These high-end metal & hard-rock machines have stayed relevant as the music’s evolved.
Jackson says they’ve got the world’s longest-running custom shop and back up that claim with a long history of awesome guitars designed to crank out heavy hitting sounds and deliver fluid playability. In this edition of Guitar Notes I’ll look at the Jackson Custom Shop and highlight a few of the fine Jackson guitars we carry at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve.
The Jackson guitar company was born when Wayne Charvel sold Charvel Guitar Repair to Grover Jackson in 1978. Jackson would continue to produce Charvel guitars using the branding “Charvel by Jackson.” Many of these instruments would later feature Jackson hardware and share the signature black Jackson pointed headstock.
In 1980, a collaboration by Grover Jackson, Mike Shannon (who is still with the company) and guitar legend Randy Rhoads resulted in the first guitar to carry the Jackson name alone. It was an offset V-shaped, neck thru body guitar originally named the “Concorde.” This guitar was built for and played by Randy Rhoads and would later be refined and renamed the “Rhoads” model.
Jackson guitars would soon make big inroads among metal bands on both coasts including Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax. British bands like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden also jumped on the Jackson bandwagon. These custom shop guitars often featured neck thru body construction, humbucking pickups and Floyd Rose-style locking tremolos.
Over time the company carved out a visual identity based on signature body styles like the Rhoads, King V, Kelly as well as the more traditional Soloist and Dinky profiles. Vibrant custom paint jobs joined the black pointy headstock as a Jackson trademark.
As the popularity of Jackson guitars soared, the company introduced imported lines like the Performer series. This made it possible for guitarists to play a Jackson even if their budget couldn't handle a custom shop instrument.
But the company continued building high-end custom guitars in the USA remaining relevant despite the continuing evolution of metal and rock genres. Guitarists from newer bands such as Mark Morton of Lamb of God, and Misha Mansoor of Periphery continue to choose Jackson guitars as necessary armament for their intense approaches to metal.
Nowadays, Jackson and Charvel are a part of Fender Musical Instruments, and the custom shop is now located in Corona, California. Fender has done a good job of keeping the Jackson Custom Shop thriving and maintaining the brand’s historical identity.
Let’s take a look at some of the recent offerings from Jackson's Custom Shop.
The iconic headstock shape and custom graphic give this guitar the unmistakable Jackson look.
Jackson Custom Select Randy Rhoads 24 Fret
The Jackson Custom Select Randy Rhoads 24 Fret is the model that ignited the Jackson guitar name. It was developed with the input of Ozzy Osbourne’s legendary guitar player, the late Randy Rhoads. This modern-day custom shop version starts with the iconic body Rhoads body shape and neck thru body construction. The quartersawn maple neck has a maple fretboard with compound radius and nice black sharkfin inlay that along with black binding offers a nice contrast to the snow white finish. Impeccable craftsmanship from Jackson is evident in the feel and appearance of this beauty. It’s loaded with EMG 61 and 57 pickups, a Floyd Rose tremolo and streamlined control setup with a single 3-way toggle and one volume control.
Jackson Custom Select Kelly Flat Top
(Note: This guitar has since sold) I first saw the Jackson Custom Select Kelly Flat Top in the hands of Marty Friedman during his tenure with thrash metal band Megadeth. Among the pointy guitar shapes, this one may be my favorite. It’s comfortable to play standing or sitting and seems a little more compact than other shapes. Our custom model at Private Reserve sports a stunning quilted maple top on alder plus thru body quartersawn maple neck. It has gorgeous binding and inlay work, a transparent black finish and gold hardware. This custom Kelly comes loaded with Dimarzio pickups and Floyd Rose tremolo.
Jackson Custom Select Soloist Custom Widow Graphic
Custom widow artwork covering the top, back and headstock give the Jackson Custom Select Soloist Custom Widow Graphic that trademark Jackson look. The graphic was provided by renowned artist Mike Whelan who has created everything from Stephen King book covers to Meatloaf album art. The guitar has an alder Soloist body and neck thru, quartersawn maple neck with compound radius fretboard. Again the craftsmanship is top notch with impeccable fretwork and smooth, satin finished neck. The Widow comes loaded with Seymour Duncan Black Winter pickups and black Floyd Rose tremolo.
So there you have it, with its legendary Custom Shop, iconic signature look and impressive artist roster, Jackson continues to stay relevant in modern music. For even more Jacksons, check out our Jackson Custom guitar collection at Musician’s Friend. Until next time, keep playing!
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Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.
Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled "Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard".