What were you doing before you
I was working with a furniture company.
I’ve always been into making things. I knew
woodworking, and even in high school I
had a part-time job helping this guy do fine
furniture. I learned about exotic woods and
a little bit about tools. This was a summer
job, probably around 1977.
How did you meet Grover Jackson?
I met him through the furniture company I
worked at. In 1979, the furniture company
was going out of business, so he told me
about Tim Wilson, who worked at Charvel.
He told me they might hire me. I had no
idea they built guitars. It was just a job lead
at the time. So I went in there and I was
like, “Oh wow, this is cool—they make
guitars!” Tim showed me a piece of wood
and said, “Can you identify this piece of
wood?” I identified it and they said, “Okay,
this is a good start!” [Laughs.] I didn’t know
anything about guitars at the time, but I
knew about shapers, table saws, joiners, and
various woodworking tools.
What was the guitar line like back then?
We were basically making Strat[-style]
bodies with the one humbucker in the
bridge. There weren’t a lot of guitar parts
at the time: You had hard-tail bridges, the
brass trem bridge, or Tune-o-matics. Our
work orders at the time were on three-by-five cards with handwritten work-order
numbers. That’s all we had to build from,
just handwritten information. This is pre-computer stuff.
Who were your clients at the time?
There were local players, but most of them
were up-and-coming musicians. Gary
Moore was one of the super-early guys.
After Eddie Van Halen got the striped
guitar, that put Charvel on the map. We
were the original hot-rod shop. We would
change pickups and repaint things in the
early days. We started building our own
bodies. We’d cut down a Strat[-type] template and turn it into a Dinky model. And
if you took an Explorer body and chopped
out the bottom end, that was the birth of
the star shape, which goes back to 1979.
Top: The whole Charvel/Jackson gang in 1983. Mike Shannon is second from the right in the front row, and Grover
Jackson is fourth from the right in the back row.
Middle: Jackson’s Mike Eldred testing at the Charvel/Jackson shop in San Dimas in 1982.
How did Randy Rhoads come to Charvel?
I don’t really know the details about how
Randy knew about us, but Grover used
Above: A Kahler-equipped Kelly formerly used by
Right: Grover Jackson in the early ’80s with a set-neck
early prototype of what would become the Soloist.