Charvel and the Dawn of the Hot-Rod Guitar

Charvel and the Dawn of the Hot-Rod Guitar

Posted by Robinson Earle on May 26th 2020

Charvel and the Dawn of the Hot-Rod Guitar

The “ gear-head” is integral to the advancement of any technology. I am referring to the sort of individual who is rarely satisfied with stock options. While most of us simply buy carefully, play, and let be, gear-heads tend to view new acquisitions as blank canvases rather than completed masterpieces. Not content with simply expressing themselves through the manipulation of strings, their imaginations extend to the structural features of the instrument, itself. However, bewildering these folks may seem to non-tinkerers, it is through the alteration of standard models that we get new musical tools with which to create. Thanks to tinkerers, we have Charvel guitars .

Most gifted inventors have spent some time on the assembly line. Wayne Charvel started out working for Fender in the early 70s. In 1974, he set out on his own, applying his hard-won expertise to the repair of Fender guitars that were no longer covered under warranty. Gradually, he began tooling his own parts and mixing custom finishes. Word got around, and others began to copy his designs. Not one to be outdone by imitators, Wayne began outfitting bodies that he’d sourced from Boogie and Schecter with his hardware.

Ironically, Wayne Charvel only built his namesake guitars for a few years. In 1978, he sold the line to one of his employees, Grover Jackson, who rounded out the parts production by building bodies and necks, too. Indeed, the first complete Charvels were built by Jackson, and he was the one who truly established the brand. His “superstrats” were perfectly suited for an era in which music kept getting louder and heavier. The formula was relatively simple: a Stratocaster body with an unfinished maple neck, a single high-gain pickup in the bridge position, and an increasingly complex tremolo system. These instruments were hot-rods. They were made to shred.

As metal reigned throughout the 1980s, a Charvel became the ax of choice amongst numerous superstar virtuosos. Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora, Allan Holdsworth, and Warren DeMartini all played Charvel guitars. It became synonymous with blazing leads and west coast swagger. Their catalogue expanded, and they began offering Asian import instruments to meet the high demand. By 1989, they were sold completely to the Japanese instrument manufacturer, IMC (International Music Corporation).

In 2002, things came full circle, and Charvel was bought by Fender. The hot-rod, prodigal guitars finally returned home. It was through this re-union that Charvel Guitars blossomed into the powerful line that it is today. They currently offer an extensive catalogue of guitars geared towards high-velocity playing. Their DK-22 and DK-24 models are offered as a part of the USA select, and more affordable Pro-Mod Series. These instruments feature specially sculpted heels, speed necks, and back carves that allow for maximum comfort and higher-fret access. The 12”-16” compound radius makes your finger feel like their riding jet-skis. Their classic and artist designs are equally appealing. Many of their San Dimas and So-Cal models harken back to the rugged simplicity that established them, and their Guthrie Govan signature model offers unprecedented tonal versatility without dulling that sharp, Charvel edge. 

Whether you're a born shredder, or just a musical lumberjack looking for a more powerful ax, we can help you find the right Charvel at Midwood Guitar Studio: