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Ramon “RJ” Jacinto, founder of RJ Guitar Center with his guitar collection.

RJ Guitar Center, SM Lipa Branch

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In 1987, Ramon “RJ” Jacinto had recently returned from exile spanning Martial Law and began re-establishing his businesses. He performed thrice a week at his own rock n' roll club, the RJ Bistro, and grew tired of switching between his Fender Jazzmaster to a Gibson Les Paul during performances.

 

He approached the late Filipino luthier Rudy Discipulo to build him a guitar which could sound like a Les Paul, a Stratocaster, and a Jazzmaster. Soon, Discipulo came up with a versatile guitar that exceeded RJ’s specifications by having 22 sounds – the Series One Roadtone.

RJ saw the potential in the guitar and asked Discipulo: "Do you want to take an exciting journey with me? Wouldn't it be nice if someday our guitars could hold up to Fenders or Gibsons?" Discipulo agreed. His small hole-in-the-wall guitar repair shop became the first RJ Guitar Center, and the Roadtone became the first RJ Guitar.

 

Then in 1990, RJ met Joe Yui, owner of L.A. Guitar Works in Reseda, California and former President of Schecter Guitars Japan, a meeting that would have a huge impact on the future of RJ Guitars. Yui, who had previously attended one of RJ’s performances at the RJ Bistro, asked him if he would like to forge a partnership in building world-class guitars in the Philippines for export to the world. In response, RJ told him to come to the Philippines in two weeks if he was serious.

Sure enough, Yui went to Manila and signed a deal with RJ. Yui and Discipulo set up shop and started building world-class RJ Guitars.

 

Still, RJ Guitars did little business until RJ began displaying RJ Guitars alongside the best Fenders and Gibsons. His big idea was not just for guitarists to find their expensive dream guitars at the RJ Guitar Center, but to buy RJ Guitars that looked and sounded just as good.

The Guitar Center moved from Mandaluyong to Scout Bayoran, Quezon City to Robinson's Galleria Mall, where it began flourishing.

 

RJ Guitars soon began exporting to the U.S., Singapore and Australia as well when both RJ and Yui saw that hand-laid shell was attractive to foreign markets. They tapped the expert guitar makers and shell inlay artists of Cebu City to produce these guitars.

 

Today, there are 17 RJ Guitar Center branches, Online Store and over 100 distributors of RJ Guitars across the Philippines and around the world. For those who value the quality of fine Filipino craftsmanship, RJ Guitars are the obvious choice.

Ramon "RJ" Jacinto

Some call him the "Dick Clark of the Philippines.” Others refer to him as the "Richard Branson of the Philippines.” Many call him "Mr. Rock ‘n' Roll," "The Main Man," or "The Guitarman." Most of us know him, though, as "RJ.

Born on June 3, 1945, Ramon Pereyra Jacinto was the third of eight children of Don Fernando Jacinto, the founding father of the steel industry in the Philippines. His grandfather was one of the founding fathers of Philippine banking.

RJ studied at Ateneo de Manila—the country's premier Jesuit University—graduating with honors in Economics. After graduating from college at the age of 19, he proceeded to work for his father's steel company (the largest in the country). RJ continued his studies by taking up law at the University of Santo Tomas, taking night classes to accommodate all of his other responsibilities.

At the age of 15, RJ set up his first enterprise, RJ ENTERPRISES, which produced and released numerous record hits of his school band, "RJ and the Riots." RJ ENTERPRISES also pioneered multi-track recording in the country, having purchased the first Amper 300-3 track machine in the country. It eventually became the studio of choice for many artists and advertising agencies at the time. 

"Guitar Tips with Mr.Rock and Roll" - GMA News and Public Affairs

Ipinasyal ng musician at businessman na si RJ Jacinto ang "Powerhouse" sa kanyang music room, kung saan makikita ang kanyang guitar collection. Alamin kung paano pumili ng magandang gitara sa tips na ibibigay ni RJ. (Date aired: July 31, 2012)

Two years later, in his parents' backyard, RJ established what was to become a legendary radio station—DZRJ. Manned by his volunteer group of classmates, DZRJ was the laboratory for on-air experiments of radio concepts unknown and unheard of before in Philippine entertainment history. Easily, DZRJ developed a cult-like following, doing away with rampant "payola" and introducing alternative music to the open ears of Filipino teenagers. It was the first station to give exposure to such rock legends as the Ventures, the Shadows, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Lil Richard, and Elvis. Likewise, RJ directed his station and put an emphasis on playing the music of local talent. Little know did he know that he planted the seeds for a full-fledged musical revolution.

