The Charvel Story

Wayne Charvel opened his business in the mid-1970's in Azusa, CA and had originally developed replacement parts and provided repair and modification services replacing electronics, installing hardware upgrades, and customizing stock instruments. One of the first products Charvel Mfg. developed under Wayne was a metal Les Paul jack-plate designed to replace the weak plastic stock Gibson jackplates. Later products included brass nuts, bridges, knobs & switches made specifically for the most popular instruments on the market: Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters. Wayne would soon find a trend developing with customers requesting heavier gauge frets, more powerful pickups, heavy duty hardware, and better quality tuners. Customers would bring in off the shelf Fender and Gibson guitars to have upgraded before the instruments could be ready to play and meet their specific requirements. In other words, Fender and Gibson manufactured guitars "as-is" with no custom options available and Wayne capitalized on this weakness and made a business out of improving these manufacturers' products. This was key to the "custom-shop" philosophy that made Charvel Mfg. famous.

As time progressed Charvel Mfg would soon began building complete guitars for players with heavy-duty hardware, choice electronics, premium wood bodies and necks that were ready to play guitars. These were the first "Charvels" with logos and all. I verified this information through Linn Elsworth who did (and still does) run Boogie Bodies. The earliest Wayne Charvel made guitars had Boogie necks and bodies, Mighty Mite and Schecter hardware, and Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio pickups & electronics. Eddie Van Halen often dropped Wayne's name as the originator of the original Frankenstein body. This was not true, technically. Wayne Charvel simply sold it to Eddie, the body was actually made in Linn's shop. Initially Wayne did not have a functioning woodshop and simply distributed his partner's products. All complete guitars were done on a "custom-order only" basis but eventually would begin to be built for the retail market. The idea was customers could buy a ready-made guitar as opposed to an off the wall Gibson or Fender only to have to tear apart to make playable. This was the philosophy started by Wayne and perfected by Grover Jackson...the first true "custom shop."

Due to various financial and personal matters, Wayne decided to get out of the company and Grover Jackson bought out Charvel Mfg and legal rights to the Charvel name. Grover had been an employee of Wayne's through those formative years. With Grover at the helm the company began producing in-house bodies and necks and the relation between Boogie Bodies and Charvel Mfg seemed to dissipate there. Through the years of 1978 to 1981 there was a natural progression towards full scale production of complete instruments and away from being in the "parts" business.