Adequacy front page
Stories Diaries Polls Users

Home About Topics Rejects Abortions
This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
 How to Lose Your Name by Succeeding

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Aug 29, 2001
If you followed hard rock music in the 80s, the name "Charvel" might ring a bell. Favored by high-profile guitarists like George Lynch (Dokken) and Warren DeMartini (Ratt), Charvel guitars were at the forefront of instruments tailored to the hard rock hero. Here is the story of a man doing the right thing at the right time and how he lost the rights to use his own last name as a result.

More stories about Consumerism
A Declaration of Independence for the Indebted States of America
Eric Raymond - Open Source hero ? or Environmental Pariah ?
SUV's Bigger and Better - The Ultimate American Dream
Open Letter to the USA: Please Don't Drown Me
An Analysis of Marketing Techniques in Supermarkets.
One More Mouth to Feed
Stunned Beef: Dangerous Compassion?
Something Patriotic that The Geeks Can Do Right Now
My Vacation Dilemma. How can I be an ethical tourist ?
The End of Hacking: A Holiday Un-Buyer's Guide
Baby Seal Skinning Factories: Has Their Time Come?
An Adequate Look at Insider Trading
Review: Gran Turismo 3
The guitar industry is far more cutthroat and trendy than most people know. Favorite brands and styles come and go like fashion. A hot new band or player can turn today's pawnshop deadwood into tomorrow's hot vintage collectable. Witness the renewed interest in the Fender Jaguar thanks to the success of shotgun enthusiast Kurt Cobain (Nirvana).

While players like to think today's "hot" brands reached the top by virtue of superior quality, the truth is most players can't tell a good guitar from a crap one. Instead, they base their choices on what the celebrities play. If it's good enough for Eddie Van Halen or Kurt Cobain, it's good enough for them. Therefore, it is more effective for a guitar company to spend money on celebrity endorsements than on quality control. Association with a name player makes a guitar an automatic success, period.

Wayne Charvel opened Charvel's Guitar Repair in 1974 in Azusa, CA. He started doing custom work on guitars and providing high quality aftermarket parts. He also had a frequent visitor in his shop by the name of Eddie Van Halen. If you have Van Halen I, take a look at the black-and-white striped guitar on the cover -- Wayne sold Eddie the parts for it. Wayne also made, at Ed's request, the black-and-yellow guitar body on the cover of Van Halen II.

What happened next is a little murky thanks, I assume, to contracts and non-disclosure agreements. We know this: because of Van Halen, Charvel became one of the most sought-after guitar makers in the business. He joined up with another high-quality builder named Grover Jackson. Jackson/Charvel became one of the most (perhaps THE most) recognized and respected guitar makers of the 80s.

Much has been written about rock stars and their lack of business sense. These goofs are nothing compared to the business errors and quick sellouts commited by some of the big names in guitars. It is extremely difficult for a craftsman to maintain attention to detail while meeting overwhelming consumer demand. Once successful, small builders almost invariably give way to mass production and corporate profit/loss principles. Over time, Jackson/Charvel became a company and a brand rather than an extension of its founders.

For companies, just making the best on the market isn't good enough. They want to dominate the market. That means reaching out to customers who want their brand but can't afford it. If Jackson/Charvel wanted to sell more guitars, they need to lower the price. If they wanted to lower the price without reducing profits, they needed to build guitars more cheaply. Unfortunately, they couldn't go much cheaper on materials. The solution was to find cheaper labor. Charvel guitars started to be made in Japan.

Truthfully, Japanese factories turned out some damn fine guitars in the 80s and 90s. They were, in fact, much better than the high-dollar American guitar companies would admit. After all, how do they sell an "upgrade" to an American-made product when the Japanese counterpart is as good or better? The imported Japanese Charvels were good instruments. They just didn't have that "American-made" snob value anymore. And they weren't as good as the instruments Wayne originally made.

Charvel had become just another low-cost entry- to mid-level guitar. The Charvel name no longer commanded respect. Even worse, it began to be associated with legions of obnoxious beginning shred metal wannabes.

