|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.