The Marcos dictatorship and the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972 changed RJ's life and the politico-economic landscape of the Philippines. RJ was Senior Vice-President of Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, Inc., with 2,500 employees reporting to him. His radio station continued, manned by his band mate, Alan Austria.

His father Fernando bravely resisted President Marcos' attempts to take over his steel mills. But with the declaration of Martial Law, all Jacinto family assets were seized and placed under military control. Two of RJ's radio stations, DZRJ and DZUW, were included in the sequestering. The family's executives were jailed with no charges filed.

Many stories have been written about how the Fernando Jacinto family anticipated martial law and spirited assets away to Lichtenstein, a Swiss independent municipality citizenship.

The real story is that on Don Fernando’s birthday, the family was on holiday in Rome. RJ was on his way back to the Philippines through the United States, when he made a decision to stop in Tokyo. That decision saved him from jail. Martial law had been declared and his father ordered him to go back to Rome where he started a fourteen-and-a-half-year exile, twelve years of which were spent in the United States.

In 1977, while in exile in San Francisco, RJ was pining for his country. He got together with Filipinos, Burnell Bunch, Mike Salvador, and Edmund Ungson. Together, they recorded "Muli" and "Don't Let Go." RJ secretly sent the record to the Philippines for airplay. DJs of his radio station could not mention the source nor the artist, lest they be castigated by the military management.

The songs became turntable hits, although no copies were available to the public. While in exile, RJ worked closely with his co-exiled friend, the late great Philippine hero, Ninoy Aquino, and provided inspirational oppositionist songs to the movement for a free Philippines.
During the run up to the EDSA revolution, as Marcos Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary head Fidel V. Ramos defected from the government, the Catholic Church-owned Radio Veritas, a vocal critic to the Marcos dictatorship, was bombed off the air. Upon the advice of Father James B. Reuter, S.J. and under the guard of the St. Paul nuns, Radio Veritas broadcaster, June Kiethley, with teenage Mercado brothers, Gabe and Pablo, escaped to the tower of the J&T Building, and used the in-house facilities of DZRJ to call the people to action. The guerilla radio station was aptly called, "Radyo Bandido."

Right after the peaceful Philippine revolution, RJ returned on March 5, 1986 and the military, led by Defense Minister Enrile, returned his radio stations and some of his family's steel mills.

On June 1986, manning his radio station for two weeks at 8 hours a day, awaiting the formal turnover from the military, RJ became the pied piper of retro/revival music. His call was straightforward enough, "Hi! This is Ramon Jacinto. Some of you know me as 'RJ.' Some of you don't remember me and don't even know there is a man behind the name 'RJ.' Well, I own this station but I've been gone for fourteen and a half years. Help me by calling in and suggesting what I should do...." After which, he played the music he knew best—the music of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Thousands of phone calls later, DZRJ became the leader in the revival/retro wave, like K-Earth in Los Angeles and CBS FM in New York. RJ introduced and expanded on the "Baby Boomer" marketing force.

On July 25, 1986, RJ once again scored big when he defied all odds and set up Bistro RJ, a phenomenally successful 60s rock n' Roll music lounge which became the watering hole of the movers and shakers of the country.

At that time, live bands were dead. Night life in the Philippines was confined to piano bars and discos. Bands had to travel abroad to make a living. Betting on his hunch that live bands would stage a comeback, he proved that nightspots could earn more by hiring live bands.

RJ also bet on the guitar coming back as the instrument of choice when karaoke and Yamaha Portatones were in vogue. Getting exasperated switching between his Fender Jazzmaster and his Gibson Les Paul during performances at Bistro RJ, RJ approached low-key guitar luthier Rudy Discipulo to make a guitar versatile enough to produce all the sounds he needed. Rudy came up with the Series One Roadtone which met RJ’s specifications. So impressed with the workmanship, RJ asked Rudy to embark on a business that would blossom into the now 10-store chain, RJ Guitar Center. It currently offers various, world-class RJ Guitar models and handles the exclusive distributorship of coveted Taylor, Traben, and Michael Kelly Guitars and Belcat products here in the Philippines. 

Today, RJ continues to manage his numerous businesses and is still able to perform weekly at the RJ Bar for "Thank God It's RJ!" every Friday. Likewise, he hosts the RJ Sunday Jam, which is simulcast through 2nd Avenue RJ and RJ100.3FM on Sundays from 9 AM – 12 noon. On top of that, RJ is able to perform once a month at the Captain's Bar of the Mandarin Hotel in Makati as part of The Greatest and The Latest Concert Series of RJ100.3FM 

At the age of 69, Ramon "RJ" Jacinto remains active in music and business, displaying passion and vigor that only a few can match. Ever relentless when a good idea hits him, RJ not only seeks to expand his businesses but also to capitalize on opportunities whenever they arise.