Meanwhile, circumstances in the guitar world had changed. Eddie Van Halen had long since started using and endorsing Kramer guitars (then Music Man, then Peavey). Ibanez picked up endorsements from most of the other heroes. The whole metal guitar virtuoso sensation eventually gave way to sensitive grunge. Kids didn't want speed demon guitars with cool paint jobs anymore.

The "Charvel" guitars no longer bore any resemblence to the intruments Wayne originally built. The Jackson/Charvel company attempted to capitalize on the name one last time with the "Charvel San Dimas" line of guitars. It turned out to be a limited production run. There are now no longer any new guitars produced under the "Charvel" name, though Jackson Guitars, Inc. is reportedly considering reviving the brand. As for Wayne, he still makes guitars but is apparently legally blocked from putting the Charvel name on them. After all, we wouldn't want to mislead the buyer into thinking the guitars Wayne makes are made by Jackson/Charvel. The fact many people mistakenly believe their Charvel was made by Wayne is immaterial, as are Jackson/Charvel's deliberate efforts to foster that misconception.

Wayne's new guitars are faithful reproductions of his original rock guitars. Having named the company after himself again (first name), I only hope he is more careful this time around. I wouldn't want to see the man risk a lawsuit every time he signs his name.


Remember to focus on the chicks. (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by nx01 on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 08:48:47 PM PST
The guitarist of today faces many tough decisions, such as whether he should wear the timlessly-cool leather jacket, or perhaps go for the retro-70's leisure suit. However, despite all of these tough decisions, the modern guitarist still manages to think about what matters most:


And since most guitarists are total geeks, alcohol to help them loosen up and converse with the ladies.

Of course, when you get done with the ladies and the alcohol, your budget might be suffering a bit. Well never fear! We'll hook ya up darn good!

First, the pick. This is important. I would suggest something with your name and phone number on it, so you can toss it out to the ladies in the audience.

Secondly, the amp. These days, the size of amp doesn't much matter, since you can mike it anyway. I recommend a GFX15, which will give you amazing "tone".

Of course, who can forget the guitar. This is the second-most important part of this post (right after the part about the picks), so listen up. Get a red one. A bright red one. Doesn't matter what brand, though I would recommend the dependable Hondo (see if you can find it in the right color though!). You could throw your money away on something like a Paul Reed Smith or a Gretsch, but why spend thousands of dollars on something that you'll only use occasionally? Why not invest that money in something the chicks will dig (remember why you're in the music business!) and invest it in a classy pair of spandex pants (preferably with blue lightning bolts)!

"Every time I look at the X window system, it's so fucking stupid; and part of me feels responsible for the worst parts of it."
-- James Gosling

art to goods (none / 0) (#5)
by alprazolam on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 12:17:45 PM PST
In it's orginal form, when Charvel was making the guitars an artistic expression of himself, they were good. As soon as people started buying them, they turned to shit. The moral is that anything good in life has to be kept to yourself, because every person that knows about it degrades the quality, whatever the product.

The most disgusting thing about the guitar industr (none / 0) (#6)
by TheReverand on Fri Aug 31st, 2001 at 07:29:29 AM PST
y today.


What do all these formerly highly respected instruments have in common?

Why, they are all owned by Gibson!

--rev (Proud owner of a real Steinberger GTM-7 and an Alvarez Dana Scoop. Both Graphite. Both quality. Neither bought from Gibson/SamArse/GuitarCenter.)

Another good example (none / 0) (#7)
by donkpunch on Fri Aug 31st, 2001 at 10:10:03 AM PST
The Kramer/Steinberger/MusicYo combination is another good example of this. High-end instrument makers sell their names and walk away. Meanwhile, larger companies use the bought names to sell instruments of lesser quality.

Look at the new Kramer advertising -- "Kramer is back." No, it isn't.

BTW -- thanks to the Adequacy editors for cleaning up my original submission. I was half-asleep when I sent it in.


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest ® 2001, 2002, 2003 The name, logo, symbol, and taglines "News for Grown-Ups", "Most Controversial Site on the Internet", "Linux Zealot", and "He just loves Open Source Software", and the RGB color value: D7D7D7 are trademarks of No part of this site may be republished or reproduced in whatever form without prior written permission by and, if and when applicable, prior written permission by the contributing author(s), artist(s), or user(s). Any inquiries are directed to