May 24, 1985
Wayne Charvel's guitar shop/operation was originally located in Azusa, California. He later moved to Glendora, California. By the time we spoke, he had quit the guitar business almost completely, to devote his talents to designing hot rods and one-off truck parts. I'm not sure where this facility was located.
That's a good question. In order to address it, it would be helpful if you knew a bit about my relationship with Edward Van Halen
. Because this interview never would have taken place, if I had:
Never met the guitar player.
Never set out to write a book about him.
In February 1985, I had known Edward Van Halen
for 7 or 8 years already. I had written some pretty prominent pieces about him for a variety of publications including Guitar World and various English and Asian magazines (Player). When he was in town and off the road, we'd hang out a fair amount. I'd drive to his home in Coldwater Canyon, a 5-minute ride up Laurel Canyon Boulevard and then left on Mulholland Drive for a couple miles. We played video games or Ed would pull out tapes of music he'd been working on and play some of it for me. He'd pick up a bass, hand me his guitar, and we'd jam. I called him a friend and I believe that's how he felt about me.
The band had just come off of the 1984 record and the world belonged to them. Edward
was probably the most influential and highly regarded guitarist (and maybe even overall musician) living. I don't know how I did it exactly because I was pretty terrified at that moment, but I mentioned something about the very real probability that people were going to be writing books about him and this music he'd created. I said I would like to write that book. And he said something like (I cannot remember his precise response but this is very close), Yeah, I can't think of who else could do it.
I was pretty excited. Truthfully, I remember not being able to catch my breath and thinking at the time, This is going to be important.
I typed up a simple four-line document to cement the proposal:
I, EDWARD VAN HALEN, GRANT TO STEVEN ROSEN, MY PERMISSION TO WRITE THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF MY LIFE. I WILL ASSIST HIM IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE AND I PROMISE THAT NO OTHER WRITER OR JOURNALIST WILL BE GIVEN MY PERMISSION TO WRITE AN AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY. THIS IS A STATEMENT OF GOOD FAITH.
EDWARD VAN HALEN
It's not exactly the Declaration Of Independence in terms of eloquent thought, but when he signed it, I whooped and hollered in the same fashion Benjamin Franklin
and Thomas Jefferson
must have. And I also typed it all in caps which is something I never do. I suppose I wanted to shout out these words to the world, huh? I began research and with his stamp of approval on the project, every door was flung wide open. I tracked down old friends, schoolteachers, musician acquaintances, promoters, amp builders, and guitar luthiers. And one of these individuals was Wayne Charvel
This is one of my favorite interviews because it truly reveals this astonishingly gifted musician through the eyes of an integral player in the VH
history. Anybody who even marginally followed Edward's career knows about the importance of Wayne Charvel
in the guitarist's development.
That's what this interview is then, one of the dozens and dozens I conducted in preparation for their inclusion in my authorized Van Halen
biography. But life has its own design and even if you do have a signed letter, sometimes that's not enough. Even two signed docs aren't enough. In April 1987 - I'd been working on the book for a couple of years at this point - I accompanied Edward
to his lawyer's office in Century City, California. The lawyer had drawn up a slightly more detailed contract. Edward
signed it, I signed it, and the guitarist even gave me an advance in acknowledgement of the work I'd already completed.
I thought, This is really going to happen. I'm going to be the person who writes the life story of Edward freaking Van Halen!
I continued to gather information, tracking down names here and there, driving all over town, conducting phoners; I spoke to Alex
and Michael Anthony
. And I kept working and I kept working and I and before I know it, years have passed, we're now in the 90s, and things have changed. Edward
has gone through a couple different singers, and he's gone through some character changes. He just changed. I'd talk to him from time-to-time, though those moments became less frequent, and ask him about sitting down and talking about the book. But he would never do it. He'd say that he felt a book only came out about an artist's life when the musician's career was over. I could understand that, though I didn't think it was true.
I didn't want to have to talk him into this or coerce him in any way (not that I ever could anyway). So, the book just floated away, gossamer pages on an unforgiving wind. Talk about a ghostwriter? I had been the invisible man typing out see-through pages.
There is no one to blame; Edward
just didn't want to do it. It remains as the biggest disappointment in my career; I'm torn to pieces when I think about what could have been. I don't know if you believe in fate or destiny or being somewhere when you're supposed to be there; I'm not sure if I believe it. But I do believe that I was the person meant to write that book; I don't think anyone had the relationship with Edward
that I did (for a writer/friend standpoint). It could have been something really special.
So, what we're left with, are the bits and pieces of that almost-was chronicle. When I informed Wayne
about the book, that it was being written with Ed's blessing, he was even more enthusiastic to participate. What comes through in his dialog is the picture of a guitar player with a complete lack of guile and unbelievable level of humility. Those two elements combined to make Edward who he was.
* * *
Was Edward sort of a shy person when you first met him?
He was real nice. I tried to fix him up with a 17-year-old secretary. She was rathera little bit on the promiscuous side unbeknownst to him. We were all kidding around and everything when he came up one day in his green van. I said, Hey, Lisa, why don't you jump in that van with Eddie?
He just kind of turned around. This was either right when they finished the (first) album or just before they finished it. They were not popular by any means. They were being played on the radio, but still nobody paid that much attention to them. She was kind of a groupie; tended to be more of a groupie type of girl. She was ready to go! She was a really, really pretty girl.
What was her name?
Did they ever get together at all?
No. I bet she regrets it to this day!
When was the first time you met Edward?
He came into my store. I had a store called Charvel's Guitar Repair in Azusa on Arrow Highway and Azusa Avenue. He came in there one day and I had heard about him from some of the other kids. We had 3 full-time guitar repairmen working for us. We had a good business going. We were doing everything from everybody, all the LA crowd, Palm Springs. We were making bodies at that time and slowly getting to where we were making guitars. Anyway, he came in and had a pickup that was squealing on him. So I told him to cure that by dipping or soaking it in hot wax.
Had he ever heard of anything like that before?
No, not to my knowledge. He said he's never tried it before, but he thought it would work because they did it with transformers in amplifiers to keep the windings from buzzing. So I went and tried it and I said, Man, this works great.
The feedback probably would be the wire in the pickup to vibrate. That causes a feedback, an oscillation, which causes the feedback. So what you're doing is keeping that wire in a solid state form and that eliminates a good 90 percent of it, sometimes all of it.
So we tried it and he liked it. Then he started bringing pickups in. He brought a Dimarzio pickup in one day, and we were talking while we were dipping it, just shootin' the bs, and it melted. It just shriveled up because they had used same sort of plastic that wasn't conducive to having heat put on it. Later, I took that pickup back to Dimarzio at one of the NAMM Shows and said, Hey, you guys sent me a defective pickup.
He got a real kick out of that.
He had just heard of you through word of mouth?
