The home and workshop of iconic guitar maker Wayne Charvel was destroyed in the California forest fires, his son Michael reported. In all, six members of the Charvel family lost their homes, but Michael vowed to get back in business as soon as possible.
Wayne Charvel began making custom guitars in the ‘50s and established a connection with rock music in the ‘80s, when his instruments were adopted by artists including Eddie Van Halen, Richie Sambora, VInnie Vincent, Jake E. Lee and others. He sold the brand but continued to work with Michael under the title Wayne Guitars in Paradise, CA.
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.”
He added, “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.”
Michael said that, short of a fire, a lot of the machinery would have lasted two more lifetimes. “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.”
He reported feeling bad for customers who were waiting for instruments, adding, “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.”
The Charvel family have set up a GoFundMe page to assist with their emergency plans. At time of writing they’d raised $30,000 of their $100,000 target. You can watch Wayne Charvel's personal message below:
The Camp Fire, which ravaged Paradise, has claimed at least 76 lives, while more than 1200 people remain missing. Poor air quality and outbreaks of the novovirus have added to problems. The blaze has been raging for eight days and covered over 500,000 square kilometers, with firefighters reporting that it’s 55 percent under control but may continue until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Metallica donated $100,000 from their All Within My Hands foundation to the fire campaign, encouraging fans to do what they could to provide further help. “Sadly once again communities in California are experiencing historically devastating wild fires in both the Northern and Southern parts of the state,” the band said in a statement. “All Within My Hands has made a $50,000 donation each to the North Valley Community Foundation and the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation; both agencies provide service to victims at evacuation centers and other much needed relief. We would like to encourage you to join us in supporting those in need and our first responders in any way you can by donating money, non-perishable food, clothing and other supplies or by giving your time volunteering or providing temporary housing. Every little bit helps.”
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