I have been wanting to redo this page for some time now. With the completion of the new home page I though this would be the best page to start the overhaul of the site. I am sure you have all heard different versions of what has gone on over the years in one form or another, but what you will be reading below is to the best of my knowledge what "really happened" from the early 70's at Charvel's guitar repair to the present time at the custom shop in Ontario California. To give you an idea of how I have learned all the information I am going to be sharing with you we are going to need start in 1996.
I was collecting all kinds of guitars at the time Gibson, Fender, B.C. Rich etc. and of course I had a lot of Jackson and Charvel guitars also. Funny thing was I was only playing the Jackson and Charvel guitarsas the other guitars seemed to just collect dust. The internet was quickly becoming an excellent place to find and sell guitars, but finding the Jackson and Charvel shred machines proved difficult. Vintage sites would not postthem and there was little or no information available on the net so I thought it would be a great idea to build the first Jackson Charvel web site devoted exclusively to the "metal years" guitars.
Through my hunting of these guitars and the course of selling and trading off all the "dust collectors" to produce more Jackson and Charvel guitars I stumbled upon Grover Jackson literally at a AOL classified posting of keyboards. Over the next couple of weeks Grover and myself e-mailed each other a couple of times and it turns out we lived not more than a few of miles from each other in Mission Viejo California. Grover said he had some "stuff" hanging around in the garage and asked if I would like to come over.
This first visit to Grover's he showed me about 40 guitarsand asked if I would help him sell them as well as some studio equipment he had. Grover owned Hitsville a studio in Hollywood shortly after leaving Jackson and was raising money to purchase a new home. I agreed as this would be a great way to kick off the classified section and grand opening of Jacksoncharvelworld.com. not to mention I had first digs on all the guitars. Now Jacksoncharvelworld.net
Over the next year or so we sold off all of Grover's guitars and I helped him move into his new home in San Juan Capistrano California. Jacksoncharvelworld.com was growing very quickly. I was wanting to learn more about the guitars I love so much so Grover suggested that I call Tim Wilson at the Custom shop and ask for a tour.
During this visit I met Mike Shannon, Tim Wilson, and Pat McGarry for the first time. I don't know if it is destiny or what ever, but since then we have all become very close and trusted friends. With Mike everything just "clicked" lets just say we have similar interest in everything. As far as Pat McGarry goes he either likes you or hates you. There is no in between with Pat and thank god I was on the "likes" side of things. That leaves me with Tim Wilson. Things with Tim are a little different we both had a childhood that left a lot to be desired and for some reason it has kind of bonded us in a weird way. I guess we both lookat Grover as a father figure in some way or another. I have a lot of respect for Tim he has kept Jackson/Charvel going since 1989 when Grover left and through all the shit he keeps a level head and answers all our stupid andnot so stupid questions day in and day out. Not to mention he has been with the company since 1979. Although he did leave the company for about 18 months in the early 80's.
Mike Shannon and Pat McGarry both lived in Hesperia California at the time I first met them. Since then Tim has moved from Rancho Cucamonga to Hesperia as well as myself from Mission Viejo. As time goes on I find that we don't talk about the guitars as much anymore, but more often about our families and the regular buddy stuff. Grover is a walking time machine as far as the guitars go. If you ask him a question there is no answer, but rather a story about the entire subject you asked the question about in the first place. To enter the "San Dimas zone" with Mike and Pat is easy. Just have a case of Bud Light and you are off in another world in the early 80's! I have had two polka dot Randy Rhoads V's made by Karl Sandoval over the past three years as well as a couple of amps modified. Karl loves talking about the early days as well.
