Some of the world best electric-guitar manufacturers began their businesses on the fringes of the music world. For example, Leo Fender was repairing radios in 1938 before he started building PA systems and amplifying acoustic guitars—his breakthrough, the Esquire, wouldn’t appear until 1950. Similarly, David Schecter got his start in 1976 making everything from replacement necks to pick guards for companies like Fender and Gibson, as well as its own customers.

By 1979, Schecter was in the guitar business proper, producing a Fender Telecaster-like electric guitar with Gibson humbucking pickups from a facility in Van Nuys, California. Sold in just 20 specialty guitar shops across the United States, this custom hybrid was embraced by Pete Townsend of The Who, which gave the young company instant cred. Before long, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits was playing a Schecter, too, but such rock-star notoriety was not enough to keep the company afloat. In 1983, Schecter sold his company to a group of Texans, who proceeded to run it into the ground.

Schecter guitars made in Texas from 1983 to 1987, with names like the Saturn and the Scorcher, were of poor quality and are thus not especially sought by collectors. More desirable are the early guitars (1979-1983) and the ones made after Hisatake Shibuya took over the company in 1987. Shibuya, who also owns ESP Guitars, returned Schecter to California and its custom-shop roots. A decade later, Schecter was evolving beyond its Fender styles to create original guitar designs such as the Hellcat and Avenger.

Finally, in 1998, Schecter made the biggest break with its past when it introduced its inexpensive Diamond Series. While the guitars were made and assembled in South Korea, final setup still took place in the U.S.

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