Dean of Guitars Dean B. ZelinskyIf you tried to write a more unlikely script for a reality show based around starting a new business venture in the music industry in the year 2009 you would be hard-pressed to come up with the turn of events that have unfolded for one Chicago area native, Dean B. Zelinsky, along with his partner Jeff Diamant, and Terry Martin of Houston Texas. The partners joining Dean in his latest venture are themselves veterans in the music industry based on running the Diamond Amplifier Company.

The chance meeting of Dean B. Zelinsky and Jeff Diamant was based on Dean stopping in on boutique (high-end) dealer one day, and was listening to guitars being demonstrated on a Diamond Amplifier, and the sound was so amazing that Dean inquired about the amps, and where the company was based. About the time Dean decided it was time to start a new company to be able to have 100% creative freedom and control over his famous designs, Diamant and Martin were looking to partner with a synergistic company in order to gain distribution while building their brand, featuring amplifiers ranging from vintage classic combo amps & cabinets, to the top metal all tube power-house heads and classic cabinets that cater to a gamut of players as does the market for the guitars Dean wanted for his new Guitar company.

Sounds like all the right pieces of the perfect marriage; i.e., a legendary guitar designer/builder, with the premier boutique amplifier manufacturer joining forces to “combine & conquer. However, the US economy in 2009 is less than conducive to success for any new business…Add to that, the fact that most businesses who selling musical instruments are servicing large debt themselves, dealing with a declining customer base, competing with big box stores encroaching on their turf, dealers who in some cases are facing not being able to keep up with their bills, and laying off employees for the first time ever.

This is the backdrop to the new business plan put into action by messieurs Zelinsky, Diamant and Martin unfurled their launch of DBZ Guitars in early 2009. What happened…The result was and remains a resounding success with sales matching their year-1 projections almost to the penny!

Dean Zelinsky and the DBZ Croc Skin Bolero Electric GuitarTo fully appreciate how incredible this accomplishment has been you have to understand a few points of reference. One, Dean B. Zelinsky had founded Dean Guitars in the late 1970’s beating almost all odds by creating a line of guitars that for a 20-year-old to take on the biggest manufacturers in the world and  rise above the clutter to become a household name (in any house where there was a guitar). Two, he did this by himself, essentially teaching himself all aspects of the manufacturing process, accounting, sales, inventory management…everything about growing a guitar business was done under this young entrepreneur’s watchful eye. If you have ever seen the back pages of Guitar Player Magazine, Premier Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Edge, Total Guitars, Music Trade, Musical Merchandise Review, Music Connection Magazine, etc., you will notice that the world is full of people that want to market their guitar designs. Getting a new guitar company going not something that is easy even in the best of times.

The DBZ company is instantly recognizable for its distinctive new designs by Dean himself. The 30 plus years experience that led artists like Kerry Livgren, Billy Gibbons, Dimebag Darrell, Sammy Hagar, and many, many more, is leading a whole new breed of guitar players to join the Dean of Guitars DBZ Guitars. Diamond Amplifiers is also experiencing a boom in sales & both companies are better for having joined forces.

The biggest similarity between the launch of Dean Zelinsky’s first guitar company in 1977 to the inception and launch DBZ Guitar is as follows. In 1977 the economy was strong, but in just a few years would be heading into a recession that drove guitar manufacturers like Gibson and Fender to start importing. Whereas, in mid-2008 while the business plan for a new breed of electric and acoustic guitars designed by Dean B. Zelinsky was being written, the economy in the US was thought to be strong, but then the hammer dropped and dropped hard in September and slid to near Great Depression levels soon after the DBZ Guitar Company launch.

With all the turmoil in the US economy, how is it that a new company can be successful in such a storm?  Easy!  The same dynamic that was in play for Dean and his guitar designs, was working for him back in the late 1970’s. In 2009 there are a handful of major guitar manufacturers and they are for the most part, large corporations that have huge numbers to hit every month, many employees to keep employed and a dealer base that continues to suffer from the backlash of economic recession. So they have little room to move when faced with a shrinking market. People got laid off, orders shrank and they are having to do all kinds of creative maneuvers to prevent inventory from coming back.

Dean and the BoP Electric GuitarWhile you would never write a business plan that included forming a new company to sell into a shrinking guitar market during hard times, the net result is that DBZ Guitars was fortunate to have a loyal following of Dean B. Zelinsky’s guitar designs, who in many cases, were tired of being pushed around by current manufacturers trying “to hit the numbers” forcing inventory on them wasn’t selling. In contrast, DBZ came out of the gate with eight new electric guitar designs and several acoustic models that immediately began selling. Rep firms that were receiving notice from the major manufacturers that their commission structures were changing, along with added expectations (perhaps unrealistic in recessionary times), were being increased, started contacting Dean about his new company and before long, Dean once again was is the position to concentrate on making quality guitars with the expectation being that they would use this precious time to build the company that has all the products dealers and players want as opposed to trying to peddle unwanted merchandise for little margin.

Another major difference between Dean’s original guitar company and the DBZ Guitar company is that right out of the gate DBZ Guitars had an immediate international distributor base, with millions of guitar players who heard he had started his new company. This led to instant worldwide distribution for a broad guitar line that has guitars in most every retail price range.

The principle of having acceptance was integral to a very successful year for The Dean of Guitars, Dean B. Zelinsky. What Dean Zelinsky did with this new platform was brought more innovation to the consumer, while offering music dealers something truly new to offer which has proved to help sales in a sluggish economy.

New areas of innovation include CNC precise contouring of guitar bodies, as in the DBZ Imperial that when turned sideways is one of the thinnest solid (full) body guitars in the world, intricate fine carving with the ability to provide a limitless variety of 3-D renderings added to maple tops, as in the DBZ Bolero Croc. DBZ Guitars is also adding stunning graphics to highly contoured body shapes for the Metal guitars they market under the DBZ Dark Side moniker.

As the year 2009 ends, Dean B. Zelinsky has proven once again that there is more to making a guitar company successful than just making great guitars and he has also proven that he is not only up to the task, but he is indeed THE Dean of Guitars.
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