Wayne Charvel prior to the fall of 1977
Wayne Charvel opened Charvel's Guitar Repair in Asuza California in the early 70's primarily to do set-up, light repair, and refinishing. From this beginning a mail order business was developed selling white single ply pick guards, anodized aluminum Les Paul jack plates as well as stainless tremolo arms for Strat's. The parts were sold direct to the public through Guitar Player Magazine. These three primary, there were others but these were the focus, mail order parts were manufactured by Fred Naujock at F& M Tool & Die in Upland California. There were a few guitars assembled at the shop in this period with the bodies and necks being purchased from Lynn Elsworth, Waynes old school buddy, at Boogie Bodies. At least a couple of second bodies were also purchased from the Fender Service Center, repainted and then sold as Charvel guitars. Sometime around 1975 Wayne became involved with a company named ISA, International Sales Associates. This was essentially a sales and marketing outfit owned by Herschell Blankenship and Shel Horlick. ISA acted as exclusive sales agent for Schecter Guitar Research, Dave Schecter, and McCauly Sound a speaker enclosure manufacturer in the pacific northwest. The plan was for Schecter to handle all of the plastic, metal and electronic manufacturing while Charvel would become the wood parts manufacturer i.e. bodies and necks. To this end ISA encouraged Wayne to purchase two expensive Onsrud pin routers. At the time they were the state of the art in body and neck fabrication. The problem with the plan was the ISA intention that they act as clearing house for all of the funds. In other words all of the proceeds from shipments made by the three manufacturers would go to ISA and they would distribute the funds to whichever manufacturing division presented the greatest need. Obviously this communal cash concept didn't last long before there were disputes. The last straw for Wayne was the ISA solution to the cash distribution problems...they would purchase Charvel from him and pay him out over time with proceeds from the business. Needless to say Wayne was not thrilled with the concept and broke off the relationship. A lawsuit from ISA to Wayne was not long coming. This leads us up to late summer of 1977.
Grover Jackson prior to the fall of 1977
Grover Jackson was working for the Anvil Case Company from1975 till the summer Namm show in Atlanta July 1977. At this point Grover came back to California and began to work for Westwood Music. This sales position at Westwood proved to be very brief. Grover worked there for about6 weeks and decided retail just wasn't in his blood. Grover then went back to his musical roots and started to look for work playing guitar. During this time he was interested in buying a tele body and went to Charvel's Guitar Repair to locate one.
Fall of 1977 and beyond
Wayne and Grover went to lunch and during this visit Wayne complained about his financial problems, the lawsuit from ISA, he was having. Grover being out of work offered to help turn the company around in exchange for 10% ownership in Charvel's Guitar Repair. Wayne accepted and Grover started working with Wayne in September 1977. Along with three other employees Mark McKee, Karl Sandoval (RR polka V) and Lisa a receptionist. At the time Grover came on the scene the Onsrud pin routers had never been turned on and in fact there were no router bits or tooling. Utilizing a friendship that Grover had with Travis Bean, the original aluminum neck guitar company, Grover and Wayne visited their factory and were given several used 1/2"Vortex bits. These were literally the first tools that were used in the Charvel Onsruds.
In the fall of 1978 Wayne was suffering considerable concern about the outcome and ongoing expense of the litigation with ISA. At this point Wayne did a legal maneuver in California which is to homestead his house. This essentially protects the equity of your home from judgment in a civil lawsuit. With his home safe and his claims that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown Wayne announced that he wanted to put Charvel Guitar Repair in bankruptcy. While his reasoning may have seemed sound to him Grover had a completely different take on the events. After more than a year of eighty hour weeks and virtually no income Grover longed to be in business for himself and proposed to Wayne that he purchase Charvel Guitar Repair rather than file bankruptcy. Wayne agreed based on the condition that Grover assume certain liabilities and pay Wayne $6500.00. The liabilities amounted to approximately $33,500.00. This made the total purchase price just short of $40,000.00. It may seem like a very small amount of money for a company that ultimately made such an impact on the industry but at the time of the purchase the price presented quite a problem. If the purchase price could not be justified as being a reasonable value received for value given it would leave Grover open to being added to the ISA / Wayne Charvel lawsuit. It would have been very easy for the ISA folks to claim that the sale of the business was in fact an attempt to hide the value to prevent them from fairly prosecuting their claim. On his attorneys advice Grover had to go through the business and find $40,000.00 worth of tangible value. Once again this may seem easy but in fact the only real machinery were the two Onsrud routers and a couple of other home / garage quality shop tools. The spray booth was home made with a $100 Grainger fan stuck in the roof for ventilation, The workbenches were 2X4s with plywood tops. Using a liberal creative approach Grover came up with an assets list that nearly matched the purchase price and the deal was consummated on November 10, 1978. Wayne ceased coming immediately and by January of 1979 both Karl and Mark had decided to move on. Lisa had left the prior summer. At the time of the sale and Wayne's departure no production guitars were being made or had been made and in fact not a single neck had been produced by the company. It would be several months and quite a few sleepless nights before the first necks were produced.