Yeah, just walked in the store one day, yeah. He used to come in while I was pottin' the pickups or doing whatever it was I was doing. He would sit on the floor with his legs crossed and play whatever guitar was handy - and sometimes his own guitar. I knew he was real good; he was real different than anybody. I played guitar 12 years in nightclubs prior to that. I never was much of a guitar player, but I knew this kid was real good and everybody was raving about him. Everybody was talking about him even then. But by the same token, I had seen a lot of kids that were good. I've seen a lot of nightclub performers that were killers that never made it. Our group tried to make it; we had 4 records that were out, and we never did make it. So I was a little apprehensive about anybody. I'm an optimistic person, but I'm a little bit pessimistic when you hear people doing this and doing that. So we moved up to our other shop and started Charvel's Manufacturing.
Where was that?
That was up in San Dimas.
Where they are now?
|"I'm telling you, we started making Van Halen style guitars."|
Yeah, across the street from where they are now. He brought Michael Anthony, the bass player. Mike is a real nice guy. I got along really great with Mike. And so was Ed; Ed was a real nice guy. A little bit kind of laid back and a little bit shy, where Mike was a little bit more outgoing. When we got up there we had some bodies laying around there, and he was asking about them. It's hard to recollect all the things.
When they would come in, Eddie and Mike saw these respirators used for painting guitars. They had the 2 filters in one. I had 3 or 4 of these things laying around. They said, Wow! What are those?
This was before they made it and were down in the Hollywood clubs and stuff and partied. I said, You guys want one of those? I have a half-a-dozen of them laying around.
They said, Oh, wow!
So I gave them some respirators and I had some World War II atom bomb blast goggles, leather goggles with the real dark red lenses so that the military could look at the atom bomb. I had those lying on the bench, and they wanted those and so I gave them those. They thought that was great. You know, goggles, respirators.
Then going back when we were in our other shop, I just thought of this, Eddie had a brand new Ibanez Destroyer, an Explorer copy. He wanted me to paint it black, but I didn't have time to do it.
What color was it?
It was natural, a natural color. He said, Will you paint this black?
I said, Yeah. How long will it take?
I said, Oh, man, it's gonna take 3 months before I even begin to get it for you.
I said, But it's brand new, it looks great, Ed.
He said, Oh, I want it black.
So then we moved to the other shop and he came up there. He drilled holes all the way through it. Do you know what a Star guitar looks like? Like an Explorer.
The Charvel Star?
The Explorer is like this, right? He drilled holes all the way down like this, like a shark or something. After he did that, he took a saw and cut through the center of the hole so that he would have a hole like this. When you cut through this half of it, you ended up with this all the way down.
Like a serrated edge?
Yeah, I couldn't believe he did that to that brand new guitar! It was like, Hey, if I can't get it painted, I'm going to do something else.
He just completely thrashed it up.
He ruined it, too, didn't he?
I don't know. I never knew the outcome of it. He was always taking screwdrivers and really gouging out stuff and dropping pickups in, but that was good because that's the way to experiment. How are you going to find out what works?
But anyway, I gave him one body and he painted it white in his garage or something with a spray can, he told me. Then he put tape around it. Then when they got the album out, they surprised me one day. They came up, they gave me this album, their first album, and it said, Special thanks to Wayne Charvel.
I was excited about that, but I still wasn't sure if the album was gonna go. I thought, Gee, if it goes, that will be great, my name on an album. Super.
But I had 5 or 6 albums at home with my name on it and zero business from 'em, right?
So then when they started making it real big, we started getting calls from music dealers all over the United States. Who is this Van Halen guy? What is he doing? What kind of guitar is he playing? We want some guitars like that with stripes on 'em.
I told them, Hey, these guitars, the one Eddie did, is painted white from a spray can and black electrical tape on it. I won't paint you a guitar and put black tape on it because it will come off and will look terrible. But I will paint stripes in for you.
So we just got deluged with phone orders for Van Halen guitars. And I'm telling you, we started making Van Halen style guitars. At that particular time, I was so stressed out with everything coming down, 7 days a week, 14, 15 hours a day, no family life, no private life, that I said, I've got to sell this place.
And that's when I decided to sell to Grover.
I had always been on really good terms with Eddie and Mike. I'm an easygoing guy. I like talking to people; I like people. We had a good rapport. At that particular time, I was building a guitar for Eddie and building a bass for Mike, and then in the midst of building another bass for Mike, and I sold the company. Meanwhile I guess they were on the road somewhere and I didn't hear from them in a while. I sold the company to Grover and I had to get out of the place. Then I left.
And please, can you tell me what transpired between you and Grover?
You can do it in your own words. As far as I'm concerned, the man is a good businessman. I have to give credit where credit is due; I always call a spade, a spade. He's a good businessman. He alienates people through his harsh tactics dealing with people. My personal philosophy on business is you don't have to do that. You can be stern and get your price but be nice to people. I can go back to anybody that I ever dealt with and they'll say, Hey, that Wayne is a good guy.
At least I hope they'll say that. I never screwed anybody. I never had any bad vibes with anybody on anything. I've been screwed plenty of times myself.
I sold it to him and I guess it was about a year later, I had given him the bass player for The Bee Gees; I left Grover with ZZ Top, all those name people. Well, somehow or another, he must have pissed Van Halen off because they sued him for a million dollars. At least, that's what Grover told me. And I thought, God, why would those nice guys sue Grover?
And then I remembered, Well, he's probably done something to really make them mad.
I found out later that what he had done was use their name in their advertising without permission. So probably, Noel Monk was the manager, I believe, at that time, he probably got to thinking, Why should we let this guy use their name when they don't even know him or don't care for him and we're not getting anything?
After that I called Noel Monk if you're going to use somebody's name, then give them a piece of the action. Don't just try to steal it from 'em. Then you both make money and you're happy, right? And you avoid all of that. But Grover, obviously, wanted all the bananas.
So Ed had no problem with you painting and selling guitars like the ones he was playing?
No, not to the best of my knowledge. We probably built 20 or 30, something like that.
What year did you sell the business to Grover?
'78. In fact, they did a little blurb in Guitar Player Magazine on it. Did you see that?
(Asks friend what date the issue was.)
In case you want to do something about Billy Gibbons, I talked to him at length. (Thumbing through the pages of GP)
I made these car guitars for him. (Looking through magazine)
Here's the bass. Right here, this is a chrome tube going inside the body. There's a smoke tank in there filled with powder with a little miniature train motor that I beefed up from 9,000 rpm to 18,000 rpms. The mag wheels, those are actually aluminum, turn down all the way with the little knock-offs. The knock-offs are the volume and tone control. There is a 3-way switch and you flip the switch, it lights the smoke powder. It's an aluminum, milled-out box. It lights the powder, you put it back to neutral, and then you put the switch on the motor and it blows smoke out the back. I did those for them. Billy Gibbons is a really neat guy. It would be neat for you to write a book on him; I think it would sell a lot of books.
But anyway, that's about all I can tell you about Eddie, other than
How much interaction did you have with Grover?
Grover came to me just before we moved into our shop and laid it on real thick. He had a real good personality. I liked the guy. As we started getting more and more business, I realized that I couldn't do everything. I couldn't do the books, I couldn't answer the phones and build guitars and work on machinery and talk to customers. Grover was working for Anvil case company for Wayne Thompson at that time. Wayne Thompson was a killer businessman; he really knew how to make business work. He took Anvil - it was a dying company - and he bought it from Larry somebody, turned it over, and made it big.
Grover learned a lot of this yelling and screaming at people to make people do things and business tactics from Wayne Thompson and applied that to our company. However, we were strapped for cash at that time. Cash flow was always a problem. We were doing 225 grand in a year or so, and we still had a cash problem. You run into that problem. Five million dollar a year companies all of a sudden need to borrow $200,000. If they can't borrow it, they go down the tubes even though they're making a lot of money. You need cash in reserve. You need to be able to get this, this, and this.
Anyway, Grover was good at business, so I put him up at the front desk and said, You do it.
He worked real hard and he said, I'd like a piece of the action.
So he was an employee for a while?
Yeah. I guess he worked for me for probably about a year or so. I said, Fine. What do you want?
He said, I'd like to have 10 percent.
I said, You're doing a good job handling all of the bs for me. That's fair, so you've got it.
You signed him up for 10 percent?
Yeah. So then he started coming in in bad moods everyday to the point where Karl Sandoval, one of my chief guys he's in LA, you can ask Karl, Karl will attest to anything that I'm telling you now. I don't like badmouthing people. He does his thing the way he wants to and that's the way he sees it, and I do mine and that's life. He started coming in with really bad moods and real depressed. He kept going, Man, we're in trouble. We don't have money to do this. We can't do it.
Well he kept doing this. Unbeknownst to me at that time, this was a tactic, a business tactic, to get me to sell the business to him. My lawyer and I figured this out later. He kept saying, Oh, we're broke.
When someone keeps telling you how bad business is and we're gonna fold and go under and do this, pretty soon you start believing it, if you trust the guy. Mr. Naive. So finally I decided I wanted to sell the business and get out of the whole mess. Banks won't loan you money unless you can prove you need it. You know that story. I had $85,000 worth of NAMM Show orders that the Schecter people took in Chicago. And took 'em down to the bank and wanted to borrow $20,000 on 'em to get the orders out; they wouldn't talk to me. That kind of stuff. One slap in the face after another, and I didn't know that much about business to be honest with you.
I knew how to make guitars, I knew how to sell guitars and deal with people, and I wasn't really a businessman. I didn't really claim to be. And here I was all of a sudden overnight with this great big business and didn't really know and Grover really didn't know. We were all just kind of guessing at that time what to do. Lack of experience, experience is the best teacher. So once I got that in my mind that I wanted to sell it, nobody was going to get that out of my mind.
Unbeknownst to me, I found out later that in the midst of all these things coming down on me, I was in a lot better shape than I realized. Grover had been making deals on the phone with people like Larry Dimarzio to run bodies for him. See, our problem was cash flow, not business. We had plenty of business, but we needed cash flow. We needed X amount of dollars every month coming in, come hell or high water, to keep everything all in place. In order to do that, you can't depend on street trade. You have to have contracts with so and so for X amount of bodies and X amount of necks or whatever. Grover was making a deal with Dimarzio on the phone since I was letting him run the business on the phone, he knew the business better than I did, and he made a deal with Larry Dimarzio for I forget how many bodies a month they were gonna start doin'.
So he says to me one day, I'd like to buy the business, Wayne.
I says, Great. you would be the perfect person to take it over since you know it.
And I'm still naive at this point. You would be the perfect person to take it over and then I won't have to advertise and sell it and all that.
He said, Good, well I'll give you $3,500 down and pay you the rest in 3 or 4 months or whatever. I'll take over all of your liabilities.
I said, Good.
I saw a way out. At that time I had my house sold and I had plenty of cash, so I wasn't worried about thinking too much about the future. I wasn't thinking too clearly at that time, so I sold him the business.
It took him forever to pay me. He stuck me for income tax; didn't pay off any of the people he said he wanted to, in the amounts he said. I owed $5,000, $6,000 to one of my good friends, a machinist; he told the guy he wasn't going to pay him anything at all but if he'd settle for $2,500 cash right now, he'd pay him off. So what's a guy going to do? He's either going to get 25 or nothing. He did that with everybody. It was all planned ahead of time.
He had a contract with Dimarzio. The minute I left, they were cranking out bodies and everything. He just picked the business up. At that time, the money that would come in, he was buying stuff. Once I agreed to sell it to him, he all of the sudden started buying stuff. Cutters, he bought a milling machine - all with basically what was my money. I feel he really did a number on me, but I feel it was my fault. If you looked at it in God's eyes, he really screwed me bad. If you look at it in a business point of view, I was a stupid ass for letting him get to me. That's all.
What did he ultimately pay you for the business?
About $38,000. I left a router there that I only owed $1,000 on, and he sold that for God knows how much that I was supposed to come and pick it up. He sold that, he sold the neck-carving machine. He called me and said, Man, I'm going to go under if you don't let me sell that neck-carving machine. I've got it sold for $900. If I don't get the $900, I'm going to dump this thing right back in your lap again.
Well, really he didn't need the neck carver, so he sold it and put $900 in his pocket. Actually, he probably ended up getting that business for nothing. I found this out 2, 3 years later.
However, I try to look at things fairly. I wouldn't do that to anybody. I have to go to sleep at night. If I'm selling you something, I'm going to want you to have a fair deal or I'm not going to do it. So that's where it was.
It's like, Boy, that Grover. He didn't pay me anything. You're kidding?
One of my friends, Pat, he owed some money to, he didn't finish off paying him. You can do that; a lot of business guys do that. It seems like the guys that are successful, it seems like they're the ones that do that. Schecter. Dave Schecter is a beautiful guy, a real straight guy, wouldn't harm a fly. He got involved with Herschel Blankenship, Sheldon Horlick (they both worked for Schecter); they did numbers on everybody. They're good businessmen, but their business tactics are really unethical and they'll knife ya in the back. However, the bottom line with them is paper. Sheldon told me, When you're dealing in business, you change the word fair to what's equitable. Don't even start talking about fair deals. What's equitable for you? And to hell with everybody.
I guess I wasn't cut out to be that kind of guy. In other words, if that's what it takes to make Grover $2 or 3 million a year, if it takes that to be in business and make that kind of money, then I'd rather be up here. The money is just a tool anyway. My whole reason in life does not revolve around making money.
So Ed has his own guitars before he came to you. What kind of guitars did he mention?
Was he playing any Strats or a 335?
I think he said he was playing a 335. I can't remember. I don't think I ever saw it. That was about 8, 9 years ago now.
So he got the guitar body on the cover of the first record from you, right?
What kind of body was it?
It was one that we made
Was it one pickup?
