1959 Guitar Center founder Wayne Mitchell purchases a small appliance and home organ store, The Organ Center.
1964 The Organ Center moves to Hollywood and begins selling Vox amps.
The Guitar Center story began in 1959 when founder Wayne Mitchell purchased The Organ Center, a small appliance and home organ store, in Hollywood, California.
In 1964, Joe Banaran, president of the Thomas Organ Company, approached Wayne in search of an outlet to sell a new line of guitars and amplifiers, called Vox. With the massive popularity of The Beatles, who were using Vox equipment, it had become evident that the future of musical instrument retailing lay in guitars and amps, not organs. Wayne saw the timing was right to seize this promising new retail opportunity and the new Guitar Center was born-stocked with Vox guitars and amplifiers.
1971 The renamed Guitar Center moves to a larger location on LA's famous Sunset Boulevard.
1972 The second Guitar Center store opens in San Francisco..
1978 Guitar Center creates the Buyer's Guide for gear.
In 1972, the second Guitar Center store opened in San Francisco followed by the third store in San Diego the following year. The San Diego store would later prove to play a pivotal role in the growth of the company, as it became the home of Guitar Center's first central management office.
Not only was Guitar Center expanding into new markets in the '70s, it also spawned the rise of three key people who would later become the driving force behind the organization's success. Ray Scherr started with the company in 1975 behind the accessory counter of the San Francisco store. His creative marketing ideas and innovative promotions propelled him into the company's first General Manager position in 1977. Larry Thomas and Marty Albertson also began their careers in the San Francisco store in the late '70s, both holding a variety of positions that contributed to the company's expansion.
Additionally, both gentlemen went on to play crucial roles in the company's future development with a strong management team in place, Guitar Center was well positioned for the tremendous growth opportunities that lay ahead.
1980 Guitar Center purchases Kramer, with Eddie Van Halen as their top endorsee.
1985 The grand reopening of the current Guitar Center Hollywood store is dedicated to founder Wayne Mitchell.
1985 The Guitar Center RockWalk opens; first inductees include Stevie Wonder, Eddie Van Halen, Jim Marshall, C.F. Martin and Remo Belli.
1988 Guitar Center launches its Drum-Off contest.
After establishing a strong retail presence in California, Guitar Center began to expand nationally with the opening of new stores in major cities across the U.S., such as Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston and Chicago. These new stores, with their high ceilings and open floor space to support massive merchandising, heralded the inception of the musical instrument "superstore."
In 1984, Guitar Center founder Wayne Mitchell passed away, leaving behind a skilled management team to carry on his vision for the musical instrument retail powerhouse. By 1985, Guitar Center's management team had 12 stores operating in the U.S.
In November, the retailer relocated to its 18,000-square-foot flagship Hollywood store on Sunset Boulevard. The grand reopening of the Hollywood store gave birth to the Guitar Center RockWalk, a sidewalk gallery honoring those who have made significant contributions to the music industry. The RockWalk has recognized the accomplishments of hundreds of notable artists, including Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Doobie Brothers, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Smokey Robinson, Roy Orbison, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Wonder and many others.
1996 The RockWalk celebrates its10th anniversary with inductee Carlos Santana.
1997 Guitar Center launches its branded credit card-what would become the Gear Card.
1997 Guitar Center goes public with a successful IPO.
1997 Guitar Center acquires music retailer Rhythm City in Atlanta.
1999 The company acquires top online retailer Musician's Friend.
During the '90s, Guitar Center underwent a monumental growth period opening nearly 70 stores throughout the decade, earning the company the moniker, "The largest musical instrument retailer in the world." During this fast-paced growth period, store grand openings took place at a rate of one or two stores a month, surpassing all other musical instrument retailers.
In 1996, Larry Thomas assumed the roles of Chairman and Co-CEO, and Marty Albertson became the company's President and Co-CEO. Their dedication and drive to continue growing the company led Guitar Center to become a publicly traded company in 1997.
