The Storied History Of Jackson Guitars
Todd Simpson
Jan 6 2021, 02:13 AM
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From humble origins as a repair shop for custom built instruments, Jackson guitars has become a world famous brand and been embraced by the Metal community. Some of the best players in Rock and Metal swear by their Jackson guitars. The brand is loved by those starting out and by those with decades of experience. It’s come to symbolize aggressive playing and tone. This legacy was far from certain in the early days though. Let’s look a little deeper in to what became JACKSON GUITARS.

In the 60’s and 70’s, music was experiencing a drastic change. Players began to embrace more complicated forms of self expression. Rock players were starting to incorporate widely diverging styles in to their playing. As rock guitar continued to evolve, the tools of the trade had to evolve as well. Players started to realize that there were certain things that the traditional tools such as the STRAT and LES PAUL were just not built for. Compound radius fingerboards and much thinner guitar necks started to emerge as well as much hotter pickups. In addition, double locking tremelos came along and helped to revolution the instrument. In short, the guitar had to be reimagined to better reflect the needs of the players.

To wit, enter a small Custom/Repair shop near San Dimas California run by a guy named Wayne Charvel (yup, that Charvel, as in Charvel guitars). The custom shop started out modding fenders for players and trying to modernize the strat for use in heavy lifting formats of music that involved serious finger gymnastics such as “Prog”.

Before long, everybody pushing the limit of the guitar had heard about this shop. Eddie VanHalen was a customer. He had put high gain pickups in his strat bodied frankenstein guitar and they were squealing like crazy. Wayne came up with “potting” the pickups with wax to prevent them from squealing and this technique is still used to this day.

In 1978 a man named Grover Jackson (Yup, that Grover Jackson, as in Jackson Guitars) joined the custom shop. Within a year, Jackson had taken over the custom shop and taken over the Charvel guitar brand.

One of the first guitars to bear the JACKSON name was built for none other than Randy Rhoades himself. Randy wanted a second flying V to go with his polka dot V that was built by Karl Sandoval (Sandoval also worked at the custom shop at one point). Thus the Jackson V was born. It took visual cues from the Gibson Flying V to be sure, but it had a unique asymmetrical body and a much thinner faster neck.

Another early Jackson V was built for none other than K.K. Downing of Judas Priest. This was a bit more symmetrical and featured a double locking Floyd Rose trem. The Floyd Trem would become a very popular feature on Jackson guitars and subsequently on wads of other guitars by a variety of other builders.

Phil Collen of Def Leppard helped to popularize the SOLOIST which was a blending of concepts from the Strat and LesPaul. It had the double humbucker idea and neck through body concept from the less paul, but the double cutaway body similar to a strat. This was similar to early Charvel “Super Strats” but the pointy headstock gave the Jackson a much more aggressive look which made Jackson guitar popular with the Heavy Metal crowd.

As Metal music began to thrive in the 80s, players wanted more aggressive body style shapes. Thus the KELLY guitar was born. It’s like a smaller, pointier, more aggressively styled version of a Gibson Explorer. Then as Metal became more extreme, so did Jackson guitars and the WARRIOR guitar came into being.

As Metal gave way to Grunge in the 90s, Jackson guitars made some very questionable design choices. They still made all the guitars that made them a great brand, but they tried several things that just didn’t work for the brand. By 2002, Charvel/Jackson guitars was bought by Fender. This didn’t really change the brand very much though. To this day you can see the same DNA in Jackson guitars that made them so popular with Metal Heads back in the 80s. They are still focused on working with great players and making great custom instruments that are then converted into production line guitars.

The Custom Shop is still going strong. Unlike Ibanez, anyone can go online and order a Custom Shop Jackson guitar built to order. As long as you have the budge, they will build you just about anything you can dream up. Jackson remains a strong brand several decades after starting out as a small guitar shop doing strat mods.

*This article was very helpful in writing this post

https://www.guitarworld.com/features/the-hi...jackson-guitars

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HiimAlex
Jan 6 2021, 02:18 PM
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Fascinating!
I had no idea about the history of Jackson guitars. It is admirable that Jackson started out as a small repair shop and then became a world famous brand.

I used to own a blue Jackson JS22. I thought it was such a great guitar honestly, I even swapped the pickups for a pair of Seymour Duncan.
I thought it was so easy to play on that guitar as well.

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Mertay
Jan 6 2021, 02:50 PM
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Best deals where I live are often used Japanese made Jacksons. They often need repair or parts change but I love their neck shapes, round at the first frets and flat like an ibanez as doing down the frets.

The USA models are quite expensive but are built like a tanks (feels like a tank too biggrin.gif )

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This post has been edited by Mertay: Jan 6 2021, 02:50 PM


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