I think it was a Strat. It was cut for 3 Strat pickups and he chiseled it out and put one humbucking in it. I can vaguely remember him bringing it back up. One thing I do remember about it, he had taken either a chisel or a screwdriver and chiseled the pickup thing out. He screwed the pickup, I think, directly to the body. I don't think he had a pick guard on it at all. I can't remember; I don't think he did though.
Do you think he had something to cover up the first 2 pickup cutouts, though?
He did have one - I can't remember if we made him one or we gave him plastic or what - but I think at one time he did have a plastic pick guard on one. After awhile, we started making those pick guards with one humbucker;you might call it an Eddie Van Halen pick guard.
So that had never really been done before?
I don't know. I think just about everything has been done, believe it or not. I think you could safely say that Eddie was probably the original guy that applied the use of one humbucking and one line control. I used to do concerts. We used to do all the Three Dog Night's PA stuff. When you're playing for a lot of people, the bass pickup is almost useless, that rhythm pickup. So all you really need is one pickup. And the tone control is useless; all you need is a tone control. You've got it to where you project, so that you're not involved in the other guys' frequencies. If everybody can get out of the other guy's frequency, the thing sounds clean. So it's nice for the audience.
I think he's got a great ear, so he picked that up right away. He says, This is useless. Why bother with it?
I think it's safe to say that he's the guy that started the whole one pickup, one volume/ tremolo. I mean, he brought the tremolo back and put it back on the map again. Guys were using them, but I would say that about 99 percent of everybody that we build a guitar for has to have a tremolo. Everybody is influenced by Eddie Van Halen on it. That's no bs.
Did he get the neck from you also?
Yeah. We had a Danelectro guitar in there with a flat fingerboard. Great little guitars, great necks. No truss rod in 'em, stayed in tune, the necks never warped. Never seen a bad Danelectro. Short-scale. Well, he was playing that, I think that belonged to Karl Sandoval (master guitar builder of the day); I can't remember. It was either mine or his, and Eddie was playing it. He goes, Whoa, this is great! Because you can get the action low enough on a flat fingerboard and bend a string without it choking up. So he says, Man, I've got to have one of these necks. Can you put one on the Strat body? I said, Well, the scale is shorter. We'll have to pull in where the hole is or not route it, and put the bridge up closer. So we did a guitar like that, too. He was knocked out by that.
Wasn't that first body and neck seconds that Linn Ellsworth (another manufacturer I had interviewed for the aborted book) had sold to you?
At that time, we were getting some necks and some bodies from Linn, but we got our routers and we were making bodies. To the best of my recollection, the neck was probably an Ellsworth neck and the body was ours, as far as I know. That first white one, I'm pretty sure was our body.
What kind of wood did you use?
It was either alder or ash. I think it was ash because we were doin' a lot of ash bodies then. I would be probably certain in saying that it was ash. You could probably double-check with him if you wanted to (which I did, as I mentioned earlier). When you're writin' a book, you want to try to get it as authentic as possible.
And I've tried to think of everything for you that I know is 100 per cent accurate. Especially when I know you're going to go back and talk to him. To the best of my recollection, and I could be off a little bit on some of these things, but I think I'm pretty right on them. And then again, Eddie could have forgotten, too. You can imagine the impact of all of a sudden being Joe Blow on the street and within a year's time, he's
|"Eddie is a pretty quiet guy. It's hard to tell what a guy is thinking."|
The preceding paragraph here is italicized because the sentiments espoused became universal in virtually every person I spoke to regarding the book. And I felt it was worth pointing out. A majority of the interviewees stressed that they were trying to be accurate in your memories. And, in their various ways, they verbalized the notion that I would be returning to Edward as the final voice on everything. They knew this and it was as if they did not want to misrepresent their association/friendship or whatever the situation might have been. Most of these people never saw him again/spoke to him again after the release of Van Halen).
After the record came out, did you see Ed at all?
Yeah, a few times; he seemed the same. I've dealt with a lot of rich people that I've dealt with over the years, and I tell you what happens to them: They become almost recluse. When you get somebody telling you you're great 24 hours a day, if you don't have your act together, you're gonna start believing it. If a guy has really got a perspective, he knows within himself. He may admit to himself, I'm pretty good, but I need work.
Everybody knows their hang-ups, faults.
The problem with a lot of guys - I don't know if it's happened to him or not. Hopefully it hasn't. They lose their perspective and pretty soon they'll have a bad night and everybody still keeps saying how great they are. So then they don't believe these people anymore, this group of followers. Then they don't know who to believe. They don't know if the guy likes him because they're plain old Eddie Van Halen. You know, What does this guy want from me?
So then they start getting standoffish. They don't really know who their real friends are and it becomes a problem.
It becomes a real problem, especially when I deal with guys who have already made it like Billy Gibbons. The first time he came into the shop, he was a real nice guy, real down home. Country guy, cowboy hat, and the whole thing. We got to talking and I said, Look, I want you to know something right straight out. I know you're Billy Gibbons, I know you've got a lot of money.
At that time I had quite a bit of money and was doing well, the new Cadillac and the whole enchilada. I said, You've got a lot of money, I'm doing OK. Your price on this guitar is going to be the same as if anybody else came in. I'm not going to get to you just because you're Billy Gibbons. If I wanted to get to ya, I'm gonna get to ya for a couple hundred thousand you, I'm going to give it to you for a couple hundred thousand, not for 2 or 3 more hundred!
And boy, that broke the ice! He says, God damn, that's great!
He shook my hand and he went and measured everybody's heads for cowboy hats! Next thing I saw, cowboy hats in the mail. I wanted to let him know right off the bat, so we could have a nice relationship going. That where I was.
Did you try to do it with Ed like that?
No, I didn't have to because I knew they were struggling and I liked him and I liked Mike. I had just met David a couple times; he came in there and had a couple of girls hanging on him.
Dave came by with girls?
Yeah, he had a real cute little blond; just gorgeous.
Was it Ed and Dave at the same time?
This was after they made it, they all three came in; Ed and Mike and Dave came in at the same time in the shop.
Did you sense any kind of relationship between Ed and Dave?
No, I didn't really pay that much attention. I think Mike had a girlfriend, too. I can't remember if Eddie brought a girl in a girl or not. could sense a real high from all 3 of them because they were getting airplay on the radio and a feeling of excitement. I talked to Mike several times and I told him basically what I told you. You realize now that you guys have got this album out and if you really make it big, everybody and their brother is going to try and get their hand in your pocket. Everybody's going to be telling you that you guys are the greatest thing since sliced bread. What you really need to do is retain your perspectives.
He said, Yeah,
I had already experienced it with other guys that I had known that had made it, that just went absolutely bananas. They can't handle it. Actors are the same way.
Myself, at my age and you at your age, you would know how to deal with it hopefully because you've had experience. But if you're a 19, 20-year-old kid and he's a kid with bald tires on his '63 Ford Van and now he's making millions, it's pretty tough to handle unless you've got a real good head on your shoulders and some real good advice. Hopefully you'll listen to somebody. I didn't listen to anybody when I was a kid. Who does?
