The Guitar Center story began in 1959 when Wayne Mitchell purchased a small appliance and home organ store in Hollywood, California. By 1961, he'd changed the name of the company to The Organ Center. In 1964, Joe Banaran, President of the Thomas Organ Company, approached Wayne in search of an outlet to sell the Vox line of guitars and amplifiers. While the original Organ Center remained, the first Guitar Center was born in Hollywood.
In 1972, the second Guitar Center opened its doors in San Francisco. Soon after, the San Diego store opened in 1973 and later became the home of the company's first Central Management Office. The ‘70s also spawned 3 key people who later became the driving force behind Guitar Center’s success. Ray Scherr, Larry Thomas and Marty Albertson all began on the sales floor and moved up the ranks to become top leaders in the company.
With company growth on the rise, Guitar Center lost its founder Wayne Mitchell in 1983. In 1985, Guitar Center celebrated the Grand Opening of a new Hollywood store on Sunset Boulevard. The huge 18,000 square foot facility was dedicated to the late Guitar Center founder. Now expanded to over 30,000 square feet, the Sunset location serves as Guitar Center’s flagship store. The opening of this Hollywood Music Complex also gave birth to RockWalk, a sidewalk gallery dedicated to honoring those who have made significant contributions to the music industry. Today, any customer who enters the Hollywood Store can share in recognizing the accomplishments of these notable artists.
Guitar Center underwent monumental changes, earning Guitar Center the phrase, "The largest Musical Instrument retailer in the world". The company's growth in the ‘90s surpassed any other musical instrument retailer in the world. 1997 marked the year Guitar Center went public. Soon after, it purchased the catalog company, Musician's Friend in 1999. In the five-year period between 1999 and 2003, the company nearly tripled in size, reaching the 100th store mark in 2002. Then, in 2005, Guitar Center’s acquisition of Music & Arts Center brought 62 new stores throughout the US, catering to a completely new instrument market.
GuitarCenter.com was launched in 2006 and quickly became a major player in the e-commerce world. The company continues to build on its multi-channel platform to offer customers many options when purchasing musical instruments.
In October 2007, the Boston based financial firm Bain Capital acquired Guitar Center. This acquisition positioned Guitar Center to be able to make investments that enhance the infrastructure of the company, allowing for expansion and improvements in the years to come.