In the ’70s, there was no such thing
as Jackson Guitars. as Jackson Guitars. Grover Jackson was working with
Wayne Charvel and would soon purchase Charvel’s
company. A meeting with a relatively unknown L.A.
guitarslinger named Randy Rhoads would change
everything for Jackson the man, and would launch
Jackson the company. In the ensuing years, Grover
Jackson would merge with IMC, and in 2002 Jackson
Guitars was bought by Fender. On the verge of
the company’s 30th anniversary, Mr. Jackson himself
looks back on the birth of it all.
“I met with Randy two years after I had
bought Charvel Manufacturing,” recalls
Jackson. “He had gotten
the Ozzy gig and they
had recorded the first
record and released it in
Europe. Randy came home for
Christmas and came by the shop on Dec. 23,
1980. We sat and talked from noon until midnight.
In the course of that conversation, the
original Randy Rhoads model was designed.
“At that time, we had just started to make
some Charvel guitars and were getting a little
bit of success, but the company was very
modest. We were broke and struggling to gain
some sort of a foothold in the marketplace.
Randy came out with a cocktail napkin with
a crude line drawing on it. I thought that if I
put out this crazy shaped guitar and it didn’t
do well, it could have a negative effect
on what little success we had at
Charvel. I asked if he would mind
if I put a different name on the guitar, and he
said that was fine. We went with Jackson on
the headstock and that’s how the Jackson
brand was formed. The first guitar I built for
him was the white one and a little while later
I made him the black one as a backup.
“We started to see some effect in sales
that first year that Randy had the white one,
although sadly, the interest really picked up
after he passed away. The scene in L.A. was
really exploding around that time and soon
the guys in Ratt—Warren DeMartini and Robbin
Crosby—were playing our guitars. Carlos
Cavazo from Quiet Riot was very influential
for a period of time. Then it was a deluge,
with Def Leppard, Steve Vai, Vinnie Vincent
and lots of other guitarists playing Jacksons.
“The industry changed a bit after that.
Companies like Kramer and Ibanez wanted
to get in on some of the action that we had
going, and the way they did it was through
endorsements. A lot of the artists realized
that there was an economic advantage to this.
They no longer wanted the best guitar they
could get. Now they wanted the best endorsement
deal. For me that was sad.
“Over the years, my unwillingness to cut
corners and do things more cheaply probably
cost me the company. I felt like it was the
right thing to do in order to make a better
mousetrap and the reputation we had for
quality was extremely important to me.
Although ultimately it was to my detriment,
I wouldn’t change a thing.”