Jackson Guitars History

Jackson Guitars

For more than 25 years now, Jackson guitars have reigned supreme over metal and all its many subgenres for discerning heavy guitarists worldwide. Onstage and in the studio, Jackson guitars are universally lauded as the metal guitars; the shred machines-finely tuned instruments of distinctive style and formidable substance.

In the late '70s and early '80s, a new generation of talented and flamboyant young musicians came of age and needed more-demanded more-from their guitars. They wanted hotter sounds, sleek new designs and state-of-the-art technical excellence and reliability. The epicenter of all this, "the new rock guitar," was Southern California, and it was there that guitar maker Grover Jackson ran a small shop that started to meet that demand.

As the tumultuous 1970s came to a close, Grover Jackson had just started to taste success as a Southern California guitar maker with his fledgling company, Charvel's Guitar Repair. Jackson had worked there for friend and shop founder Wayne Charvel since September 1977 and, by borrowing money from his parents, had bought the company from him in November 1978.

Originally based in San Dimas, Calif., Charvel's Guitar Shop had moved literally 100 yards west to neighboring Glendora, and while the small company had made a solid regional name for itself throughout the decade by hot-rodding guitars, Grover Jackson had other plans. Almost immediately upon taking the reins, he started building electric guitars bearing the Charvel name.

Jackson's new guitars debuted at the 1979 summer NAMM show in Atlanta and drew attention and acclaim. Charvel guitars were especially preferred by the flashy new generation of Sunset Strip guitar heroes whose bands were being signed in the wake of the phenomenal success of Van Halen.

By late 1980, Jackson's business was starting to go great guns when he got a call from Randy Rhoads, a phenomenally talented young guitarist who first started turning heads in the pop metal outfit Quiet Riot. Now, Rhoads had graduated to former Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne's new band and was destined for stardom.

Rhoads wanted to meet with Jackson about creating a distinctive new guitar. Just before Christmas 1980, the pair quickly designed the "Concorde"-a streamlined, offset V-shaped white guitar with neck-through-body construction, built soon thereafter with input from several Jackson craftsmen (Grover Jackson recalls that this period in the company's history enjoyed an especially rich and "very hard to create" team spirit).

Because his company was starting to enjoy increasing success with familiar-looking bolt-on-neck guitars, Jackson decided not to put the Charvel logo on Rhoads' exotic-looking new instrument, opting instead to put his own name on the headstock. Rhoads' sleek new model thus became the very first Jackson brand guitar.

Tragically, Rhoads was killed in a March 1982 plane crash while on tour. Demand was high for a Rhoads model guitar. With support from Rhoads' mother, Delores, production began in 1983 of the Jackson Randy Rhoads™ guitar, which became one of the more enduring and popular Jackson models.

In the early and mid-1980s, the popularity of Jackson guitars exploded. Several new models appeared-Jackson's Mike Shannon and guitarist Bradford Kelly of Australian band Heaven collaborated on the Kelly™ model; towering Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby had a larger V-shaped guitar built that became the King V™ model. This period also saw the debut of the bolt-on-neck Dinky (so named for its smaller body size), soon followed by perhaps the most popular Jackson design ever, 1983's neck-through-body Soloist™ model. The Concert bass also appeared in the early '80s.

In 1985, Grover Jackson made a stock-for-stock trade in which he became a shareholder in International Music Co. (IMC) of Fort Worth, Texas, which then acquired the Jackson company. Under this new arrangement, Charvel guitars would be built in Japan under Jackson's supervision and Jackson guitars would continue to be built in Glendora (although the P.O. box of the former San Dimas site was still in use). The U.S. factory was moved to Ontario, Calif., in 1986. Also around this period, Jackson introduced a signature model for Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen (its subsequent production model, the PC1, also remains popular today).

Throughout the 1990s, a new generation of shredder, industrial, grunge, post-grunge, nu-metal, techno, goth, and other guitarists-and just about every conceivable combination thereof-came to the fore and brought their Jackson models with them.

In fall 2002, Fender Musical Instrument Corporation bought Jackson/Charvel and moved operations to Fender's Corona, Calif., facility, putting the full force of the company's design, manufacturing, marketing and sales support behind the Jackson line. In addition to historic models such as the Rhoads, Soloist, Dinky, Kelly and King V, Jackson has since introduced the Warrior™, the MG and JS series guitars, and distinctive signature models bearing names such as Mark Morton (Lamb of God), Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory), Kevin Bond (Superjoint Ritual) and Chris Beattie (Hatebreed). Further, the Jackson Custom Shop is perhaps the longest-running true custom guitar shop in the United States today, with almost all of its original staff still there, including acclaimed builders Mike Shannon, Chip Ellis, Pablo Santana and Mike Kotzen; it continues to produce magnificent guitars that are among the most prized and desired by players and collectors alike.

From the Jackson® Website