Grover Jackson obtained ownership in Charvel's Guitar Repair of Glendora, California in the 1970s with a promise to bolster Charvel's business. Wayne Charvel eventually sold his interest to Grover Jackson on November 10, 1978, which gave Jackson control of the business and the Charvel brand.
Jackson Guitars originated in 1980 when guitarist Randy Rhoads approached Charvel with an idea for an individualized guitar. The collaborative design effort between Rhoads, Grover Jackson, Tim Wilson, and Mike Shannon resulted in the creation of the Concorde, an innovative revamp of the traditional Flying V. The Rhoads designs were such a departure from Charvel's Stratocaster based brethren that Grover elected to label them with his own name.
Throughout the heavy metal heyday of the 1980s, the Jackson brand was associated with high-quality, American-made, custom instruments, and was endorsed by many popular guitarists of the period. In addition to the original Randy Rhoads models, the 1980s spawned distinctively designed Jackson models such as the Soloist, King V, and Kelly, all of which remain icons of the brand.
1990s - Present
The 1990s brought changes in musical trends, and brands like Jackson began producing inexpensive, Asian-made versions of their staple designs in an effort to make their products more attractive and accessible to lower end buyers.
In the Fall of 2002, Fender Musical Instrument Corporation purchased Jackson/Charvel, and U.S. operations were moved to the Fender factory in Corona, CA. Present day Fender era Jacksons (and Charvels) are being produced at the Corona works.
From the early beginnings until the present day, Jackson Guitars is known for its slender, elegant designs, and feature aggressive motifs that are popular with hard rock and metal musicians.
The Jackson headstock
Traditionally, Jackson (and many Charvel) guitars share the typical pointed headstock that first appeared on the Rhoads prototype in 1980. This likely arose from trade dress infringement issues as a result of Charvel's use of Fender Stratocaster shaped headstocks until the early 1980s. Fender's 2002 acquisition of both the Jackson and Charvel brands has enabled the Strat-style headstock to be reintroduced (under license).
Another Jackson trademark is the 'shark fin' inlays, which inspired other famous guitar companies such as Ibanez to follow suit with similar designs.
Jackson guitars currently in production:
Randy Rhoads: An asymmetric 'V' shaped body with pointy "wings", designed for guitarist Randy Rhoads
Soloist: A neck-through body with the superstrat body design.
Dinky: A smaller superstrat, 7/8 the size of a strat.
Kelly: A sleeker version of Gibson's popular Explorer, made famous by Marty Friedman of Megadeth, who had a signature model made for him, the KE1.
King V: A symmetric 'V' shape with long pointy wings, originally designed for Robbin Crosby of Ratt, but popularized, through prolific use, by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, who had a signature model, the KV1.
Phil Collen PC1 Signature Dinky: Dinky style with a Jackson Sustainer/Driver pickup in the neck position, DiMarzio HS2 Stacked Humbucking Pickup in the middle position, DiMarzio Super 3 Humbucking Pickup in the bridge position, Floyd Rose original locking tremolo and gold-plated hardware. It was followed by the short lived PC3 model, a moderately priced version featuring DiMarzio HSS pickups and a Wilkinson floating vibrato.
Warrior: An aggressive body style consisting of four pointy ends that mimic the Jackson headstock shape.
Mark Morton Dominion: A signature guitar designed by Jackson and Lamb of God guitarist, Mark Morton
Phil Demmel Demmelition V: A signature guitar based on the King V, with slightly changed wings in the form of cutouts.
Adrian Smith San Dimas: A signature guitar based on the 1980s Jackson custom shop models produced for Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith.
Jackson guitars available only through the custom shop:
Death Kelly: Similar to the Kelly; the bottom portion of the guitar is cut almost like the Warrior, but the upper portion near the neck remains the same.
Death Angel: Similar to the Death Kelly; the bottom portion of the guitar is cut almost like the Warrior, but the upper portion near the neck has a SG/Kelly type shape.
Demon: Shaped almost exactly like an Ibanez 540.
PC Archtop: Jackson's first Signature Model for Phil Collen, developed in 1988 after using various Soloist & Dinky custom models for 2 years. Phil and Grover Jackson decided to make an ergonomically correct guitar with a body like a normal arched-top Super Strat, except the top horn is dramatically bigger, the lower horn has more of a Fender Telecaster shape, and was concaved much like a Spector NS-series Bass Guitar.
Roswell Rhoads: General concept of a Rhoads (asymmetric 'V'), except it's more curved, like an asymmetrical 'U'.
Star: Exactly like the original Charvel Star, except with Jackson headstock and label.
Surfcaster: Exactly like the original Charvel Surfcaster except with different logo.
Xtreme Rhoads: Rhoads with slightly scaled down body and shorter top fin.
Kelly Star: Similar to the Kelly; the bottom portion of the guitar cut almost like the Rhoads, but the upper portion near the neck remained the same.
Firebird: A copy of the Gibson Firebird but with trademarked Jackson headstock
Y2KV: Used by guitarist Dave Mustaine; a custom V with rounded edges, first launched in 2000 and offered until 2002.
Jackson Professional Series:
"Professional Series" is a tag that denotes the Japanese-made versions of many popular USA models. All Jacksons with "Professional" on the headstock are made in Japan.
"Performer" is a tag that denotes Jackson's low end models, produced during the mid 1990's in Asian factories (initially Korea, and later Japan).