In November 1978, Wayne Charvel sold the small Azusa, California, company he founded earlier that decade, Charvel’s Guitar Repair, to one of his employees, Grover Jackson. Charvel left the company soon afterward and ceased having any real association with the company’s name from that point on.
Jackson promptly began building highly regarded electric guitars bearing the Charvel name. In 1980, he was introduced to Ozzy Osbourne’s new young guitarist, Randy Rhoads; the two began to develop an angular, neck-through-body guitar designed by Rhoads himself that quickly evolved into a model dubbed the “Concorde.” Wary of putting the Charvel name on this radical new instrument lest it not prove a smashing success, Jackson instead put his own surname on the headstock in a move that prompted the creation of the Jackson guitar brand (the guitar was eventually re-christened the “Rhoads” model and remains a top Jackson seller today).
In the meantime, Grover Jackson had moved production to neighboring Glendora, California, where both brands were manufactured until moving to Ontario, California, in 1986.
Grover Jackson sold Jackson/Charvel to Japanese manufacturer AMIC in 1989. Thenceforth, Charvel guitars were produced to very high standards in Japan until 1991. Interestingly, the neck plates on these bolt-on neck Charvel models bear AMIC’s Fort Worth, Texas, address despite the fact that they were built in Japan.
Charvel’s active-electronics Model 4 and Model 6 guitars became popular in the latter part of the ’80s before the line was revamped in 1989 into several different series, including the Classic, Fusion and Contemporary instruments. Guitars in the Classic series included the 275, 375, 375 Deluxe, 475 and 750xl models. Fusion series deluxe and custom guitars had shorter scales than the others; the Contemporary line included the Predator and Spectrum models. Most of these guitars featured Schaller®-made hardware, including licensed Floyd Rose® locking tremolo units. The Korean-made Charvette brand was also introduced during these years to cover the lower end of the market.
Unfortunately at the time, the grunge rock boom of the early 1990s spelled trouble for Charvel; the brand fell from favor and suffered a drop in quality as the name was used on lower-quality budget instruments. Nonetheless, the ’90s and early 2000s did see several attempts to restore Jackson/Charvel to its ’80s-era glory, with high-quality Japanese and U.S.-made guitars such as the Journeyman. And, of course, original U.S.-made Charvel guitars (referred to as San Dimas models after the San Dimas, Calif., P.O. box listed on their neck plates) remain some of the most highly sought-after guitars in the world today.
Charvel and Jackson were bought by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in fall 2002, and the Charvel name saw a rebirth with several U.S.-made San DimasTM models, so named in order to recapture the spirit of the original high-quality U.S.-made guitars.
Today, Charvel offers several U.S.-made boutique guitars, including an Eddie Van Halen signature model (a very few of which were actually stenciled by Van Halen himself) and a special 2007 run of limited edition Grover Jackson Legacy Series historic instruments that expertly evoke the name’s 1980 heyday.
Charvel® guitars are part of the FMIC family and are distributed exclusively by Direct Imports (NZ) Ltd.
Charvel® is the trademark owned by Jackson/Charvel Manufacturing, Inc (JCMI).
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