For over 65 years, Carvin has been building high-quality
guitars, basses, amps and audio gear for pro and hobbyist
musicians alike. And because we sell directly to the customer,
with no middle man, you can save a lot of money on gear equal to
or better than gear found in retail shops.
Carvin was founded in 1946 by Lowell Kiesel as the L. C. Kiesel
Company in Los Angeles. Kiesel relocated briefly to his
home state of Nebraska, but returned to California in 1949, and
changed the name of the company to Carvin, after his two eldest
sons, Carson and Gavin. The company began by making
pickups and other accessories, then branched
out to amplifiers, guitars, basses and other gear. Early Carvin instruments were
made by Lowell Kiesel, and Carvin also sold rebadged guitars made by Harmony and Kay. In the 1960s
Carvin built most guitars from mainly Hofner
components, before returning to manufacturing their own instruments in the 1970s. In the
earliest years of the company, Carvin was also a reseller of Fender
and Martin guitars, DeArmond accessories, Sonola accordions and
Originally, Carvin advertised in the back of publications such
as Popular Mechanics, and sent out one-sheet product information
at customers' requests. In 1954, the first Carvin
mail-order catalog was produced, establishing the
direct-to-customer business model that is still used today.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Carvin expanded its product
lines, selling popular lap and pedal steel guitars, electric
basses and guitars, mandolins and doubleneck instruments.
The company relocated several times - originally moving from
Baldwin Park (outside Los Angeles) to Covina, California in
1956, then to Escondido, California in 1968. The company
would relocate to a larger facility in Escondido in 1975, where
they would remain until the move to the current factory location in San Diego in 1995.
In the late 1970s, Carvin began to design and build their own
guitars and basses, and began allowing customers to choose from
various options, making each guitar or bass a unique, custom
built instrument. The various models and options expanded
throughout the 1980s, and Carvin gained exposure on MTV and
other outlets by being associated with such artists as Jefferson Starship, The Bangles, Missing Persons and Steve Vai.
Craig Chaquico, ca. 1989
In 1988, Carvin guitars and basses switched from being set-neck
models to (mostly) neck-through design. Additionally, many
new options, finishes and woods were added, as were signature
instruments and amplifiers bearing the names of artists such as
Craig Chaquico, Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth, Bunny Brunel,
Timothy B. Schmit and Frank Gambale.
Today, Carvin operates an 80,000 square foot facility in San
Diego, and employs over 100 people. There is a
Carvin store in
San Diego, where customers can choose
from a wide selection of pro audio equipment, amplifiers,
guitars & basses and other accessories. Over one million
catalogs are sent out every year to customers all over the
globe, as well as email newsletters and advertisements in all
the major music publications. Carvin engineers are
constantly improving the product lines, and Carvin's craftsmen
build over 5000 custom guitars and basses each year.
Learn more about the history of Carvin on the Carvin Museum.