|Headquarters||Tampa, Florida, United States|
President & CEO
|Owner||Armadillo Enterprises, Inc.|
Number of employees
Dean Guitars, commonly referred to simply as Dean, is an American manufacturer of stringed instruments and musical products. It is known for its solid-body electric guitars, bass guitars, and acoustic guitars such as the Dean ML, the Dean V, the Dean Z, but more recently the Dean Razorback, Dean Stealth, Dean Icon, Dean VMNT, Dean Zero, and Dean Mako Acoustic Guitar. Its headquarters are in Tampa, Florida. The company also makes and/or distributes a full range of products to include resonator guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, ukuleles, amplifiers, guitar cases, accessories and custom guitar pickups.
The company was founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1976 by Dean Zelinsky but came to prominence under Elliott Rubinson in 1997 when his company Armadillo Enterprises purchased the trade name. The Dean family today consists of over 100 people: guitar luthiers and techs, distribution and sales staff, customer service providers, office admins, tech and marketing personnel, almost all of which are practicing musicians, artists, and artisans. Armadillo Enterprises today is a privately held organization with Evan Rubinson serving as the Chief Executive Officer.
With the advent of the superstrat and grunge music, Dean Zelinsky sold the business to Oscar Medeiros of Tropical Music, who gained ownership of the brand from 1986, and until 1995 focused on selling to Latin bands overseas. The company had all but disappeared from the American market at this point.
Armadillo Enterprises, under the leadership of Elliott Rubinson, then purchased the Dean trade name in 1997. Rubinson, a professional musician who has toured as a bass player for the Michael Schenker Group as well as for Uli Jon Roth and Michael Angelo Batio, saw an opportunity to re-boot Dean Guitars by expanding its offerings to include a full line of acoustic, electric and bass guitars, mandolins, banjos, and ukuleles with prices ranging from less than $99 to more than $13,000. Rubinson had previously built Thoroughbred Music, a world-renowned music retail store, music supply, and music clinic center. A pioneer in the music retail industry, Rubinson sold Thoroughbred to Sam Ash in 1999 so he could focus his efforts on Dean.
After steadily growing a team of respected guitarists (including Dimebag Darrell, Michael Angelo Batio, Michael Schenker, Leslie West, Dave Mustaine, Michael Amott, and Jacky Vincent) and music industry professionals, many of whom came from Thoroughbred, Dean Guitars' popularity surged. Under Armadillo Enterprises the company grew exponentially, outgrowing its 20,000-square-foot Clearwater location and transitioning to a new 100,000-square-foot building complete with a state-of-the-art USA Custom Guitar Shop. Today the company also assembles guitar pickups and guitar parts made and painted in locations throughout the country and distributes them around the world.
In February 2017, Elliott "Dean" Rubinson died from cancer. Richard Ash, CEO of Sam Ash Music Stores, said, "Elliott was a true genius. He would have been successful in any business but he went with his passion for music and built his business around it... He was truly one of my heroes. RIP Elliott Rubinson."
The company has also worked closely with the grammy-awarded frontman and guitarist of Megadeth, Dave Mustaine, to offer a line of guitars: the Dave Mustaine Signature Series Dean VMNT, Dean Zero, and Dean Mako, ranging in price from around $300 to over $6000 for the USA instruments. The Dean USA Dave Mustaine Signature VMNT Holy Grail  electric guitar, a more recent incarnation of the V introduced in 2016, is an example of the superlative nature of the brand.
The company's bass guitar models include the ML, V, Z, Cadillac, Edge, Metal Man / Demonator, Hillsboro, Entwistle, EVO, and Custom Zone. Dean has extended its range of products to other string instruments such as resonator guitars, mandolins and banjos.
In 2017, Dean unveiled several new musical instruments to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the company.
2018 saw a unique first for the company with a partnership between Dean USA Custom Shop and Angel's Envy Bourbon. The result was the Dean Envy Series made from whiskey cask barrels.
Notable artists from the Dean roster (present and past) include: