Randy Rhoads not only had a massive influence on how metal guitar is played; he also had a profound impact on how metal guitars look, thanks to the now-legendary Jackson Rhoads guitars he helped design.
On December 23, 1980, while on a break from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz tour, Rhoads visited Grover Jackson at his workshop at Charvel HQ. The guitarist pulled out a sketch he’d drawn on a cocktail napkin and asked Jackson to build him a guitar that looked something like a shark’s fin. The pair sat down, and by midnight, the design Randy had conceived was completed and ready to be built.
The resulting white, angular, asymmetric ax was nicknamed “the Concorde” as it looked like the supersonic airliner of the same name – although legend has it that Rhoads named the guitar after the aircraft because he actually flew home (from the U.K.) aboard the Concorde in late 1980.
It had neck-through construction like a Gibson Firebird, where the neck and center of the body are one piece of wood, with “wings” glued onto the sides to make the rest of the shape. The entire guitar was made of maple.
Due to its futuristic, “pointy” aesthetic, Grover was worried that putting the Charvel logo on its headstock might possibly alienate some of the company’s more traditionally minded customers, and so the Jackson brand was born.
They designed a new headstock – an angular take on the Gibson Explorer – and made the first Jackson. Randy took the guitar on tour and it quickly became synonymous with him. As a result of his extensive road-testing, he came up with a few refinements.
The changes included making the body shape smaller and sleeker (remember, Randy was a pretty small fellow) and also making the higher frets more easily accessible by moving the spot where the body meets the neck.
The resulting black Jackson prototype met with Randy’s approval, and the now legendary Jackson RR line of guitars was born — and so began the era of “pointy” metal axes.
To this day, Jackson’s RR line of guitars remains incredibly popular with players and fans; the line also is treated to frequent updates and refreshers, including the brand’s new-for-2022 Concept Series Rhoads RR24 HS and Concept Series Rhoads RR24-7.
In fact, back in 2006, you guys, GW’s readership, voted it the most “Legendary Guitar” in our 25th anniversary readers poll – beating out instruments from Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, B.B. King and SRV.
Not surprisingly, Jackson offers the best-selling, iconic RR design at all price points: from entry level to Custom Shop and all points (no pun intended) in between, including a 2/3rds scale JS Series Minion model. Yes, even youngsters can start out with a Rhoads axe!
In 2010, Jackson released an extremely limited edition in conjunction with the Rhoads family – an exact replica of Randy’s legendary Concorde. The original was painstakingly measured by the much-lauded pairing of Mike Shannon [Jackson] and Chip Ellis [Fender – the man responsible for the amazing limited-edition Edward Van Halen “Frankenstein” relics], and every single scratch, dent, ding and divot was replicated.
As a bonus, the resulting 60 handcrafted relics came with a certificate of authenticity signed by Randy’s mother, Delores. The price? A seemingly random $12,619.56 that’s actually anything but random – and I’m 110 percent guilty for it (I was the product manager at Jackson Guitars at the time).
The reason for said price tag? Randy’s birth date – 12/6/1956.