First, we’d like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We would like to apologize for the lack of updates this month. We’re busier than ever running Van Halen Store lately, and gearing up for what looks to be a really busy Christmas season, which is already in full gear. And that’s great, because the store keeps VHND going, but we hate to see the News Desk getting neglected, so we promise to pick up the pace from this point on, and post more of the cool stuff you’ve come to expect during this holiday season, and beyond.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, we’re feeling extra thankful this year, and hope you are too. We all take plenty of things for granted – even simply having a roof over our heads. But not everyone has a home, and sometimes even if you have one, you could lose it in a tragedy.
That’s exactly what happened to the family who is the subject of this article. As some people know, the home and workshop of Wayne Charvel, creator of Charvel Guitars, were destroyed in the California forest fires.
Wayne Charvel’s guitars are praised to the highest level by guitarists around the world. Having built guitars for Eddie Van Halen, ZZ Top, Deep Purple and countless others, Wayne is highly respected in the business. He sold the brand but continued to work with Michael under the title Wayne Guitars in Paradise, CA.
Wayne Charvel (center), flanked by singer John Kay (right), and guitarist Bobby Cochran (left), both of Steppenwolf.
In all, six members of the Charvel family lost their homes, and all their possessions. The famous guitar shop is no longer, nor are any of Wayne’s tools, custom templates, jigs and more. A legacy since 1959, gone in mere minutes. Our thoughts go out to Wayne Charvel and all those who have been affected by these fires.
Fortunately, Wayne and all his family escaped with their lives, but sadly everything else is gone. Wayne’s son Michael’s story is both horrific, but triumphant as well, as he pulled himself together quickly rather than panic, and is here today to tell the story.
Michael told Popular Mechanics that he’d feared for his life when he woke early one morning last week to discover his house was on fire. “On my street alone, five people died in their cars trying to escape,” he said. “There were only three ways out of Paradise and two of them were on fire so everyone was trying to get out on the one main road there.
“My brother-in-law is the fire chief and is friends with the sheriff and it turns out the sheriff likes Van Halen so he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, Wayne Charvel, no problem, I’ll put you guys up.’ So he put my two brothers and my parents up for a while, three or four days. … So we’re all just kinda moving around. We don’t want to impose on anybody and everyone’s been really gracious. You wouldn’t believe how cool everyone’s been. My parents have been taken in by two complete strangers.”
“After we evacuated, my brother-in-law, the fire chief, checked on all of our places including our workshop. He said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you guys but there’s nothing here anymore.’ Gone. My dad’s got years and years making the templates and the jigs and all the tooling and the custom bits and in less than a couple hours, everything was destroyed. He’s been building guitars since 1959. A lifetime of work is destroyed in a couple hours.”
“My dad built a lot of his own tools out of necessity,” he continued. “If there’s something you need that’s not out there, you kinda, well, have to make it.… It’s one thing building a guitar; it’s a whole other art making the tooling so you can make the guitar.”
“Any guitar we have that we were working on before the fire will get finished. Just I don’t know when it’s going to be. … I’m trying to tell people, thank you, we love you all. We’re trying to get back to you in a reasonable time.”
To donate to the Charvel family in their time of need, you can contribute to their GoFundMe page or send money via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can watch Wayne Charvel’s personal message below:
Eric Broadbent from EVH & Gear TV had a wonderful conversation with Michael Charvel of Wayne Guitars yesterday. Naturally, the major topic for the evening was the fire that destroyed the family guitar business, but the family is in good spirits, and that’s truly wonderful to see. The legacy of Wayne Charvel’s guitars is beyond measure. As a fun side note, there was some great Eddie Van Halen folklore discussed, some interesting tidbits shared, stories about Eddie Van Halen visiting Wayne’s shop, and so much more. Watch the conversation below.
We’ll conclude this with a quote Wayne Charvel gave to Neil Zlozower for use in his Eddie Van Halen Coffee table photo book:
“I first met Ed in Azusa, California, through a mutual friend of ours, Brad Becknell. I had a repair shop, and Ed would come in and I would do work on his guitars. One day I potted a pickup for him, and it got too hot and it shrunk the bobbin. It looked really bad, but it still worked, and Ed loved the way it looked. I believe later he put it in one of his other guitars.
“He used to sit and noodle around and play guitar in the front of my shop while I worked on his guitars. He also did some of his own work. This was before they had recorded an album (and when the first album came out, he credited me!).
“About eight or nine months later, I moved my shop to San Dimas. Eddie and Michael Anthony used to come over to the new shop and hang out. I gave him some World War II atomic bomb blast goggles and some old paint respirators because they wanted to wear them onstage for some of their Hollywood shows (don’t ask me why!).
“To me, no one in the music industry has revolutionized guitar playing like Ed has! There are a lot of great players out there, but Eddie was the first one out there to bring his finger-tapping technique to the masses (or rock world), and he has remained a down-to-earth guy for all these years.”