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Charvel Guitars
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1974; 41 years ago (1974) in Azusa, California
Founder Wayne Charvel
Headquarters Glendora, California, USA
Area served
Products Electric guitars
Parent Fender [1]

Charvel is a brand of electric guitars, originally founded in the 1970s by Wayne Charvel in Azusa and headquartered in Glendora, both cities in California. Charvel guitars became popular in the 1980s due to their association with famous rock and heavy metal guitarists such as Edward Van Halen (Van Halen), Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Warren DeMartini (Ratt), Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee (Ozzy Osbourne), Vinnie Vincent (KISS), Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister), George Lynch (Dokken), Criss Oliva (Savatage), Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane and others.



Style 1 HH Candy Plum.
Charvel Surfcaster.

Having worked at Fender for three years in the early 1970s, Wayne Charvel originally started "Charvel's Guitar Repair" in 1974 to refinish and repair out-of-warranty Fender instruments. The shop earned a solid reputation among performing artists for its repair work, custom finishes, and upgraded parts manufacturing. When Asian companies began copying Charvel's parts and selling them at a discount, Wayne decided to begin building complete guitars. Charvel guitars were originally constructed from wood components outsourced to Boogie and Schecter bodies, and various Charvel and aftermarket hardware.[2] Wayne Charvel sold the company to Grover Jackson in 1978, and ceased all working associations with the brand name from that point forward.

After purchasing the company, Grover Jackson tooled to produce guitar bodies, which were sold to Mighty Mite and Dimarzio. The proceeds were used to fund an expansion into crafting necks. During this time BC Rich, SD Curlee, and Music Man approached Charvel with prospects of contract manufacturing of various wood parts. The income from these sales provided the Charvel shop with additional tooling and experience that would give Grover the footing required to grow the Charvel brand into a market contender.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Charvel popularized custom revamps of the Fender Stratocaster design - often consisting of a Strat-shaped body with a single humbucking pickup and Fender style tremolo bridge systems. This modernized Stratocaster configuration (commonly referred to as the superstrat) was particularly well suited to the heavy metal style of music that was very popular at the time. Charvel guitars became renowned for its use of creative graphics, unfinished maple necks, and various innovative appointments.


In 1980, Grover Jackson was introduced to Randy Rhoads, who had recently secured the job of guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne's new band. They worked together to develop a guitar to complement the polka-dotted Flying V built for Randy by Karl Sandoval. The initial prototype was not angular enough for Randy, but the second design resulted in a shape that Randy referred to as the Concorde. Grover was concerned that the radically styled, neck-through guitar was too different from Charvel's familiar 'Superstrat' theme, so he decided to label the instrument with his own name on the headstock in case the design proved unpopular. Contrary to Grover's concerns, the visual impact of this guitar would spawn the "Rhoads Model" that would soon become iconic in the industry, and served as the impetus that inspired Grover to found Jackson Guitars.

Charvel (and Jackson) guitars continued to be manufactured at the Gladstone Street shop in the city of Glendora, California until 1986. In 1986, the manufacturing facilities were relocated to Ontario, California, and the production of U.S.-built guitars carrying the Charvel name ceased shortly thereafter.

The success of Charvel in the 1980s led to Grover's planning to mass-produce popular configurations in Asia. Whereas each Charvel guitar produced in California was essentially a hand built, custom instrument, the Japanese assembly line versions that appeared in 1986 would be categorized into model numbers. Grover eventually sold Charvel/Jackson to the Japanese manufacturer IMC (International Music Corporation) in 1989, and Charvel guitars were produced exclusively in Japan from 1986 to 1991.[3]

The Japanese made Charvels that appeared in 1986 could be easily identified from the San Dimas instruments by several distinct differences:

  • Neck plates circa 1982-1986 stamped "San Dimas, CA"[4] (then briefly "Ontario, CA") were changed to a plate that read "Ft. Worth, TX", the location of IMC's U.S. offices. This was confusing to many consumers, as all guitars with the "Ft. Worth" neck plate were made in Japan, without exception.[5]
  • The gold logo labeled "Charvel - Made in USA" that was affixed to the headstock of the San Dimas era (U.S. made) instruments was changed to a white logo that read "Charvel - By Jackson/Charvel".[5]
  • The unfinished maple bolt-on neck that was a hallmark of the U.S. instruments was replaced by a Japanese neck with a clear satin finish.

2002 - The rebirth of Charvel[edit]

Charvel was bought by Kaman Music Corporation in 2002, and the Charvel brand entered a renaissance, with several U.S. made "San Dimas" models—so-named in order to recapture the original association of the Charvel name with high-quality, American made professional guitars.

Charvel presently offers several series of guitars, including both lower-priced Japanese and boutique-priced American made instruments, and operates a full-service custom shop.[6] Perhaps the most notable product of Charvel's present custom shop is the Eddie Van Halen signature model - a short run of which are actually paint stenciled by Eddie himself.