In 1999, Guitar Center acquired Musician's Friend, a leading direct marketer of musical instruments, to build the brand's online presence.
2001 Guitar Center launches its high-end studio and install division, GC Pro.
2002 The 100th Guitar Center store opens in Little Rock, Arkansas.
2004 Guitar Center co-creates the Crossroads Festival with Eric Clapton; performers include Jeff Beck, ZZ Top and Carlos Santana.
2004 Guitar Center acquires Eric Clapton's "Blackie" Strat and Cream ES-335, Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Lenny" and George Harrison's Martin.
2005 The 150th Guitar Center store opens in Greenville, South Carolina.
2005 Guitar Center Inc. acquires Music & Arts, the largest school music dealer in the U.S.
2005 Guitar Center acquires the online music review and news forum, Harmony Central.
2006 The company launches its e-commerce website, guitarcenter.com.
2006 Guitar Center buys a stake in TuneCore, an online music distribution service.
2006 Guitar Center partners with Activision; all purchases in the videogame Guitar Hero are made in a virtual Guitar Center store.
2007 Guitar Center goes private with a buyout from Bain Capital.
2007 The 200th Guitar Center store opens in Maple Grove, Minnesota.
2007 Guitar Center acquires leading band and orchestra retailer Woodwind and Brasswind along with Music 123 and Lyons Music.
Guitar Center plunged into the new millennium with the strong momentum of the previous decade and a vision of vast expansion.
Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro) was launched in 2001 to focus on the needs of the brand's professional recording clientele. With a comprehensive selection of high-end and boutique equipment and individualized service and expert consultation through local account managers, GC Pro took the company's world-class customer service to new heights.
Within the decade, Guitar Center went on to acquire American Music Group (2001), Music & Arts (2005), Woodwind and Brasswind (2007) and Music 123 (2007), adding 62 new retail stores throughout the U.S. along with a number of retail websites catering to a completely new clientele of musicians.
In 2007, Guitar Center also merged with an affiliate of Bain Capital Partners. As a result of the merger, the company ceased to be publicly traded and became substantially owned by affiliates of Bain Capital.
2010 Guitar Center Sessions debuts on DIRECTV's AUDIENCE network.
2011 The Singer-Songwriter program launches.
2013 The first annual "Get Out of the Garage" contest is launched.
2014 Guitar Center launches its first brand advertising campaign "All We Sell Is the Greatest Feeling on Earth."
2014 Guitar Center wins a total of six Telly Awards for its original content programs, At Guitar Center with Nic Harcourt and Guitar Center Sessions.
2014 New flagship Guitar Center store opens in New York's world-renowned Times Square.
2014 Guitar Center celebrates its 50th anniversary with special performances from Linkin Park and Slash from Guns N' Roses.
2015 Guitar Center names nonprofit Little Kids Rock as their official charity.
At the beginning of the decade, Guitar Center began to focus on developing contentmarketing programing that inspires people to play music. The launch of the At Guitar Center with Nic Harcourt web series and Guitar Center Sessions on DIRECTV have given both established and up-and-coming artists platforms to share their inspirational stories with the world. Both programs have won several awards, including six Tellys and have also been featured in media outlets such as Rolling Stone, USA Today, Huffington Post, Elle, Billboard, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and others.
In 2014, Ares Capital Management became the majority stakeholder of the company and Darrell Webb was named Guitar Center's new CEO, continuing the brand's growth in 2015 and beyond.
Guitar Center continues to open stores across the country-including the opening of its 262nd location, the Times Square flagship store in Manhattan in 2014. Additionally, the company is expanding the role of its musician services to include lessons, rentals and repair facilities in all stores nationwide.
With solid goals and an unrivaled in-store experience, Guitar Center's mission is to enable musicians worldwide to experience the joy that comes from playing an instrument, the greatest feeling on earth.