When you finally heard Ed's guitar on the album, were you impressed?
Yeah, I was real impressed. Oh, yeah. I was real impressed. I thought to myself then, That kid's going somewhere.
It didn't take much. You didn't have to be very much of a guitar player to realize he was doing stuff that nobody even thought of doing before. There was a guy named Eddie Kay years ago that was doing that Van Halen stuff. Years and years ago. He was the only guy I ever saw do it. So it wasn't brand new. But I don't think Eddie heard about this guy.
Was he a jazz guitarist?
He was a jazz guitar player and he played rock and roll. He was doing all that stuff (hammer stuff), just like Van Halen. He had done some recording with the Walker Brothers. His real name is Ed Klinkhammer (spelling of last name is approximate - it may be Klinkhamer), but he went to Eddie Kay. He's a real monster on the guitar - still is, although he probably couldn't touch Eddie now. Eddie's real fast.
That's why I say every time you think something is new, you'll find somewhere, somebody has done it. Twenty people may have done it before Eddie, but Eddie is the guy you have to give the credit to because he's the guy.
Did you personally help Eddie put guitars together?
No. We just gave him the stuff and he would do it. He was kind of a guitar tinkerer, you might say. He'd mess around with it. Probably got just as much kick out of doing that as he did playing it. I do remember him saying that was up in his room practicing all the time. Then I assumed that while other kids are going out partying, he was up there on the weekends and during the week playing his guitar. And that's good. How else are you going to do it?
Did you later see him in concert?
No. I saw him once, but I've never actually seen him in concert after they made it. I saw them play before in the clubs. Too many things to do! I was going around like a zombie, believe me. That's why I'm up here. I have a lot of fun here, do what I want to do. We manufacture some truck parts and mess around with hot rods; we build a few guitars and have a great time. To me, that's what life is about.
You mentioned earlier that you actually began your guitar building career as an independent contractor of sorts for Fender?
Yeah; Roy knew that I could refinish guitars and he started sending me some work. I started doing the work for him and he loved it. They started sending me people like Deep Purple. That's how I got going. They sent me Deep Purple. I hit it off real good with this guy called Boffin (a member of Purple's crew). I met Ritchie only a couple of times, but this Boffin character would come up. He was a very knowledgeable guy, really smart. He would drink a beer and eat jelly donuts. He loved Winchell's jelly donuts with beer because I guess they didn't have that in England or something. I don't know. But he was a very, very sharp guy. Real nice guy. Well, I gave him several real nice bodies and necks, walnut bodies.
Things that you had worked on?
Yeah, guitars that we had built. Just beautiful stuff. He told other people about me. I think he told Pink Floyd about me. We started getting those kind of people. Of course, I treat everybody the same and they appreciated that. When they dealt with me, they weren't going to get dicked. I think they appreciated that, too. That's how I kind of got going. I got a few blurbs in Guitar Player Magazine. We started advertising in Guitar Player Magazine. My first product was a little metal jack plate for Les Pauls. We were doing like $30, $40 a week with that. I told my wife, Hey, I can't stand this correspondence, people writing in with this and this.
For $2.50, what they list it for, I didn't want to bother writing a letter about it. I said, You want to make some money on the side? You write the letters back and fill the orders, and you can have yourself $40 a week extra spending money.
She said, Great.
So then I thought, Well, everybody is making tremolo bars. I'll make stainless steel tremolo bars. They're 4 times as strong.
I got those going, those took off. In 7 or 8 months, we were doing $8,000 to $9,000 a month in business in mail order in parts. It peaked out to about $15,000 to $16,000 a month in the mail order business. It was then I realized the mail order business is great. Why should I sit here all day working on a guy's guitar for $50 or $60 or $100, when there's no limit to what you can sell. I can sit here in 30 minutes and ship out $500 or $600 - and have someone else do all the work for me. was great. It was really neat. They saw my name in Guitar Player every single month, which told the reader, If this guy has been in there for 6 months or so, he must be legit.
People are sometimes a little apprehensive about dealing with mail order. I feel it's imperative if you're going to be in the mail order parts business relating to guitar parts, that you have to have a guitar repair shop. Otherwise, how are you going to know what the people want? You can make $3 million a year if you want to do guitar parts, but you still have to work in there in your little repair shop in order to keep new products going. That's where so many of these companies missed the boat. They start making big money and they lose touch with the musician. Pretty soon, they have no innovative ideas to put in the market. And bang, they're out of business.
Did you work on Ritchie Blackmore's guitars?
Here's what I did. Tommy Bolan, at that particular time, had just taken over Ritchie Blackmore's spot as a guitar player. Just prior to this, I had built a guitar forI can't remember the guy's name. All-quilted maple, sunburst Strat, a white pick guard with a real, real thinned down prototype Fender neck. It was a Fender neck with black binding and black inlays all the way up the square blocks. But it was only about that thin (uses first finger and thumb to indicate width). It was wide and flat, and I mean really flat. It must have been just on the verge of hittin' the truss rod.
We potted the pickups in it. Frank Lucido, the guy that owns California Guitars - I think he's in Studio City, although I haven't seen him for a while - knew Tommy Bolan. He says, Why don't you let me take this guitar down to Bolan? Because his guitars feedback like crazy.
Stock Strats with a lot of power, they just squeal like mad. Let me take this down there and see if he likes it.
So Frank get can in anywhere, right? He's a little, short Italian guy, gets in anywhere, backstage, knows how to bullshit people. He gets in and Tommy Bolan is rehearsing with somebody. He lets Tommy play this guitar and Tommy plays about 3 songs on it. And he's all teeth, man, and he just loves it. There is no squealing. He's turning it way up. He goes to Frank, That's it.
So on the break, Tommy comes out, and Frank and he talk together. Tommy just says, Man, I've got to have this guitar. I don't know what you've done to this thing.
Frank called me and says, Bolan has got to have this guitar; he's going with Deep Purple and you're going to get a lot of exposure. He'll give you 5 years' rights to his name to do anything you want if you give him the guitar.
I said, Great! Give him the guitar.
So he takes the guitar and he's just ecstatic about the guitar. He cuts an album with it. I've got the album at home, but I can't remember the name of it.
Was it a Deep Purple album?
No, no, no, it a Tommy Bolan album. I think it had some Japanese girls on the cover or something.
Private Eyes, that's it. And he gives me credit on there for that guitar; you can look, you can check. Everything is going along great. I go to see him, and the first night they invite us down to the Deep Purple concert. We get in and I see Boffin is back there, and I'm sittin' there watching him play. Blackmore is down in the front there. This was before I met Blackmore. Blackmore is a real cool guy, right? Nothing seems to bother this guy. He's not a nervous person or anything because he's so cocky and he's so confident in what he's doing. But Bolan is up there sweating. It's his first night with a great big group. There is 8 million people there and he's got Blackmore sitting there staring at him. You, as a guitar player, should appreciate it. That's a nightmare.
