A history of Jackson and Charvel guitars.
I read Trash or Treasure every month and I thought you could help me figure out what I have here. I know that it is a Jackson and it looks as though it is from the sixties. However, I’m pretty sure Jackson wasn’t making guitars that far back and I can’t find any other markings on the guitar. Can you tell me what I have and if it is worth anything now?
Tom in Kansas City
Hey Tom, thanks for reading. While the story of Jackson guitars starts in the mid-seventies, your guitar is far from that era – let me start with a little history of how Jackson came to be through Charvel guitars.
Wayne Charvel started a guitar shop in Azusa, California, that became known for building custom, high quality guitar bodies and necks. Grover Jackson came to work at Charvel in 1977 and bought out the company about a year later (Jackson also moved Charvel to San Dimas, California). At the 1979 NAMM show, Jackson debuted the first custom Charvel guitars and in 1981, the first Charvel catalog was released. Charvel was different than most guitar companies at the time because their guitars were all custom-built – the amount of available options was simply staggering.
company. By the late-eighties, IMC further differentiated both brands, moving all of the higher-end models to the Jackson side and leaving Charvel with mainly entry-level and medium grade guitars. IMC also began producing Charvel models in Japan and Korea, which marked a turning point for Charvel, as the bulk of the instruments were no longer built in the U.S. Throughout the nineties, Jackson continued to flourish while Charvel slowly floundered to the point where they ceased production in the mid-nineties.
In the fall of 2002, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) bought Charvel and Jackson. With the purchase, they revived the Charvel trademark. This is why Charvel and Jackson are so closely associated with each other today. In fact, instead of printing individual Charvel and Jackson factory catalogs, IMC often printed one large catalog featuring both trademarks’ entire line of instruments. Also, unlike the arrangement in the early nineties, Charvel is now mainly a custom shop based in San Dimas while Jackson produces a wide variety of electric guitars ranging from entry-level to signature U.S. models. Charvel and Jackson continue to be a mainstay in Fender’s empire of guitars.
Charvel/Jackson guitars are usually associated with the hair metal era; the guitars’ pointy bodies, hockey stick-shaped headstocks and sharkfin inlays provided a perfect accompanyment to the faster, flashier form of rock that was popular in the eighties. In the early nineties, Charvel developed something totally unlike their flagship series
with the Surfcaster, and it was greeted with great success. This was in part due to the acceptance by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame, who ordered several of them for his band at the time. However, Charvel was in a downward spiral at the time and by the mid-nineties they had discontinued production. Instead of killing off the Surfcaster, they moved it over to the Jackson line where it was produced until 2005. According to Jackson’s 1999 catalog, the Surfcaster “represents the best of the vintage instruments combined with the reliability and playability of the modern guitar.” The Surfcaster features a semi-hollow body with a unique soundhole and a combination of pickups that included a lipstick.
Your guitar is a Surfcaster SC1 and was the first Jackson Surfcaster to be released. It features a mahogany body with an ash top, bolton maple neck, 24-fret rosewood fingerboard with sharkfin inlays, “traditional” style headstock with three-per-side tuners, a combination bridge/tailpiece, Duncan designed pickups with a humbucker in the bridge position and a single-coil “lipstick” in the neck, two knobs (Volume and Tone) and a 3-way pickup switch. Jackson describes the finish on your guitar as Transparent Black.
Surprisingly enough, the Surfcaster is one of the few guitars from the nineties that has actually seen an increase in value over its original selling price (most values are still below the original retail price, but none of these guitars were sold at full retail because of standard discounting). The Jackson SC1 is worth between $700 and $800 today and the Charvel Surfcasters are bringing even more money. If you’re a Jackson/Charvel fan, and you’re looking to merge both vintage and modern worlds, the Surfcaster is a solid treasure to have!
Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary R. Fjestad is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
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Please include pictures of your guitars.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.