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Guitar Center

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Guitar Center, Inc.
FormerlyThe Organ Center
The Vox Center
Company typePrivate
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1959; 65 years ago (1959) (as The Organ Center)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
FounderWayne Mitchell
HeadquartersWestlake Village, California, U.S.
Key people
Gabriel Dalporto CEO
ProductsMusical instruments, recording equipment and accessories
RevenueIncrease $2.14 billion
OwnerAres Management
Number of employees

Guitar Center is an American musical instrument retailer chain based in Westlake Village, California. It is the largest company of its kind in the United States, with 304 locations.[1]

The company oversees subsidiaries which include Musician's Friend, AVDG, Music & Arts, Woodwind & Brasswind, and Giardinelli.


The company was founded in Hollywood in 1959 as The Organ Center, a retailer of electronic organs for home and church use, by Wayne Mitchell. In 1964, after one of his suppliers informed him that in order to continue receiving organs he would also have to carry Vox guitar amplifiers, Mitchell added the amps and changed the store's name to The Vox Center, capitalizing on the popularity of the Beatles and their association with the Vox brand. Toward the end of the 1960s, as other brands like Marshall rose in popularity, Mitchell changed the name again to Guitar Center.[2][3]

Guitar Center outlet at West L.A., Pico & Westwood

By 1972, Guitar Center had expanded to eight locations and eventually opened stores in San Francisco, San Diego and suburbs of Los Angeles. The company was purchased from Mitchell in the late 1970s[4] by Ray Scherr, the General Manager of the San Francisco store.

The 1980s "guitar rock" revival, led by Van Halen and an influx of Japanese-produced instruments, brought guitar sales to unprecedented levels, and Guitar Center expanded across the United States to become the largest musical instrument retailer in the country.[5]

A Guitar Center retail store in Houston, Texas

Scherr sold the company in 1996. The following year, with 30 stores on the West Coast and in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, Guitar Center made an initial public offering of stock and opened more new locations.[6][7]

In 2000, Guitar Center acquired mail order and e-commerce retailer Musician's Friend[8] for $50 million, and said the merged company was the world's largest seller of musical instruments.[9] Musician's Friend became a wholly owned subsidiary, with its headquarters remaining in Medford, Oregon.

In 2005, Guitar Center Inc. acquired Music & Arts, the largest band and orchestra dealer in the United States, and merged it with their American Music Group chain of band and orchestral stores. The company was renamed Music & Arts.[10] The same year, Guitar Center, Inc., started The Fender Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supported music education.[11]

In 2006, Guitar Center acquired four stores in Texas from the South Texas and Central/South American company, Hermes.[12] In the same year, Activision partnered with Guitar Center, and all purchases made during game play of Guitar Hero, beginning with the second installment, were made in a virtual Guitar Center store.

In February 2007, the Musician's Friend division acquired assets of the Indiana-based company Dennis Bamber, Inc., which included band and orchestra retailer Woodwind & Brasswind, plus Music 123 and Lyons Music.

In June 2007, Guitar Center agreed to a $1.9 billion buyout from Bain Capital, totaling $2.1 billion including debt. The deal was led by Goldman Sachs and amounted to a per-share price of $63, or a 26% premium on the June 26 closing price. The deal was approved by shareholders on September 18, 2007, and closed October 9, 2007.[13]

In mid-2009, Guitar Center opened its first rehearsal and lessons studio facility in Woodland Hills, California, consisting of eight studios with backline,[clarification needed] ranging in size from 350–550 square feet (33–51 m2).

In 2011, Musician's Friend's headquarters operations were moved to Guitar Center's facilities in Westlake Village, California.[14] In the same year, Guitar Center began offering equipment rentals in one of their San Diego stores. Rental departments were extended to ten other locations, with plans to offer rentals across the country.