Bolan has already got a big reputation as a hot player, so you know he's going to try and outdo himself in front of all the crowd, impress the group and impress Blackmore. The guy is beside himself. That's enough stress to kill an ordinary guy. So I meet Bolan. I got up and talk to him before he goes onstage. I looked at his hands and his hands were like this (mimics two hands shaking). He looks at the guitar and he's loaded. He's stoned. He doesn't even see the guitar. I brought Bobby Cochran from Steppenwolf. He was with me, real good buddy of mine. So we were sitting there, showing him this guitar I made for Steppenwolf out of Zebrawood, chrome pick guard. He's going, Yeah, that's great.
He gets up there and he plays all night. He didn't come off too good, didn't play that well. And they drug him offstage.
But anyway, here's another one of my guitars up there. He's giving me all this credit and stuff. Shortly after that, Frank calls me. Frank knew this Barry guy, who was one of the big roadie muscle guys with Bolan's crew or Deep Purple or personal Tommy Bolan or something. Frank had given Bolan a couple of guitars to try: a lap steel and another guitar. It wasn't probably 6 months and Bolan died of an overdose, which they claim was not really self-inflicted. But the rumors that I've heard, it was.
You mean that he didn't consciously commit suicide?
I heard that someone gave him the stuff. Who knows, who knows. But he dies and I felt real bad about that because he seemed like a real nice guy. I felt real bad and kind of strange. Frank Lucido says, Let's go get our guitars back.
I said, The guy died. Let his mother or someone. I don't care about the guitar.
Franks says, No, man. You had 5 years.
Frank is real business, all business. You know how Italians are! So we go and Frank calls me up and says, We're going down to get those guitars.
I said, Oh, we won't get them back. The roadies have got them and they're not going to give them back. I'm pissed and I want the goddamn guitars back. So come on down with me.
So I said, Okay.
Meanwhile, I've got a couple of kids. I don't want any trouble. So Frank picks me up. He's got this prizefighter in the backseat. This guy is a professional boxer. He says, This here is my friend so and so. These guys won't give us any trouble because he'll deck all 3 of them.
So we go down there. We get down there and Frank says, I'll knock at the door. You guys stand around the side of the building. When they open the door, we'll walk in and we'll just simply ask for our guitar. If they give us any shit, we'll play it by ear. Don't let them go in the bedroom because they may have a gun.
So Frank is driving down there and I look over. Just before we get there, Frank pulls this great big Smith .44 out and sticks it in his belt! I said, Oh, man! I don't want any of this. I don't want any of this crap at all.
We go up and I'm scared. He knocks on the door. Hi, Barry.
We all walk in. We've come to get our guitars. The guy says, What guitars?
He pulls the leather jacket, flight jacket, and the .44 is in there. The guy says, Oh, those guitars! Yeah, we've got those out in the garage.
Honest to God's truth, we go out there and we get them back. No problem, no incidents. So after I get a guitar back, then I think, Oh, great.
So I resold it to some guy at a music store in England. He saw it and loved it. But it was a neat guitar.
So did you have a chance to meet Blackmore?
Yeah. Boffin - Mike Phillips, I think, is his real name. Anyway, I'm sitting there watching the concert with Tommy Bolan with Bobby Cochran. During a break there, they paged Wayne Charvel to go up to the backstage. They said, Hey, Ritchie Blackmore wants to meet you. What? Oh, that's great. Ritchie Blackmore, he's some hot stuff. I want to meet him.
So I go up there and Mike comes down and meets me. We go back up to the room there, and Blackmore is back there. Mike says, Show him the guitar that you built for Bobby Cochran.
So I opened it up and he just loved it. He says, Would you build me a black one? I'd like to have a black one with this and this and this on it.
I said, Yeah, no problem.
When I guy of that caliber tells you to build something for him, you build it, right? Money is no object, right? You don't say, 'Well, I need $500 to start it.' You just go ahead and do it when you get in that league.
He says, Call me when it's done and I'll come and pick it up.
He acted real stupid about the pickups. He goes, Does the sound come out of these little round things.
I thought, Surely this guy knows more than that.
Later Mike told me that he was just shining me on with the acting stupid. He knows a lot more about guitars than you would think. It's his sense of humor. He wasn't shining me on, he was just kidding around with me. I didn't know the English humor. I didn't know they were all weirdos, right? (Laughs)
His humor is pretty cutting at times.
Really. But I wasn't stupid, either. I knew the guy was screwing around with me, but I still didn't want to come off like an asshole. So I just went along with whatever he was doing. But he was serious about the guitar. So I built the guitar and did a knock-out job; rubbed it out and spent twice as long on it. I tried to get a hold of him. I got a hold of somebody else and told them the guitar was done. I never heard hide nor hair from him. He never came in. I never heard from him again, never saw him again. Here's the guitar hanging all up really bitchin', engraved nameplate on the back, the whole shot. So in my book, the man's words are not worth a shit.
What happened to the guitar?
|"I knew how to make guitars, I knew how to sell guitars and deal with people, and I wasn't really a businessman."|
I sold it later. I kept it about 6 months, hoping he would come in. I would have given it to them at that point, just to get some exposure.
Did you ever do anything with Hendrix?
No. I never did.
No. I met Jeff Beck at a hot rod car show. I'm walking around, turn, and there's Jeff Beck walking next to me. I said, Hi, I'm Wayne Charvel!
He had a '32 Ford there, black with flames. I had a '32 three-window (coupe) at that time. We got along great.
Did Ed actually make purchases from you?
He did have us make him a yellow and black guitar. That was right about the time that I was in and out selling the business.
Ed was actually up at the San Dimas plant while you and Grover were still there?
I think Grover had just come in at that time. I think Grover did meet him once or twice. It's been so long ago.
Did you build the Van Halen logo guitar?
No. I think Grover did that.
If you had not sold the business, you would probably be building Ed's guitars today.
Oh, no doubt about it. As a matter of fact, I feel real sure - we weren't buddy-buddy and we didn't go out and party together - as far as a customer goes, we got along great. I was actually a little bit closer with Mike than I was Eddie. Mike seemed a little bit more down to earth. It's hard to tell about a quiet guy. Eddie is a pretty quiet guy. It's hard to tell what a guy is thinking. Basically, I think he was just shy. I feel that if I would have kept doing things, he would have probably wanted to invest in the company. We could have both made a lot of money just in rock and roll. If I would have known he was going to be that big, I would have never sold the place! Shit, I could have made a fortune just off of making Eddie Van Halen guitars.
Have you checked out any of the Kramer guitars?
Oh, yeah, I've worked on them. I've worked on a lot of them.
They've gotten a lot better since Ed has been involved.
Yeah. I think they're made in Japan which is no big deal.