A high school acquaintance of Grover's, Jerry Sewell, came on the scene around this time and was very important in the early phase of the company. The first substantial customer that Grover was able to getwas Mighty Mite. Guitar bodies were a rage at the moment in the industry and Charvel became the OEM source for Mighty Mite. Ultimately Sewell went into business with Mighty Mite leaving Grover high and dry without an employee, templates copied, and no customer. Shortly thereafter Grover was able tosecure a similar relationship with Dimarzio and manufactured bodies for them for quite some time. With the handwriting on the wall about OEM customers it became very clear that the company needed to produce something with it'sown name on it. The first NAMM show for Charvel guitars in 1979 was a modest success basically relying on the prior Anvil relationships that both Grover and JoAnn had with music retailers like Guitar Center and Veneman Music. These were the retailers that literally provided the cash flow that allowed the company to stay afloat long enough to get a foot hold.
The early eighties.
With the release of Van Halen arguably the most influential guitar Rock album of all time and Eddie playing a white and black Charvel strat on the album cover. Charvel was quickly becoming a house hold name. Randy Rhoads called Grover shortly before Christmas 1980 and asked Grover to meet with him to discuss building a guitar. Grover and Randy designed the white flying V literally over night. Tim Wilson completed the guitar over the next month. With Charvel guitars just starting to enjoy some success Grover didn't want to put the Charvel logo on Randy's guitar in fear it might cause problems. Charvel was known for bolt-on Strats not crazy looking neck thru flying V guitars. Randy agreed and Grover Jackson signed his last name on the head stock. With the release of Blizzard of Oz and Randy now playing a second black Jackson flying V that Mike Shannon had just finished for Randy three month prior as well as three other Jackson V's in production for Randy. Randy Rhoads died in a horrific plane crash in Florida while on tour with Ozzy. This shook guitar players world wide as well as Charvel Guitars. With Van Halen and Randy Rhoads both having played Jackson and Charvel guitars and the record companies signing anything that breathed in L.A. and the advent of MTV and the music video. The birth of Jackson Charvel guitars exploded. Soon after the L.A. metal scene took off a guitar player from Australia from the band Heaven by the name of Kelly came to the custom shop in California and designed with the help of Mike Shannon the first "Kelly" body guitar. Another local L.A. band RATT was on the verge of super stardom and a very tall guitar player Robertson Crosby(aka Robbin "KING" Crosby) had a special flying V made that was more proportionate to his rather large size the infamous "King V". With these radical body shapes, lightning fast necks and incredible graphic paint scheme guitars and Heavy Metal taking over the air waves Jackson Charvel Guitars all but controlled the entire guitar industry. Fender and Gibsonguitars were virtually non existent in the music industry. With several" major brand" guitar companies on the verge of bankruptcy. The in famous pointy Jackson Charvel head stock became the most copied head stockof all time.
Grover also built several of the early B.C. Rich guitars for Bernie Rico. Bernie and Grover have been friend for over 20 years until Bernies untimely death in 1999 in Hesperia California. Grover also built bass guitar bodies for Music Man. The Schon guitars were mostly built at the Jackson Custom Shop as well.
Wayne Charvel and Gibson circa 1985
With Jackson Charvel at top of it's form and literally driving the whole industry Wayne resurfaced. Gibson, at the time having just recently gone through an ownership change and at a low spot in the their history, made a deal with Wayne to design a series of Charvel guitars. When reasonable requests for them to cease fell on deaf ears Jackson/Charvel sued Gibson in US Federal Court and won stopping them from using any portion of the Charvel name as a trademark. They were still allowed to use Wayne's name as a guitar designer but this wasn't nearly as interesting and Wayne very soon disappeared from the Gibson scene. Wayne has built several guitars through the years. Wayne has also tried to start several new guitar companies W. Charvel Guitars (early 80's), W.C. Guitars (mid 80's) and Fritz guitars(mid to late 80's) all of which have failed. And most recently in 1999 Wayne's Guitars.
1985 Charvel starts plans on a Japanese guitar line.
With virtually every guitar leaving the Jackson Charvel Custom Shop a "one of a kind"custom ordered guitar. Grover wanted to mass produce certain popular models. Jackson Charvel merged with IMC(International Music Corp) and Charvel guitars were starting to be mass produced in Japan bearing the Ft. Worth Texas neck plate because this is where IMC was located. USA made Charvels had San Dimas neck plates up until1986 and after that Ontario California neck plates were used. From 1984 until 1989 Grover spent a lot of time in Japan and Korea setting up production for guitars and parts.
Written by Grover Jackson and Robert Lane