Guitar models[edit]

Current Charvel guitars[edit]

San Dimas Pro-Mods[7]
Mexican built guitars in various styles and colors
Production Models[8]
Current guitars in various styles and colors
USA Warren DeMartini Models[9]
U.S. built reproductions of Warren DeMartini's original custom San Dimas guitars from the early 1980s
USA Custom Built[10]
Built to order and limited run custom guitars
Desolation series
Chinese built line of guitars introduced in 2011[11] and expanded since. Available in Star (DST), Soloist (DX), Singlecut (DS), Doublecut (DC) and Skatecaster (SK) design.

Past Charvel guitars[edit]

San Dimas Pro-Mods
Japanese built guitars in various styles and colors
Route 66
In 1984, Charvel made a limited run of around 100 guitars called Route 66[citation needed], which consisted of a Fender Telecaster style body in black, red, or sunburst, and fitted with chrome or black hardware and dice as volume knobs. The flashy styling and steep price tag ($1200) proved to be unpopular, and this basic style was later revived for Korean production under the Jackson brand.
See Charvel Surfcaster.

Other import models[edit]

In 1989, the Charvel line was expanded into a number of different series, including the Classic, Fusion and Contemporary.

  • The Classic series included the 275, 375, 375 deluxe and 475 models.
  • The Fusion series had shorter scale necks and included the Fusion Deluxe and Fusion Custom models.
  • The Contemporary range included the Predator and Spectrum models.
    • The Spectrum guitar was inspired by a Jackson guitar custom built for Jeff Beck, and was based on a Stratocaster style body, but with a reversed pointed headstock, an early 50s Fender P-Bass-inspired pickguard, wild colors, and an active tone circuit that produced a wah effect. The three single-coil pickups were in fact stacked humbucking coils.
    • The Predetor guitar featured reversed pointed headstock and slanted S-H pickup layout.

Most of the guitars at the time were equipped with Schaller hardware, including a licensed Floyd Rose locking tremolo.

The Korean-made Charvette brand also came into being to service the entry-level. In the 1990s, the Charvel CX series was imported as a lower priced instrument.

Fake Charvels[edit]

The collectible status and escalating market prices of 1970s-80s U.S.-made Charvels have spawned a rash of fake 'San Dimas' Charvels, many of which conspicuously appear in online auction listings or elsewhere, and are misrepresented as genuine originals. These fakes are often created by swapping necks and/or "San Dimas" stamped neck plates onto Asian-made Charvels or other inexpensive guitars,[12] and completing the project with a reproduction San Dimas era "Charvel - Made in USA" headstock decal.[13] In recent years, the problem has become widespread enough such that it remains a frequent topic of discussion amongst knowledgeable collectors of San Dimas era Charvel guitars.[13][14] Some fakes are convincing enough such that independent, expert confirmation is strongly recommended before considering the purchase of an instrument claimed to be original San Dimas era Charvel.

Wayne Charvel since 1978[edit]

Wayne Guitars
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1978; 37 years ago (1978)
Founder Wayne & Michael Charvel
Headquarters Paradise, California, USA
Area served
Products Electric Guitars

Wayne Charvel has resurfaced in the realm of guitar manufacturing with varying degrees of success several times since selling the brand in 1978.

Wayne created a namesake model offered through Gibson, the "Gibson W.R.C. Signature Model" - of which only a limited number were made, but this saw little recognition and was short-lived due mainly to a lawsuit filed by Jackson. The Gibson W.R.C. models were made from 1987–1988 and were offered in three standard colors: red, black, and white. Of several hundred produced, 200 were 'show case' models that featured Wayne Charvel's signature on the bell and were accompanied by a letter from Wayne.[15] The WRC model came with a tan faux leather case with hot pink interior and combination locks. The earlier models were equipped with a Kahler Spyder tremolo, while later models featured a Floyd Rose Original. All featured a maple bolt-on neck with ebony fingerboard.

Today, Wayne and his son Michael own and operate Charvel Music, a full line music store in Paradise, California, and currently manufacture guitars as a joint venture under the name Wayne Guitars.[16]


  1. ^ FMIC Brands at Fender website, 8 Dec 2014
  2. ^ Thomas sabo charms jewellers (2011-06-01). "16.) Wayne Charvel History " Wayne Guitars – Custom guitars made by Michael & Wayne Charvel". Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  3. ^ "History". 1978-11-10. Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Identify your Jackson/Charvel". Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ [4][dead link]
  10. ^ [5][dead link]
  11. ^ Premier Guitar. "Charvel Introduces Desolation Series Guitars". Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  13. ^ a b "The Ultimate Resource for Vintage Charvel Guitars". San Dimas Charvel. Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  14. ^ Your resource for vintage San Dimas Charvel guitars!
  15. ^ "Charvel : Gibson WRC". Retrieved 2011-12-11. 
  16. ^ [6][dead link]

External links[edit]