Chip Todd's Bio:


Chip has Bachelor degrees in Commercial Art and Mechanical Engineering and has taken graduate work in Fine Art, specializing in Sculpture.

He repaired guitars for a local music store while in college and owned a guitar warranty repair facility for Fender, Gibson, Ovation, Martin, and Alvarez, in Houston in the early ‘70s.

He started the Peavey Guitar Program, designed the instruments and manufacturing fixtures, conceived the processes, hired and trained the employees, and gave seminars for dealers for six years. He and Hartley Peavey co-patented the neck manufacturing process around which the program was built. Hartley Peavey has often referred to his as “The Father of the Peavey Guitar”. They introduced NC manufacturing of bodies, gunstock carving machinery to carve and sand guitar necks, simultaneous pressing of frets, extensive use of die-cast hardware, cases with every instrument, blow-molded cases for electric guitars, neck tilt mechanism, out-of-phase switch, tone control coil cancellation, urethane paint, and many other innovations to the guitar manufacturing process.

Chip held the position of Director of Research & Development for Fender Guitars, Rogers Drums and Drumsticks, Rhodes Pianos, and Squire Strings. He was also Director of Technical Services for Fender Guitars. He was there from 1981-83.

He was consultant for Schecter Guitars for a year and refined their fixturing and processes.

Chip counts as friends in the industry, past and present, Helmet Schaller of Schaller Tuning Machines, Tekao Gotoh of Gotoh Manufacturing, Ted Kahatsu of Moridiari Musical Dist., Takao “Johnny Cash” Saitoh of Fender of Japan, Chuck Keip of Keip Machinery, and especially, Hartley Peavey, mentor and loyal friend.

Chip is “retired”, which means not driving to work, and lives in Austin, Texas. His shop is a fully-equipped machine shop, wood shop, painting facility, with plating, powder coating, firearm repairing, and race engine building.

Chip was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1939, grew up there, and graduated from Beaumont High School in 1956. He worked in machine shops, body shops, and drove ambulances to further his goal of building and driving racing cars. He built racing cars, starting with a 1950 Ford with a hemi-Chrysler engine, and progressing through a 1932 chopped, channeled, ’32 Ford coupe with bored and stroked flathead engine, a chopped, channeled, and stripped, 1934 Chevrolet competition coupe. He raced motorcycles until 1958, when he decided to quit while ahead, and sold his ‘cycles. While delivering his last one, a truck with a drunk driver hit him head-on at 70 mph to 30 mph, and laid him up for a while. This ended his first marriage and returned him to living at home for the recovery period. In February, of 1959, through a series of unexplainable events, his racing was to become serious.

He was able to purchase the only race car Mickey Thompson ever sold; his 347 mph twin-engine streamline/dragster this was pretty heady stuff for a 19 year old in sedate Beaumont, Texas, and opened a whole bunch of opportunities for him; the most important, the meeting of Mickey Thompson. This racing legend was to be one of the three influential men in Chip’s life; his Father, an Ob/Gyn, (the best father a person could have), Mickey Thompson, mentor and “big brother”, and later, Hartley Peavey, manufacturing genius and most-loyal friend.

In 1960, Chip was at the Houston Drag strip when Don Garlits blew his 392 cu. In. Chrysler engine, using Hydrozine for fuel. Chip offered him the use of his 480 cu. in. engine, and Garlits ended up running it for several years and setting records with it. This was another one of the breaks from being in the right place at the right time. It was also quite a coup having Don Garlits’ dragster parked out in front of your house in Beaumont.

Chip married Susie Fisher in 1964 and was soon the proud father of a son, Charles Hugh Todd IV, or “Skip”. Chip and his young family lived in Beaumont until they moved to Port Arthur, Texas shortly before graduating from Lamar University.

After graduating with a BS in Commercial Art, he worked as Art Director for KPAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas. In 1964, he went to Oakland, California to the California College of Arts and Crafts to do graduate work in sculpture. Between semesters, he worked for Mickey Thompson, first, running the wheel plant, then as Advertising Advisor, and finally as Advertising Manager, doing the ads for magazines and dabbling in speed part designing. Mickey gave Chip the hot rodder’s dream; designing an Indy car and some parts for it. Because of his innovative designs, and his lack of being able to see designs through the technical design phases, Mickey talked Chip into returning to college for an engineering education.

While in college, Chip repaired stringed instruments for Swicegood Music Company and the South Park School System. During that time, (in November of 1968, to be more specific) Susie presented Chip with a daughter, Catherine, who quickly wrapped him around her little finger. These children paled all the racing that had preceded them, and his goals were set a little higher for after graduation.

Earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the same Lamar University, in 1972, Chip went to work in Dallas designing monorails. Mickey Thompson Equipment Company had been sold while Chip was back in college, so returning there was no longer viable or desired. With the energy crisis of late 1972, the monorail industry hit the skids, so Chip bailed out before the company closed and looked for something he would be interested in doing. While in college, (the second time), Chip repaired guitars for Swicegood Music Company in Beaumont, so decided to open a guitar repair center in Houston. It was there that a sales rep. for Peavey Electronics, of Meridian, Mississippi, discovered Chip’s talents, and reported them to Hartley Peavey. The effort led to Chip closing his repair business and moving to Meridian to start a guitar program for Peavey Electronics in 1975.

Sometime during the first week or two that Chip and Hartley worked together, they were at lunch together, and collaborated on the innovative method of manufacturing guitar necks, which they co-patented and used as the inspiration they needed to “think outside the box”. This was really a design that “developed on a paper napkin”. In engineering, patents are usually assigned to the company employing the engineer, and they give a symbolic one dollar bill for the invention. Chip asked Hartley were his “dollar” was, and, without missing a bite, Hartley replied, “You’re eating it”.

They went on to pioneer many new ideas, methods, and materials, so much, that they changed guitar manufacturing throughout the world. Peavey was the first to extensively use die-cast hardware, the first to use urethane paint, press frets, use numerically-controlled machines to carve bodies, use a gun stock-carving machine to carve and sand necks, and to use a die-cast topnut which didn’t need filing or setup. Peavey was the first to ship all instruments in a case, to use vacuum-molded, and soon, and to introduce blow-molded cases. Peavey’s neck tilt mechanism set a new pace for easy setup by the factory and by owners who wanted to raise or lower strings without changing the relationship from one-to-the-other.

For the first year, Chip was the only employee of the guitar department, so wore many hats, working quite closely with Hartley to pave the way for the future of guitar-making. The first person added to the department was R.T. Lowe, to be the assembly foreman, and very soon, Jerald Pugh was brought in from the speaker box factory to organize the woodshop. The next upper-level hire was Charley Gressett, who was also quite involved with the fleshing-out and refinement of Chip’s designs. Charley went on to control the quality control of all products.

Much of the machinery that was so important to the success of the Peavey Guitar Program, was designed and built by Charles “Chuck” Keip, owner of Keip Machine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chip got to work closely with Chuck and has stayed in contact with him ever since.

The first product was the T-60 guitar, and was only slightly ahead of the T-40 bass guitar. They were started slightly, one, then the other, but were introduced and produced concurrently. Both went on to become legendary as indestructible instruments, perhaps the most durable ever designed. They were followed by more of Chip’s designs, but he was destined to move to CBS Musical Instruments after 7 years with Peavey. The designs were outpacing manufacturing by about 5 years, so much so, that Peavey continued to use his neck designs long after he had gone to CBS.

In November, 1981, Chip was hired as the Director of Research and Development for Fender Guitars, Rogers Drums and Drumsticks, Rhodes Pianos, and Squire Strings. He was hired to bring Fender up into the modern age of manufacturing, but also to learn many of Peavey’s secrets of manufacturing. Hartley Peavey and Chip remain as good friends to this day, because of their working so closely together in the early days of the Peavey guitar program, but more so, because Chip refused to divulge any of Peavey’s closely-guarded secrets to Fender. Chip designed machines, fixturing, and processes for Fender, but managed to do each in ways that were different from those used by Peavey.

After the contract ran out with Fender, and since management had changed from those that hired Chip, Chip left Fender and briefly consulted with Schecter Guitars. The economics of a son in California College of Technology, and an addiction to his machine shop and teaching gunsmithing, Chip returned to designing high-speed automated machinery for a living. This continued until 2000, when he “retired” and returned to guitar building and research.

In 1988, Chip married Arlene Woodward, of Long Beach, and moved to San Diego. This was a bitter-sweet time, as it meant that Skip and Chip, who had lived together as bachelors for seven years, would be separated. They both recovered with their new lives and Skip moved to Galveston to live with his sister while he worked for a long-time friend, Bruce Farmer. It was like they both had a second father to rely on. Skip, later, went to work for a contractor at NASA, his lifetime dream since he was about 5 years old. Catherine now works as an insurance underwriter for a large lie insurance company in Galveston. She is finally getting to use her education from Texas A&M University branch in Galveston. She is also a mother, wife, and quite talented musician and artist.

Having kept in touch with Hartley Peavey during the years after leaving Fender, Chip kept up with what was happening in the music industry, so was able to re-establish a relationship with many of the people and companies who helped get the Peavey program off the ground. Chip feels fortunate to have, and have had, a close friendship with Helmut Schaller, of Schaller tuning Machines, Tekao Gotoh, of Gotoh Manufacturing,, Ted Kahatsu, of Moridairi Distributors, Chuck Keip, of Keip Machinery, Takao “Johnny Cash” Saitoh, of Fender of Japan, and, of course, Hartley Peavey.