When Fender acquired Charvel and Jackson in 2003, he was
promoted to Senior Master Builder for Jackson. Today, he maintains
the same high standards and absolutely freakish
to detail that he learned as a teenager from Grover Jackson in
the early ’80s. And he’s still surrounded by many old friends
from the original Charvel/Jackson crew, which the company
says makes Jackson the longest-running custom shop in the
We recently visited the Jackson shop to talk with Shannon about
his storied history with the company and take a look at the many
cool projects going on there.
What were you doing before you
I was working with a furniture company.
I’ve always been into making things. I knew
woodworking, and even in high school I
had a part-time job helping this guy do fine
furniture. I learned about exotic woods and
a little bit about tools. This was a summer
job, probably around 1977.
How did you meet Grover Jackson?
Grover Jackson in the early ’80s with a
early prototype of what
would become the Soloist.
I met him through the furniture company I
worked at. In 1979, the furniture company
was going out of business, so he told me
about Tim Wilson, who worked at Charvel.
He told me they might hire me. I had no
idea they built guitars. It was just a job lead
at the time. So I went in there and I was
like, “Oh wow, this is cool—they make
guitars!” Tim showed me a piece of wood
and said, “Can you identify this piece of
wood?” I identified it and they said, “Okay,
this is a good start!” [Laughs
.] I didn’t know
anything about guitars at the time, but I
knew about shapers, table saws, joiners, and
various woodworking tools.
What was the guitar line like back then?
We were basically making Strat[-style]
bodies with the one humbucker in the
bridge. There weren’t a lot of guitar parts
at the time: You had hard-tail bridges, the
brass trem bridge, or Tune-o-matics. Our
work orders at the time were on three-by-five
cards with handwritten work-order
numbers. That’s all we had to build from,
just handwritten information. This is pre-computer
Who were your clients at the time?
There were local players, but most of them
were up-and-coming musicians. Gary
Moore was one of the super-early guys.
After Eddie Van Halen got the striped
guitar, that put Charvel on the map. We
were the original hot-rod shop. We would
change pickups and repaint things in the
early days. We started building our own
bodies. We’d cut down a Strat[-type] template
and turn it into a Dinky model. And
if you took an Explorer body and chopped
out the bottom end, that was the birth of
the star shape, which goes back to 1979.
How did Randy Rhoads come to Charvel?
I don’t really know the details about how
Randy knew about us, but Grover used
to go to Hollywood and hang out at the
nightclubs to get to know people. He came
from a background of being a guitar player
and working with Anvil cases. He knew
a lot of people in the industry who had
started Mighty Mite and some of these
other guitar companies that were doing
parts and stuff like that. He was in touch
A rare shot of Rhoads playing his second Jackson Concorde V backstage before a December 30,
1981, gig with Ozzy Osbourne at the Cow Palace in
San Francisco. Photo by Neil Zlozower
What do you think made the company
stand out at that point in time?
There were a lot of young people, and we
were all into quality. The detail and the
quality, at the time, would surpass any other
company. We were all anal about the detail
and the fit and finish. If you build bad
stuff, you’re not going to be around long.
Tell me about the Randy Rhoads model.
I worked on the black Rhoads model
with the brass parts. I remember it
being one of the first neck-through-body
things we built. We glued up five
chunks—which were 3/4" to an inch
wide—for the center blank. For the butt
of the neck, you only need around 2
1/4". The last two pieces that were glued
on those were basically scrap. Later on,
we just used three pieces down the center
and then glued the wings on. The
black Rhoads was also the first guitar
we put headstock binding on. I believe
there was a neck-through-body Star
that had been built prior to Randy’s,
although it didn’t get any recognition
or the Jackson logo. I believe it had an
What were the other differences
between the first Rhoads model and
the second one that you built?
The white Concorde is made out of Pacific
Coast maple, which is fairly light. When I
picked up Randy’s first guitar during our
inspection and measured it, it wasn’t as
heavy as rock maple. The two-piece center
blank has the same Pacific Coast maple
sides. The black one has a five-piece rock
maple center blank, which is fairly heavy.
We used poplar wood for the sides. As far
as the neck shapes go, the white one was
pretty thick and round. Randy liked the Les
Paul feel. On the second one, it was more
of a D shape. Randy told Grover later on
that he didn’t like the D shape. He liked
the round shape. We started four more
guitars for him, but unfortunately he
passed away before those were done.
A bevy of exotic custom Jacksons in various stages of finishing.