Since I wrote part 3, I've done some research online, learned some things I did. What I learned has inspired part 4.
First I apologize to Herschel Blankenship, I've spelled his name wrong in prior posts.
Next, I'd like to say that prior to my recent research, I've never heard of Charvel. I never heard or knew anything about lawsuits while I worked at Schecter. Keep in mind I was pretty much a 9 to 5er, but I was in the second tier of management, I knew stuff, just never about the lawsuit. I did not know of the convoluted structure of SGR and ISA. I thought ISA was Herschel's , and he got a commission for selling SGR. out at the Horlick home off of Laurel Canyon.
I vaguely remember Shel had an association with the Acoustic brand of Guitar amps, he may have been a sales rep for the company. Later he got involved in a company that made Tube amps called Delta. He convinced one of our guitarist friends to buy one of the first of these Delta tube amps.
It was horrible, features didn't work, and it caught fire within the first two weeks. Delta didn't last very long. We all had a cool t-shirt though, the tag line was "Tubes inhale, Transistors Suck". It was sad for us because we knew Shel had some skin in the game, he was an investor/part owner of Delta.
I left for college in the fall of 1976, and when I returned Chris Wooley was working for Brenda's dad at this place called Schecter Guitar Research. My first thought, oh oh, Delta again?
Herschel was head of sales, that's what I call him now that I've spent 15+ years in a corporate sales environment. I don't remember what his title was, if he even had one. Hell I didn't even remember Shel was president until I read it recently, I thought Gene was president. Gene, Shel and Herschel never mentioned titles, or pulled rank for that matter, those three were just 'the bosses'.
In terms how how those three acted, this is how it appeared to me:
Gene was the financier and had the ultimate word, but all he cared about were the bottom line numbers, he gave no ***** for the quality of black chrome, for example.
Shel was a special projects guy, a runner of sorts, he didn't play guitar, he wasn't a technician. He had tons of energy and would dig in eagerly with physical stuff, building, installing stuff. He was initially also the buyer, he'd drop off and pick up parts from the subs.
Herschel was EVERYTHING else. He was very driven, worked long hours, and obsessed over everything regarding the SGR brand. He managed all the packaging for example, managed the two sales reps and arranged trade shows (NAMM). Herschel didn't play that I am aware off, but he had lots of input on the design of the first three Schecter built guitars.
Tom Anderson and Dave Schecter assembled the first Schecters, but Herschel seemed to have the final say regarding which bodies, necks and finishes. I'm pretty sure the number one priority was making them look good for the catalog. I do remember one instance where Dave overrode Herschel over something, but it was minor. Dave was the kind of guy that spoke up early and with great authority in the beginning of any project, then kind of left it to the team to finish and moved on.
One day I noticed Tom Anderson was working for us. Tom was introduced as somebody who knew a lot, he wasn't another laborer in the wood shop. Tom was a very nice, kind, soft spoken guy. I have the impression that the first few times I interacted with him, he seemed a bit overwhelmed. I remember Larry being a tad threatened by Tom, and a meeting where Tom was presented as there 'just to help on necks'.
I think the first shock for Tom was Larry. Larry had that 'internal empire' thing going on, he was probably a bit to adjust to for a non political type like Tom. In addition to Larry, I think Tom was a bit shocked by the shear volume of wood parts being produced. I still remember one of his first days, he was standing in front of a table stacked with necks, kind of like the picture here.
He had a tool in one hand, he sort of had this 'holy ****, what did I sign up for?' look about him. I think Tom thought he might be doing guitar builds right away.
Tom and the wood shop really statred rocking on the necks, they turned into Gene's favorite thing to obsess over, I think they had the highest profit margin or something. Gene used to love pickups the most, from my shop, but alas Tom and his necks stole my thunder. As far as I can remember it wasn't that long before Tom, Dave and Herschel were grabbing particularly nice bodies and necks and soft assembling guitars, just to see the results. Gene would usually bust up these little parties with 'quit playing around, we need to sell these'. Gene wasn't that sold on building guitars at first.
Tom and Herschel were very into combining the various woods and hardware finishes, I don't remember Dave being all that into the aesthetics. I think Dave would help if asked, but it was Tom and Herschel that seemed to drive the first guitar builds. Come to think of it, I actually have no recollection of ever seeing Dave Schecter play guitar? I remember Tom playing.
One other thing I just realized, several employees were players and would enjoy the employee privilege of claiming 'seconds' for their own guitar projects at no cost, or buying a production unit at cost. There were several employees with project guitars, and it could be that an employee assembled a pure Schecter guitar prior to the official Schecter built guitars!
There was one time that an Employee, who shall remain unnamed, was stealing parts while 'working weekends'. He worked for me, so I took the lead to go to this guys home, and discover his loot. Tom Anderson went with me. We bluffed our way past his roommate and into his room. Under his bed we found a complete Schecter guitar still in pieces. We brought it back to the shop and had the guy arrested, but the charges wouldn't stick.
Now is where my recent research has influenced what I'm writing.
Lets revisit the Schecter Van Nuys Complex:
The building labeled ISA was the warehouse and offices. Herschel had an office, Shel had a desk in an open office, gene had nothing. There was a small room with the two sales reps:
my brother Doug Hodges
and Pete Wagonhearst.
There were three other office workers doing accounting and such.
From the very beginning it was clear any discord among the bosses was always Herschel vs. either Gene, Shel or both Gene and Shel. Herschel was pretty controlling, and bristled when Gene would object to things due to expense. Herschel was a perfectionist and was insistent on a lot of things, Gene would give in a lot just because Herschel wore him out, and things had been going very well on the sales front.
I never knew about the convoluted structure of ISI and that Shel was a part owner until recently. Thinking back, I do remember that the two buildings were very separated, in a meta sort of way. There was one door where SGR employees would enter carrying various finished goods. There was a shipping door at the other end where UPS boxes went out. Nothing regarding SGR happened in that building except packaging.
Herschel was rarely seen in the shops, he never came to mine, and would occasionally be in the wood shop to look at new planks of hardwoods. Shel Horlick on the other hand spent a lot of time at both the SGR buildings and the ISA building. Gene visited every shop almost daily, but sat and drank coffee and held meetings in the ISA building.
to the side is Jim Summey. Jim was part of the Social group with me, my brother Doug, Chris Wooley and Shel's daughter Brenda. Jim was hired specifically to run the vacu-seal machine that sealed parts to cards. It was a pretty boring job, all day placing parts neatly on big sheets of card stock, pressing the button to seal it with plastic, then cut them out on a big paper cutter. He grew to hate it, or maybe he grew to hate Herschel's micromanagement?
Here is a link to view Jim's handywork:
Fun fact, Adam Holzman is a world renowned jazz keyboardist. He's currently touring with Steven Wilson. He was Miles Davis' music director for about 5 years in the late 80's. Adam's dad founded Electra records, his mom discovered the Doors. Adam used to have dinner with the Doors at his home in Manhattan when he was a pre-teen.
Adam was in the same social group as me, Doug Hodges, Chris Wooley and Jim Summey. Adam's very first band in 1974 while in high school consisted of Doug on Bass, Jim on drums, and Chris on lead vocals. They were called Five Part Invention. They covered Yes and Genesis. They actually played Close to the Edge in it's entirety.