As impossible as it might seem in today’s Fender- and Gibson-dominated guitar landscape, there was a company out of Neptune, New Jersey, that soundly kicked the ass of those two industry giants for two years running. The years were 1985 and 1986, and the company in question was Kramer Guitars.
It started in the mid ’70s, as a partnership between Gary Kramer and Dennis Berardi. Out of their New Jersey plant, they produced aluminum-necked instruments that weren’t much more than a curiosity for guitarists (they fared better with bassists)—despite the fact that they used top-quality woods and hardware. Kramer wouldn’t truly come into the guitar-playing consciousness until the ’80s, when the company signed what is undoubtedly the most important endorsement deal of all time.
Edward Van Halen’s influence on guitar technique was already legendary when he took a meeting with Kramer execs in the early ’80s. They would soon find out how influential Mr. Van Halen could be on guitar sales, as well. The Van Halen endorsement coincided with a massive technological breakthrough. Responding to requests for tremolo systems that wouldn’t go out of tune under heavy use, Kramer began offering the Floyd Rose tremolo system as standard equipment on their high-end guitars just as Van Halen came on board.
“It was one of those moments where the invention, the endorser, and the popular music style all came together at once,” Rose told GP.
Kramer sales instantly shot through the roof, and soon the company’s Strat-style bodies, banana-shaped headstocks, and Floyd Rose whammies were everywhere—on arena stages, MTV, and hit records worldwide.
The onset of the 1990s was not kind to Kramer, however (nor to the music played on Kramers), and the company declared bankruptcy, eventually being purchased by Gibson in 1996. Entry-level Kramer instruments have been available for several years, but Gibson’s Epiphone division announced at the 2007 NAMM Show that they would reintroduce high-end models that recall Kramer’s glory years. The latest offerings include the USA 1984 Reissue, and the model that started it all: the kick-ass, slant pickup, Floyd-equipped Baretta. There are also several models in Kramer’s Guitart series with custom graphics that will take you right back to the age of big hair, pouty lips, makeup, and spandex (and that’s just the guys).
- Matt Blackett
Peavey’s Custom Shop 2.0
“We’re inviting musicians deeper into the design pro-cess,” says Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics.
The invitation is to Peavey’s online Custom Shop 2.0 (peaveycustomshop.com), where players can build, accessorize, and generally pimp out their very own Peavey HP Special (prices start at $1,599). DIY guitar designers can bask in a palette of 16 million colors (solid or burst), choose a carved or flat top, and select from a menu of body woods (basswood, alder, ash, or mahogany), top woods (quilt or flame maple), fretboards (birdseye maple, rosewood, ebony—all with choice of inlays or no inlays), and hardware (chrome, black, gold). Even hipper, Peavey’s patented ArtGuitar printing system gives users the ability to print any jpg image on their guitars.
Guitar Player Art Director Paul Haggard used the Peavey system to design a one-of-a-kind guitar celebrating GP’s fabulous 40 years (1967-2007). Constructing a collage of classic Guitar Player covers, Haggard rendered the design as a jpg, and used the Custom Shop 2.0 tools to size and position the image on a carved top and basswood body. Then, Haggard chose an ebony fretboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlays and chrome hardware. Choosing options is simple, as the Custom Shop interface follows a step-by-step procedure, and then offers a build summary to confirm your selections.
The result was the stunning Peavey Special Edition Guitar Player 40th Anniversary Model shown here (and also on the cover of The Ultimate Guide to Guitar and Bass Gear published by GP and Bass Player). But guess what? This very guitar—valued at $2,729—can be yours! Peavey and Guitar Player are offering the 40th Anniversary Model as an extraordinary product giveaway. Just click to guitarplayer.com to enter. There’s only one Peavey Special Edition Guitar Player 40th Anniversary Model, and wouldn’t it be marvelous and incredible if you were able to sling this beauty across your shoulder at your next gig? So don’t delay—go to guitarplayer.com right now, and check out the Peavey Custom Shop Guitar Giveaway.