It's such a misconception because they make guitars special for Ed. Then the guitars that you buy at shops
I was there at Ed's house the night that Kramer approached Ed about endorsing. He said, What do you think I should do? I really couldn't tell him yes or no.
Eddie asked you that?
Yeah. Actually, I think it was initially just to endorse a tremolo. I think it was Floyd Rose that had approached Ed and he really liked it. I didn't say yes or no. I hemmed and hawed as a way of saying I don't think he should do it. I still feel that.
It's almost kind of like selling yourself. The guy is too big; he doesn't need the money. Maybe he just wants to feel that he's got a hand in the guitar market. Maybe when he gets to 80 years old he can say, Yeah, I helped develop this idea.
Maybe that's what he's looking at. I'm sure he's not worried about the money. I'm sure he's not doing it for the money. I'm sure he's got enough money.
I sold a guitar to Nick Hanitsch at Nick Hanitsch Music in Covina (name is approximate). A kid came in and was looking at the guitar. Eddie Van Halen walks in the door,This is a story told to me by Nick. O don't know how valid it is. Eddie walks in the and the kid says, I'll buy the guitar if Eddie will scratch his initials in the back with a knife.
So they found a screwdriver or a knife or something, and he puts Eddie Van Halen or EV or something in the back - and the kid bought the guitar. He probably has it to this day. You know how that is with the people that admire somebody.
Eddie just had an aura about him. He is quiet and you just read so much into him.
Eddie is a mysterious kind of guy. You just don't know what's going on, which probably makes him interesting, especially to the girls.
That's why I didn't think he should do Kramer. I thought it took away the mystique.
You remember how the Colonel marketed Elvis? I followed that and read all the books. You never saw Elvis on the Merv Griffin talk show; you never saw him on Johnny Carson or Steve Allen. Sure, he would probably have loved to go on and say, I'm really not what you people
It's very hard to live up to that kind of image. It probably is for Eddie, too. They thought Elvis was this kind of a guy, but really he was just a plain old guy. He had to try to become what they thought he was, and it was very stressful and difficult for him. Which probably accounts for a lot of the drugs and stuff.
But the Colonel kept him mysterious. I've seen Elvis in concert in Vegas; when they brought him on, they had some comedian come on. By the time he finally came out, you were just dying to see him because they put you off with this comedian and then you thought, 'Now we're gonna see him.' Then the band came out and did a song. By the time he's ready to come out, the girls were just spitting in their pants. Have you ever seen Elvis in concert?
I saw him once.
Remember when they had the big drum roll? It took a while for him to get out there, but when he came on the girls went crazy. I was excited. I felt the excitement. I liked the guy, too. But when he came out, it went nuts. And everything he did, he could just go like that (makes an arm motion) and send girls into a mass hysteria. And I'm not talking about girls, I'm talking about 25, 35, 40-year-old women.
If I would have been marketing Eddie, I would have kept him really out of the public's eye. I wouldn't let him go around to the NAMM show and be seen, walking around the aisles, going to NAMM show parties. I'd keep that guy way away from the public. Then they're really going to want him. People always want something they can't get. However, the way he's been marketed now certainly hasn't hurt him.
It's funny when Billy Gibbons and I get together, we talk about not guitars or how he did on the road or any of the typical things you talk about, and I think he likes that. He probably gets sick to death of people asking him. We talk about hot rods. We talk about family life. We talk about health. He really enjoys it. He'll call me up and we'll talk for hours.
When the girls come in here and say, Do you know Eddie Van Halen?
I say, Yeah.
But sometimes I think they don't believe me. They say, You're kidding.
I say, No, I know him. Look on the album. He mentioned my name a couple times.
They go, Oh!
They just almost pass out. They want to get it on with me because I know him. If I shook hands with him on Friday night, they would want to take my hand home with them. They say, Oh, he's so cute.
All the girls go crazy over this guy. Yeah, he probably doesn't realize what these people are saying about him. They love him. The guys love him. It's hard to be a man and come out and have the girls like you and the guys like you. Usually the guys will hate you because their girlfriends like you.
Another part of the appeal is that he works on his own guitars. He doesn't have to go to somebody to have his guitars done. That kind of takes it away from a guy. With Eddie, you've got a guy that can do everything.
I asked Ed one time, What does it feel like to be you? He said, I have no idea. I don't know how people expect me to act and I don't know what I'm supposed to say. That's why I don't go out. I love to go to The Rainbow or some rock and roll club in Hollywood, but I don't know what to say and I don't know how to dress. I don't know how to act. So I don't go. I'm so lucky that I can play guitar because I can't do anything else. It's like Picasso said, I'm lucky if I can paint. But in essence, it's the truth. He would be a mechanic or something.
He's got that one thing that he does and he does it better than anybody else.
He's just a nice guy. Even if he would have been a bank teller, I think we would have been friends. A completely different personality than Dave.
Although Dave seems like a pretty intelligent guy.
He's incredibly bright.
I was watching TV one time and he was philosophizing. I was like, What's this guyHe hasn't even lived yet. He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
I'm sitting there and I thought, This son of a bitch is a pretty smart cat.
I love his new record with Just A Gigolo.
I really don't care for people that come off egotistical and he comes off egotistical, and maybe he's got a right to. But I'm not into that. I don't dig that. I can identify with Eddie because when I played on stage, I'm shy, too. But this Roth character just comes onI suppose that's good. When I heard that Just A Gigolo on the radio, I thought it was a black guy singing. I thought, Man, that's great. I really stopped and listened. I heard it about 8 or 9 times before I realized that he was doing it. When they said it was him, I couldn't believe it. I really had to pat the guy on the back because I thought he was just kind of a loud-mouthed rock and roll singer before. I didn't have a whole lot of respect for the guy. But after I heard that record, I think the guy is a hell of an entertainer and he did a bang-up job on that record.
I may have been biased if they would have told me it was him at first. I may have thought, Asshole. What he's doing now?
But like I said, I call a spade a spade. The guy did a hell of a job on it. He sounds like an old black guy doing it.
Grover Jackson's Response To Wayne Charvel's Interview (November 1, 2007)
Note: I have known Grover Jackson for many years. I spent a lot of time out at his guitar plant. We had lunch together and would talk about things. When I pulled out the interview with Wayne Charvel (the one you're reading here), I was intrigued by some of the things that Wayne described. Just as an afterthought, and with nothing in mind, I decided to send it to Grover. He read it and felt rather strongly about certain points.
What you're now reading is Grover's response to Wayne's interview. I am not taking sides and I don't know what really happened. But you can read the Charvel interview and then read Jackson's comments and make up your own mind.
Later, in the Guitarchitects/Amplifierman section, you'll read the interview I did with Grover a long time ago. And then you'll really be able to play guitar detective and ferret out the truth).
