Known as one of the world's top guitar makers, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is privately owned, with headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Leo Fender founded the company in Fullerton, California, in 1946. In addition to the popular guitar models produced under the Fender brand, such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision Bass, the company produces a wide variety of guitars through the other companies that it has acquired.
Fender's EVH brand is legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen's personal product line of electric guitars, amps, and accessories. Every model and piece of equipment produced under the EVH label is meant to reproduce Van Halen's unique sound. With original artwork designed by Van Halen, the EVH Striped Series is designed to mimic the look and sound of the guitars that he used during the 1980s. Known for tinkering with his amplifiers, EVH amps are designed to produce the sound that Van Halen spent years attempting to achieve. EVH equipment is manufactured at Fender's facility in Corona, California.
German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch founded Gretsch in Brooklyn, New York, and the company enjoyed great success producing banjos, tambourines, and drums. As of 2016, the company produced drum kits, mandolins, ukuleles, guitars, bass guitars, steel guitars and amplifiers.
In 2002, Gretsch entered an agreement that granted Fender-exclusive rights to develop, produce, market and distribute Gretsch guitars worldwide. The brand's electric guitars have a classic style and a long history in country music; one of its most popular models is named after country artist Chet Atkins. Gretsch enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s with the popularity of the rockabilly group The Stray Cats, whose leader, Brian Setzer, also has a line of guitars with Gretsch.
Wayne Charvel worked at Fender for three years in the early 1970s and started Charvel's Guitar Repair in 1974. His custom finishes, repairs, and upgrades earned his shop in Southern California a solid reputation among musicians. He began building complete electric guitars, but he sold the company to Grover Jackson in 1978.
Under Jackson, the Charvel brand rose to prominence when he convinced many of the most popular rock guitarists of the 1980s – such as Van Halen, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Vinnie Vincent of Kiss – to play Charvel guitars. At the height of the company’s success, Jackson sold Charvel to a Japanese manufacturer in 1989, and Fender purchased Charvel in 2002.
Jackson guitars, also created by Grover Jackson, are considered the wilder, high-performance alternatives to its more traditional cousins sold under the Charvel brand. Featuring bold, bright designs, Jackson guitars became the instruments of choice for many 1980s heavy metal guitarists, such as Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Phil Demmel of Machine Head, and David Ellefson and Chris Broderick of Megadeth. Jackson guitars have evolved over time. As of August 2016, the company claimed that it remained the longest-operating true custom guitar shop in the United States, with many of its original staff still producing high-quality instruments. Fender acquired the Jackson brand along with its 2002 purchase of Charvel.
Produced and marketed to be inexpensive guitars for beginning players, Squier guitars represent the lower end of Fender's vast array of instruments. While Fender's other brands have electric guitars that cost well into the thousands of dollars, many Squier models can be found for under $200 as of August 2016. Under the Squier brand, Fender makes less expensive versions of its popular Stratocaster and Telecaster models, among others. Originally a string manufacturing company for violins, banjos, and guitars, Fender acquired Squier in 1965 and began producing Squier guitars in 1982.