second version is the Randy Rhoads Concorde that most associate with him. It later became known as the Jackson-Rhoads guitar.

1986 Charvel Model 4
The more traditional looking Charvel guitars continued to be manufactured; however, Metal players preferred the radical looking Jackson models. 

This was the era of the Super-Strat. Many of these guitars were loosely based on a Stratocaster design, but had smaller bodies and pointy horns, the necks were fast, the pickups were wound to be hot, and the headstocks pointed down or upwards. 

Floyd Rose had designed the locking-tremolo system that allowed for a variety of effects including the dive-bomb sound.  This system not only kept the strings in tune, but the strings pitch could be adjusted by violin-like mini tuners on the guitars bridge.

Jackson included DiMarzio Sustainer-Driver pickups in some models, such as the Phil Collen signature Dinky. Active electronics were added to Charvel model 4 and model 6.  The Charvel Surfcaster 12 string had a headstock similar to what you would find on a Rickenbacker 12 string guitar.

Many of the Jackson models, such as the Rhoads, either had a built in neck joint or were neck-thru-body guitars.  

'88 Jackson Dinky
The Jackson Dinky was his first bolt-on neck model. The Dinky was a 7/8th style guitar, which gave the player a shorter scale, enabling faster changes. Jackson guitars preferred DiMarizo pickups.

The unique Jackson headstock served a couple of purposes. First, it prevented the company from patent infringement since it was different from the Fender headstock and second the strings had a somewhat straighter pull than those on a Fender guitar. 

As of 2002, Fender Musical Instrument Company owns and distributes Jackson and Charvel guitars. You will find a Fender style headstock on current models.

Charvette Guitar
Grover Jackson was associated with his company through 1989 when it was sold to Japanese manufacturer AMIC. The company continued to build high-quality Jackson and Charvel guitars through 1991.  A Korean budget model named the Charvette came out during this era.

It was in the 1990’s when music styles changed and Grunge music outpaced Metal.  Grunge players favored cheap old guitars. The era of pointy guitars and hair bands for the most part ended.

Fender has maintained the same look and feel of traditional Jackson guitars.

Ibanez guitars copied the look of Charvel Jackson, and are still building pointy guitar models. 

Besides the Rhoads and Dinky guitars, some other models worth mentioning are the Soloist, which was designed with a neck-thru-body and a super strat style, the Kelly, which was based on the Gibson Explorer, the King V, which was had a symmetrical V style body with long wings, and the Warrior, which had 4 pointy ends on its body.

Jackson Kelly

During the time that Jackson ran the company, he moved the business to differing sites several times. 

Glendora, California became the first new home of Charvel Jackson. In 1986, he moved his company to Ontario, California.

The address listed on the back of some of the U.S. made guitars lists a P.O. Box in San Dimas, California. These “San Dimas” guitars are the ones that are now prized and highly sought after by collectors. 

2014 update, Grover Jackson now works at Rickenbacker guitars.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


chirs said...

Cool story about Jackson/Charvel!

Randy Rhoad's was my first idol when I was starting to play guitar. After that, Jackson guitars were the holy grail of guitars for me!

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