The Hot Rod Movement Branches Out
In terms of historical importance, at this
point Wayne Charvel was the central figure
in the west coast hot rod guitar movement.
But, another key player on this coast who
would eventually do some work with Charvel
was Bernie Rico of BC Rich Guitars. His company was an established guitar manufacturer,
and enjoying success at the time. Based out
of the Los Angeles area, Rico was designing
guitars with much more radical body shapes.
The names of these guitars became synonymous with the brand name: Mockingbird,
Seagull, Eagle and The Bich, to name a few.
Rico’s main contribution to going left-of-cen-ter was his refinement of the neck-through-body design and the development of a heelless neck joint. To make a more affordable
version of some of the BC Rich guitars, Rico
also produced bolt-on models, for which he
contracted Charvel to construct necks.
In 1978, Wayne Charvel decided to move on
to other ventures, and sold the Charvel company to an administrative employee, Grover
Jackson. A guitar player in his own right,
Jackson took on the business end of the
Charvel company, but also had a genuine
interest in transforming it. Once he gained
control of the place, he brought a major
focus to the company with marketing savvy
and a much-needed artist relations program.
While maintaining the Charvel company
name, Jackson took what Wayne Charvel
had started to the masses, by providing local
and national players with high performance
machines. He started an endorsement program, which meant high-profile players were
constantly seen with Charvel guitars.
In 1980, Jackson met with Ozzy Osbourne’s
guitarist Randy Rhoads to design a much
more unconventional guitar. It was an offset
V-shaped guitar, with one wing shorter than
the other. Charvel Manufacturing was still
enjoying the success of Wayne Charvel’s
designs and customized Strat-like guitars.
Jackson didn’t want to risk disrupting that
success by putting the Charvel name on
Randy’s new guitar, so he simply put his
own name on the guitar’s headstock and
the first Jackson was born. At an Ozzy
show the following year, I saw that guitar.
The ferocity of Rhoads’s playing made
me notice the brand name on the guitar,
a name I’d never heard of. Unbeknownst
to me at the time, I would later own over
twenty Jackson guitars!
My first exposure to a Charvel was at a local
shop in 1983, and my first impression was that
it played much more easily than my Les Paul.
Like Van Halen’s guitar, it was strat-shaped,
had a single humbucker and a brass tremolo
bridge. Even more striking were the hot rod
flames painted on it. The fastness of the neck
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