The Rand guitars were made by Rand Havener who is from West Chester, PA. Rand moved out to CA and worked at B.C. Rich making guitars.
He is friends with Doyle and Jerry from the Misfits, and they decided that they wanted to start a guitar company. Rand went to NJ to start building guitars with the Misfits guys. They sent him down to Baltimore to check out Paul Reed Smith’s operation and to pick up wood for the project. They went out and bought all the equipment needed to start building guitars. Out of the original 60 they built, 50 of them were unusable due to the necks warping.
At some point Rand moved operations back to California to build the guitars. The rumor has it that he was making them in Tom Anderson’s shop, but some say they were actually built in Newberry Park but that it was close to Anderson’s shop. The guitars were painted by Pat Wilkins.
Most of the early designs were very exotic looking (probably due to his experiences with B.C. Rich and the Misfits. Here is a picture of one of those designs.
I’m not sure where the Vivian connection was made. Perhaps it was when Rand was working at B.C. Rich and Vivian was an endorsee. Vivian played the guitar pictured above and wanted one of his own. In fact he wanted the exact guitar but it was due to be shipped back to PA for my friend Jim. When Vivian landed the video shoot for Whitesnake’s Still of the Night (He was only supposed to be in the video, not the band at that point in time) he asked Rand if he could play the guitar pictured above for the video. Rand called up Jim and asked if Vivian could use it. Things never worked out and Vivian played one of the early production style Rands instead.
The Rand pictured above has a much thinner neck than the production Rands. Rand ended up making about three Rands for Vivian. The one he played in the Still of the Night video was donated to the Hard Rock cafe. That guitar was also feature on the cover of Guitar For The Practicing Musician back in the 80s. Vivan used a differend Rand in the Is This Love video. This guitar was another step towards the production style that would develope later. It is a bit more angled than the black and white Rand above.
Rand made guitars for Gunnar Nelson and another one was used in a Diet Coke commercial with Jerry Hall.
Things looked to be picking up for Rand with some of his high level endorsees but he couldn’t keep the company profitable. A year after Rand made the black and white strat for Jim he came back to PA with two more guitars he was selling. One was the purple V that Racer X has and the other one was the black shaped one I call the Witch/Which. That one was originally orange but Jim had Rand refinish it black with gold hardware. Jim routed out the trem recess himself. I am told that if you look at the control cavities of the black one that you can still see remnants of the original orange paint job. Jim dubbed it the Which/Witch because people would ask him what Rand he was going to play at a given show and if it wasn’t the strat or V people whould always go, “which Rand are you talking about Jim?” So he decided to call it the “Witch/Which” Rand as a play on words. It’s evil looking anyway so the Witch/Which name has kind of his inside joke.
Rand would often go to music stores in NY and Philly and sell them door to door. I guess the biggest compliment Rand ever got was when other companies starting knocking off his design. The Hamer Californian is obviously influenced by the Rand design. Tokai even started making Rand knock-offs.
There were some rumors that Rand had died in a motorcyle accident but this is false. He did in fact get into a motorcyle accident but he is still alive and well. He is currently starting a new line of Rand guitars.
1. So, what have you been doing since the first incarnation of the Rand Guitar Company?
Oh, doing cnc & automated control stuff, Architectural Design, alot of other fairly diverse and unrelated pursuits
2. How did you get your start building guitars?
I got my start because there was nothing out there that i was really happy with. The beginning of it all is a somewhat involved story, but basically I played with some designs in L.A. but actually started building the first prototypes in NY I returned to California after that to open my shop.
3. Your guitars were very cutting edge for their time, being one of the first to incorporate things such as recessed trems, scalloped cutaways, and 27 fret necks. How did you come up with these things that were fairly revolutionary at that time?
It was really just integrating all of the things i wanted in a guitar.
4. Where did you get the inspiration for those wild paint jobs?!
At the time I was looking to do something that was not specifically graphics oriented (sculls, flames, horns, ect.) but also not a copy of some other paint jobs that were out there. I had tried some crazy paint on a couple of my more conventional Strat shaped prototypes. I showed one of them to Vivian Campbell and when he ordered his, he just pointed at it and said “I want that paint job but with yellow, blue and red”. After that nobody was interested in any single colors. I did those paint jobs on every guitar I sold except the last run, which were to be solid black. At that time i only finished 2 of them, one went to a buddy of mine and one was for me.
5. What was the theory behind your choice of woods and electronics for your instruments?
I was using a Floyd Rose bridge so I now needed to do whatever I could to fatten up the sound. I tried a bunch of different woods. I found out that I needed a nice, medium density mahogany. It balances out the tone of the Floyd Rose. I chose a maple neck for stability and to keep some of the attack in the guitar. As far as fretboards are concerned,I didn’t like the open grain of rosewood and the only redeeming quality of ebony is that its black. It’s great for furniture though. Pau Ferro has good tonal characteristics and a tight, even grain. The bridge position humbuckers were custom wound to create a little more gain but still not be super aggressive. Neck position single coils were a custom low profile pickup wound to pair with the humbucker. They were wired humbucking with the rear coil of the bridge pickup, to give you that desirable “notch” position configuration that caused the invention of the 5 way switch. The
selector switch selected between this and a straight humbucker. This is a simplification of my original three switch design.
6. Were there any other builders who you looked up to or were inspired by? Any designs?
No, but i have a lot of respect for Dave Schecter and Tom Anderson.
7. What types of music were you listening to back then? How about now?
I have always had a habit of trying to listen to something as different as possible from the last I listened to.
8. How long was the Rand Guitar Company in business and how many guitars did you ultimately build during your first run?
The shop was in actual production existence for maybe a year and a half. I think, during the first run, I produced about 80 guitars.
9. Vivian Campbell was most likely the highest profile player of your instruments. Talk a little bit about that relationship.
I met him through a friend. He liked the playability and the paint of the prototype and he was the first person I showed the pencil sketch to for what would ultimately be my standard model. He ordered it right off the paper . What was great about Vivian was that he had the balls to order a guitar from me based on a drawing and pay in full, without a current gig. (He had just left Dio).
10. How did the relationship with the Misfits materialize?
I met Doyle through a friend when I went to the east coast to build. I ended up building the prototypes at Doyle’s with his help.
11. What led you to walk away from the business back then?
My demand so far exceeded my capacity to make them, it created a situation where a month at a time would go by before I could actually sit down and play a guitar. I think a week at a time would go by before I even went home. Bottom line, that is not why I got into building.
12. Are there any builders to day who’s work you like?
See question 6
13. What led to the comeback?
The ideas were piling up on me and I felt motivated to do it again. I am changing my approach to it this time around so things don’t get so overwhelming.
14. Tell us a little bit about the NOS guitars.
It felt like the best place to pick back up was where I left off. They are the balance of the last run from the original shop which was the “black run” of which only 2 got finished at that time. 2 have been finished since then (one is on my website) and the rest are the NOS.
15. Will you be doing any instruments with the old style finishes?
Sure if there is a demand.
16. Do you have anything new on the horizon?
Yes. New models of guitars of course and a bass coming.
17. Do you plan to continue selling direct or eventually going with retailers?
It’s direct for now but if stores want guitars, I’ll sell them guitars.
18. What does a person need to do to get a new Rand Guitar?
Feel free to contact us: www.randguitarcompany.com
19. What would you like to see for yourself and your guitars moving forward?
Quality for everybody, on both sides of the equation.
20. Anything else you would like to say?
Thanks to all you guys for collecting my stuff and the continued interest in Rand guitars. I am really looking forward to getting the new stuff out there