In May 2013, Standard & Poor's cut its debt rating on Bain Capital-owned Guitar Center Holdings Inc. to "junk bond" status, citing struggles with "weak operating trends." The corporate credit rating on the company dropped from B to 'CCC+'.[15]

In April 2014, Ares Management took a controlling stake in Guitar Center. Bain Capital, Guitar Center's former owner, retained partial ownership of the company, along with representation on the board. According to Mike Pratt, the retailer's previous chief executive, the deal would reduce Guitar Center's total debt and provide it with the resources to expand and invest in its business.[16]

In August 2014, Guitar Center opened a new 28,000-square-foot flagship location in Times Square in New York City.[17] The opening included a concert featuring The Roots.[18] The Guitar Center Times Square location became the permanent home of Eric Clapton's Blackie Fender Stratocaster,[19] which had been purchased at a Christie's Crossroads Centre auction in 2004 for $959,000.[20]

In April, 2017, Moody's Investors Service revised the outlook on Guitar Center's B2 rating to negative. In the face of flat sales in the musical instrument industry as a whole, Guitar Center became overwhelmed by its $1 billion debt. [21]

Guitar Center filed for bankruptcy in 2020 and the Times Square location was closed. On November 13, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guitar Center announced that it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after negotiating a debt-cutting deal with key investors and lenders. Guitar Center said it had received up to $165 million in new equity, and lenders agreed to reduce its debt by around $800 million.[22][23][24] The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 23, 2020, after a reorganization deal added additional equity and debt capital.[25]

Guitar Center Legends Collection[edit]

In 2004, the Guitar Center began a "Legends Collection"[26] with guitars made famous by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and U2's the Edge. The Centre purchased Clapton’s “BlackieFender Stratocaster for $959,500, his vintage GibsonES-335” for $847,500, and Vaughan’s “Lenny” Stratocaster for $623,500, a total of over $2.4 million, in the Clapton Crossroads Centre charity auction at Christie's, New York. The Edge’s cream white Gibson Les Paul Custom was purchased for $240,000 at the Music Rising Charity Auction in 2007.[27] The collection has been exhibited in a tour of musical events and Guitar Center locations, such as the one held at Madison Square Garden as part of Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in April 2013.[28] In August 2014, Clapton’s Blackie and ES-335 were moved to a new permanent location in Times Square.

Clapton's cherry red Gibson 335 was used to record Cream’s versions of "Badge" and "Crossroads (from their final live performance in November 1968), and other historical performances over 40 years. Steve Ray Vaughan’s "Lenny" was used to record his classic love songs, including "Lenny" and "Riviera Paradise". The Edge's cream-colored 1975 Les Paul Custom, faded from its original white, had been used for U2's stage and studio performances. All the proceeds from the sale of these guitars went to Clapton’s Crossroads Center charity.

In 2005, the Edge, producer Bob Ezrin, Gibson, and the Guitar Center Music Foundation (now known as the Fender Music Foundation) established Music Rising, a charity to benefit musicians whose lives had been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007 The Edge donated his guitar to be auctioned for the charity and It was sold for $240,000 to Guitar Center ($288,000 including Buyer's Premium).[29]

Guitar Center's Drum-Off[edit]

From 1988 through 2016, Guitar Center conducted an annual search for the next great undiscovered drummer. Developed to spotlight the drumming community, the Drum-Off was the music retailer’s longest running artist-discovery program.[30]

The process of Guitar Center’s Drum-Off[31] began with three rounds of preliminary competitions at each of Guitar Center's 250+ locations nationwide, with each contestant allowed five minutes of set up time and three minutes to perform. One winner from each store final competition advanced to one of 30 quarterfinal competitions, and one winner from each quarterfinal competition advanced to one of five semifinal competitions, during which contestants were allowed five minutes to perform. The winners from each of these five semifinal competitions qualified to compete in front of a live audience and a panel of celebrity judges at Guitar Center's Drum-Off finals in Los Angeles, California.

In the finals, each contestant was required to perform on a 5-piece acoustic drum kit complete with hardware, cymbals, cowbell, throne and the option to incorporate a Roland SPD-30 Octapad (the SPD-30 was not included in 2016). Contestants were evaluated by a panel of independent and credible judges on the following criteria: skills & technique, groove, originality, stage presence, and overall performance.

