“The V220 plays as good as my 57 gold top Les Paul, stays in tune better than my 57 Strat…”
Quote by Craig Chaquico (of Jefferson Starship and Starship) in a 1987 advertisement for Carvin guitars.
The Carvin Corporation was started by Lowel Kiesel in San Diego, CA. The original name was the L.C. Kiesel Company and the business began as a guitar pickup manufacturer. The name changed to Carvin in 1949 with the naming convention based upon two of Lowel’s sons, Carson and Gavin.
The timeline is a little murky, somewhere between 1954 and 1958, but Semie Mosely used Carvin pickups on his early Mosrite guitars including the double-neck he built for Joe Maphis.
In addition to making pickups, Carvin started making lap steel guitars and amplifiers in the early 1950s. About the same time Carvin started selling their products direct to consumers via mail order catalog and completely bypassed retailers. Reportedly, that was an industry first.
Like many companies involved in the guitar/parts business of the era Carvin was also a reseller for a variety of instruments including organs and accordions (the post WWII accordion boom is a recurring theme).
The first guitars with a Carvin nameplate were sourced from Kay and Harmony. Nearing the end of the 1950s and moving into the next decade Carvin expanded their own production of guitars, basses, and amplifiers.
Fast forward to the 1970s and it gets more interesting. Lowel ended up having 5 sons and each gravitated toward a technical expertise that would combine to really enhance the company’s products. For example, Carson was an electrical engineer, another worked as a draftsman in the aerospace industry before joining the family business, and two of the brothers were serious woodworkers.
The collective skillset among the brothers allowed Carvin to really focus on upping the ante with their custom guitars and basses in the late 1970s, still as a direct-to-consumer manufacturer.
In 1980 or 81 Craig Chaquico, being familiar with Carvin, called Carvin directly and had them build a koa double-neck 12/6. Craig was also using Carvin amps at the time. He was happy.
It just so happened that Chaquico was also looking to replace some of his vintage guitars that were lost in the Loreley Amphitheater riot in 1978.
So the experience Chaquico had with the double-neck, and his less than desirable experiences with modern production guitars led Caquico to begin using the Carvin V220 in late 1983. This didn’t go unnoticed among fans and other musicians propelling the V220 to Carvin’s best selling guitar from 1984-1987.
1984 Carvin V220 specs (base): Maple body & neck, Ebony fretboard, Kahler Tremolo, Carvin M22 and M22D humbuckers, Two volume, one tone control, Coil splitter, 3-way selector