Now headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the Dean guitar company was founded a mere 38 years ago by Dean Zelinsky of Chicago, Illinois. Dean was a guitar enthusiast with an interest in customizing existing instruments to his own needs. While still in high school, Dean gained a reputation with local shops as a person who could handle more customization than they were able to offer their customers in-house. Deans’s ambitions were greater than this, however, and after a few reconnaissance tours of the Gibson factory, he was ready to purchase equipment to sell his own line of guitars. Dean brought innovations such as custom-wound electric pickups and unique shapes and designs which not only add visual interest, but also enhance the sound of the instrument.
Owned by Oscar Medeiros from the late 1980s through the early 1990s, the Dean trade name was acquired by Armadillo Enterprises in 1997 under the leadership of Elliott “Dean” Rubinson, a touring musician who continues to head the company today.
An enthusiastic user of his own company’s products, Rusinson has stated that Dean’s greatest advantage is the fact that their company is comprised of musicians who are passionate about music and instruments, and who are able to field-test emerging products and report back on them before they are launched to the public. Rather than having company decisions made by a bunch of suits in the boardroom, decisions at Dean are made by active, gigging musicians who are empowered to immediately institute whatever improvements they deem appropriate. This pays off big when the guitar finally lands in the hands of the customer.
Whether you’re in the market for an inexpensive student-model acoustic guitar or a stunning Dimebag Razorbolt to live out your rock star ambitions, Dean has a guitar for you. Fans and users of Dean guitars in addition to Dimebag Darrell have included Dave Mustaine, Michael Ammott, Jacky Vincent, Leslie West, Karl Sanders, and Uli Jon Roth.
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