2008 Steven Rosen
|I have been given the opportunity to describe the events that led up to the birth of Jackson/Charvel. While it has been quite some time and there has certainly been a lot of water over the dam, the events and circumstances leading to the beginning are pretty clear to me and I'm given to understand that Wayne Charvels recollections may differ substantially from mine. I had worked at the Anvil Case Company for the Vallas family when I came to California. That was an incredible period and to this day I credit Larry Vallas as one of the most important influences in my life. That little Greek guy had more heart than almost anybody I've ever met. Some time in '75 or early '76, the family decided to sell out and Wayne Thompson bought the company. Suffice it to say this was a very different breed of cat than the Vallas clan. I lasted a while but at the summer NAMM show of 1977, I very unceremoniously left. For a short time, I worked at Westwood MusicFreddy Waleckione of the iconoclastic characters that we don't often see in the music industry anymore. Retail was not my gig so I started looking for parts to put a guitar together, which lead me to a dingy little repair shop in Azusa, Ca next to a topless bar.
Wayne Charvel and I hit it off. On my second or third visit he confided that he had a business arrangement with ISA, International Sales Associates, which was an umbrella organization for Schecter Guitar Research, and two brothers in the Pacific Northwest named MacCauley who made speaker cabinets. The arrangement with ISA had fallen apart BEFORE my arrival and they had in fact filed a lawsuit against Wayne. He complained bitterly that they had taken advantage of him and in the ensuing year I came to believe that to be true. Based on my unpleasant experience at Anvil, not wanting to go back to retail, and the lack of a paying opportunity to play music, I offered to come on board and try to help save his self-described dying business. From the day I walked in, he had an air of desperation and despair and from the beginning I offered to work for free and IF I could save the business, I would receive a 10% share in the company.
My future wife, Joann, still worked at Anvil and it was she that fed and housed me as I pursued this dream of being a part business owner. Joann would later become the glue that helped build Jackson/Charvel to the high point of being the King of heavy metal guitar. At the point of my entrance, there were two employees, Mark McKee and Karl Sandoval. Mark was a wildly enthusiastic young guy who handled office related issues and shipping; Karl was the setup guy and general repair dude. Interestingly, the attraction of many of the players from that period to the shop was Karl, not Wayne, as Karl had a band and was playing the LA circuit. He knew many of the guys and they came by based on his relationships, not Wayne's.
The business functioned on two income sources: Repairs and retail mail order parts sales. Repairs were of the general type: fret dresses, pickup installation, refinishes and so forth. The one and one only area that Wayne participated in was painting. He considered himself a master painter. The second source of income was the mail order parts. This consisted of single layer white plastic Strat pick guards, aluminum four hole Les Paul jack plates, and stainless steel tremolo arms for Strats. It may be interesting to note that none of these parts were made in house and Fred Naujock @ F & M Tool and Die, who did make them, would play an important part in the near future. I still have Guitar Player magazines from the period with the ads in them so there isn't much to dispute here other than the gross sales volumes that I understand Wayne has alluded to. From the fall of '77 to the fall of '78, the sales volume was well under $100k. There were two employees to be paid, overhead, and Wayne was always asking if there was any money in the account for him to take.
A slight sidebar on Wayne and his work ethicI was coming in at 7:00am to openMark and Karl would come in at 8:00and Wayne would show up about 10:00am. Manyno MANY days his first order of the day was to send Mark to get donutshey an army travels on its stomach right? After the morning snack and conversation about how hot Jaclyn Smith of Charlie's Angel's fame wasboy he was on that onehe'd spray a guitar or two. Then lunch at noon. Back at it by 1:00 and sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 he had to get home.
As part of the deal with ISA prior to my arrival, Wayne had gone out and purchased two Onsrud pin routers. These were older used machines but great old American made cast iron. When I walked in the door they had NEVER been turned on even though they had been sitting there for several months. NEVER MADE A PART>>>NO FIXTURES NOTHING. When I inquired what was the problem, Wayne said he had no router bits and didn't know where to buy them. While at Anvil, I had become very friendly with the Travis Bean folks so I called them up and explained the situation. They said come on by. Wayne and I got in the car and drove to the Travis Bean factory where they gave us a couple of used 1/2 router bits and told us where to buy them (Vortex Engineering in SunlandI do remember).
In the fall of '78 the lawsuit with ISA had continued to deepen and Wayne began to be concerned that they might win. He homesteaded his house to protect it and began to talk openly about having a nervous breakdown from the pressure and maybe bankruptcy was the answer to rid himself of the ISA oppression. I took this as an opportunity to remind him that I now had a year of my time invested with NO compensation and that I really felt like he should at least give me a chance to buy it instead of filing bankruptcy. He agreed with the condition that he walk away with no business financial obligation and some cash. This was an important issue as his two main creditors were the afore mentioned F & M Tool and Die (to the tune of about $17,000) and Guitar Player Magazine (to the tune of about $12,000). This was the parts that were being sold and the method of sales. So the purchase price was the assumption of trade liabilities of about $35.000 and a promissory note to him for about $3500.
There are several key issues at this pointWayne owed several people that he had PERSONALLY borrowed money from which I did not even become aware of until well after the purchasedudes started coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches saying that Wayne told them I'd pay them and yes, my response was more than likely, not cordial. One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome, and anybody who's ever been involved in the purchase or sale of a business will understand this, is that the sale has to make sense especially if there is a lawsuit. I mean that if you pay or agree to pay $39,000 for something, there has to be $39,000 worth of value. If not, the opponents in the lawsuit can come back and say that it was a sham sale to hide assets from judgment.
Well there wasn't even $15,000 worth of assets much less $39k so I had to value wooden workbenches at $500 and crazy stuff like that to make the deal look reasonable. Ahh but the good willcharge the balance off to good willat that point there was no good will. Van Halen had not hit yet and even though that is a whole story unto itself the rise to prominence of that band kicked things off for usbut it hadn't happened yet. The sale happened on 11/10/1978. I borrowed first $7,500 from my folks and later another $5,000. I did negotiate with the creditors I assumed a business liability and it was my job to make the best deal I could and it was certainly better than the payment that they had received in the past.
By January of 1979 both Karl and Mark had leftcould have been my strident personality and could have been that they didn't have any confidence in my ability to make it workwho knowsI haven't seen Mark in years and although I saw Karl a year or two ago, it didn't come up. As for Wayne and his efforts to take credit for things he was never involved inlike guitars on his website that are copies of guitars I made five and six years after he was gone somehow trying to suggest that he had anything to do with themwow, that's sad.
In the mid 80's, Wayne aligned himself with Gibson and attempted to come out with a line of Wayne Charvel guitars. We sued Gibson and Wayne in Federal court in Nashville and put a complete stop to that. We were not as far removed from the time period then, and the facts were abundantly clear about who did what, to a Federal Judge. Wayne is not a bad guy and in fact personable and quite likable but he may also be one of the laziest and self-deceptive people I have ever met with and work ethic that is virtually non-existent. I feel sorry for him and his attempts to e-write history. And as for meI've never felt stronger. I'm doing the best work of my life and not counting on yesterday to prop me up.