Guitar Center discontinued their sponsorship of the annual contest in 2017.[citation needed]

Hollywood's RockWalk[edit]

RockWalk detail

The Sunset Boulevard location in Los Angeles hosts Hollywood's RockWalk, a hall of fame, honoring musical artists.[32] Founded in 1985, artists are invited to place their handprints into cement blocks that are put on display at the Guitar Center.[33] The inaugural inductees were music gear pioneers Jim Marshall, Robert Moog, Les Paul, and musicians Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Wonder. Currently, over 150 more honorees are enshrined.[32] Other inductees include Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Carole King, Alice Cooper, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Herbie Hancock, the Black Crowes, The Ramones, Dick Clark, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, KISS, John Lee Hooker, Smokey Robinson, Solomon Burke, John "Jabo" Starks, Robert Cray, Etta James, Ike Turner, Kim Se-hwang, Muddy Waters, B'z, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette, B.B. King, Black Sabbath, Carlos Santana, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, Ernie Ball, Grandmaster Flash, Iron Maiden, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Joan Baez, Joe Satriani, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins, Johnny Cash, Layne Staley, Little Richard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Melissa Etheridge, Nancy Wilson, Queen, Roky Erickson, Clyde Stubblefield, Slash, The Doobie Brothers, The Wrecking Crew, Van Halen, Vince Gill, Simon Kirke, Lizzo, Nick Cave, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Oasis, Mud, Korn, In Flames, Jakob Dylan, BTS, Yola, and Chick Corea.[33][34]


Guitar Center Sessions[edit]

Debuting in 2010, each episode of Guitar Center Sessions showcases exclusive live performances by noteworthy artists captured in hi-definition at Guitar Center's iconic Hollywood, California location. Past guests include Linkin Park, Saint Motel, Wiz Khalifa, Billy Idol, The 1975, Sum 41, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morissette, 311, Megadeth, Snoop Dogg, Soundgarden, Seether, The Cult, Cake, Jakob Dylan, Tame Impala, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Bush, Ben Folds Five, Korn, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, Skylar Grey, Peter Frampton, Frank Turner, J Balvin, Coheed and Cambria, Debbie Harry, Kraftwerk and Jane's Addiction. Guitar Center Sessions is hosted by Nic Harcourt, and was created, developed and produced by Guitar Center exclusively on DirecTV.[35] Guitar Center Sessions has won several awards, including a Lumiere Award from the International 3D Society for the episodes featuring Jane's Addiction and Peter Gabriel. To celebrate Guitar Center's 50th anniversary, Linkin Park performed on October 24, 2014, with the performance first airing via DirecTV on December 5, 2014.[36]

At: Guitar Center web series[edit]

The At: Guitar Center web series (formerly At: Guitar Center podcast) features interviews and intimate performances with some of the biggest names in music. Some past guests have included Travis Barker, Sevendust, T-Pain, Joe Bonamassa, The Crystal Method, Buddy Guy, Elmer Bernstein, Daughtry, Jimmy Cliff, Meiko, Lee Jong-suk, Rza, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Brandi Carlile, and Minus the Bear. The podcast is hosted by Nic Harcourt and is available on the iTunes, Zune and BlackBerry networks and on the Guitar Center website.[37]

Connections Made by Guitar Center[edit]

Connections Made by Guitar Center, a collaboration between 88.5 KCSN Los Angeles and Guitar Center, was a weekly one-hour radio program hosted by radio host Nic Harcourt featuring new music from both signed and unsigned artists from across the globe and musical spectrum.[38]

Albums recorded at Guitar Center[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All Guitar Center Locations | Music Instructor & Guitar Store Finder". stores.guitarcenter.com. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  2. ^ Nathans, Aaron (May 14, 2011), "Delaware music stores bracing for national giant's arrival", The News Journal, retrieved May 15, 2011, Guitar Center, which focuses on the rock-band end of the music business, opened its first store in Hollywood in 1964, just as guitar bands were taking off. Alt URL
  3. ^ "Guitar Center 1960s History". Guitar Center. November 30, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  4. ^ "Guitar Center 1970s History". Guitar Center. November 30, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  5. ^ "Guitar Center 1980s History". Guitar Center. November 30, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  6. ^ "The big box comes to music". Forbes. March 9, 1998. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  7. ^ "Guitar Center 1990s History". Guitar Center. November 30, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  8. ^ "Musician's Friend". Archived from the original on September 1, 2016. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  9. ^ "Guitar firm, e-commerce to merge". Deseret News. May 14, 1999. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  10. ^ "Find Local Contractors - Home Remodeling Contractors on Ecnext". goliath.ecnext.com.
  11. ^ Guitar Center Music Foundation Archived July 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Guitar Center Buys Hermes Trading Co. - Multichannel Merchant". May 23, 2006.
  13. ^ "Guitar Center Accepts Bain Bid", The Wall Street Journal (fragment), June 28, 2007
  14. ^ "Losing a Friend". Mail Tribune. April 28, 2011. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  15. ^ "Bain Capital's Guitar Center hits rough patch", Reuters, June 12, 2013
  16. ^ "Ares Management Gains Control of Guitar Center", The Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2014
  17. ^ "Guitar Center plans major store expansion to fight off indies, Amazon". Fortune. August 7, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  18. ^ Horgan, Richard (August 1, 2014). "Moving into the Old NYT Building: Guitar Center | FishbowlNY". Mediabistro. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  19. ^ Leonard, Devin (August 6, 2014). "Eric Clapton's $1 Million 'Blackie' Guitar Moves to Times Square". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  20. ^ "Eric Clapton's 'Blackie' | 20 Iconic Guitars". Rolling Stone. May 23, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  21. ^ Linnane, Ciara. "Will Guitar Center be overwhelmed by its debt?". Marketwatch.
  22. ^ Katherine Doherty; Niluksi Koswanage (November 14, 2020). "Guitar Center Expects to File for Bankruptcy After Debt Plan". Bloomberg L.P.
  23. ^ Diegel, Mike. "Guitar Center Plans to File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy". Source of the Spring. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  24. ^ Alexis Benveniste (November 22, 2020). "Guitar Center is filing for bankruptcy". CNN. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  25. ^ Unglesbee, Ben (December 18, 2020). "Guitar Center exits bankruptcy". Retail Dive. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  26. ^ Guitar Center Legends Collection Archived November 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Guitar Center Displays Its Iconic 'Legends Guitar Collection' at Northridge and San Bernardino Stores". Guitar Player. June 18, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  28. ^ "Eric Clapton Announces 2013 US Tour and Fourth Crossroads Guitar Festival". Guitar World. November 19, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  29. ^ "Guitar Center Legends - U2's the Edge's 1975 NYD Gibson Les Paul". Retrieved August 31, 2016 – via Facebook.
  30. ^ "Guitar Center Launches Its 25th Annual Drum-Off Competition". Modern Drummer. August 1, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  31. ^ "Drum Off". Guitar Center. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  32. ^ a b "List of all the rockwalk/inductees". Guitar Center's Hollywood Rockwalk. Archived from the original on September 28, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  33. ^ a b "James Brown Inducted into Rock Walk in Hollywood". Jet: 55. June 22, 1992.
  34. ^ "RockWalk Honors BMI Blues Legends". BMI.com. April 7, 2005. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  35. ^ "Guitar Center Sessions". Guitar Center. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  36. ^ Kindred, Kathy (September 17, 2014). "Guitar Center celebrates 50th Anniversary with Linkin Park concert premiering exclusively on DirectTV". LinkedIn.
  37. ^ "At: Guitar Center podcast". Guitar Center. Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  38. ^ "Connections Made by Guitar Center". Guitar Center. December 20, 2014. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2016.

External links[edit]