Kramer Guitars – The rock guru has risen again

By | April 4, 2021


According to information from several sources, Kramer was the best-selling electric guitar brand in 1985 and 1986, but in December 1989, the company was declared bankrupt.

That the crash occurred during the last trembling days of the 80’s is extremely symbolic. Few guitar brands were as associated with 80s hard rock as Kramer.

Well known buyer
The business continued until June 1990. Two years later, Michael Jackson (!) Appeared on stage and bought what was left of Kramer through one of his companies. That adventure ended badly, with, among other things, a seized grand piano, on which Jackson is said to have written the Thriller songs, and two Rolls Royces.

The company was revived in the spring of 1995 and sold to Gibson in the autumn of 1996. In 2012, Kramer had a rather hidden role in the Gibson family, clearly under Epiphone in the notch for the brands. But there are at least reissues of some well-known models.

How could it go like this? What happened to the guitar brand that was perhaps more than anything else associated with the poodle coat?

Let’s take it from the beginning. In the 70’s, Kramer made a name for himself with electric guitars that had aluminum necks. But it was in the 80’s that more traditional constructions aimed at hard rockers took off.

It was above all a specific guitar that was mentioned: Eddie van Halens, with the name 5150. There are different versions of how it went when Eddie’s guitar was built in 1984, and what it really was for creation. It seems that the body was basically a Pacer Special.

There are several details on the 5150 that became style-forming among the hard rockers of the 80’s, for example that there was only one humbucker and one volume control. And of course the Floyd Rose stable.

Heated Strata
The finish, or whatever you want to call it, with white tape against a red background, became a hallmark of Van Halen. The so-called banana head came from 1984 to be found on production models from Kramer. There has been a reissue of 5150 for a while, with the name Kramer in 1984. Today, The 84 is in the range.

It’s basically a heated Stratocaster copy. Less stubborn ones than the 5150 are still popular rock guitars today. Van Halen’s involvement really set things in motion for Kramer. But what happened next?

The style of music that Kramer was associated with died, and with that Kramer. Some historians like to claim that the company Kramer was as excessive in terms of money as the musicians who played their guitars were with alcohol, drugs and sex.

But most of it is probably about a brand that was so associated with a certain sound ideal and aesthetic ideal could not survive on its own. The lesson is that you should have a diversified range.

Kramer Guitars

What: American electric guitar brand.
Status: Now part of the Gibson Group.
History: Bestseller in the 80’s when Kramer was intimately associated with the hair (d) coat.
Well-known models: Baretta and Pacer.
A special Kramer: Eddie van Halens 5150 which he reportedly built himself in Kramer’s old factory in New Jersey. Famous guitarists who used Kramer: Eddie Van Halen, but also stars like Tom Morello, Richie Sambora, Mick Mars and Vivian Campbell.

The article was previously published in Studio 4-2012