One of the Gary Kramer 1983 Duke Bass guitars.
The Duke was also available as a six-string.
The new series of guitars had the new
neck and a pronounced double-cutaway
body very similar to the Travis Bean guitars
in appearance. Most of the accessories
on these guitars were completely Kramer
designed, like the active pickups and the
bridges. One of the more innovative designs
Kramer offered at this time was the Duke
bass, which was a headless bass guitar with
the tuners attached to the body. This preceded the Steinberger by several years, and
showed the company’s intention to move
into more original designs.
By the time more contemporary guitars were
designed, Gary Kramer had left the company (see sidebar story) but Kramer guitars
continued to redesign their products with
Berardi and luthier Phil Petillo. Beginning in
1983, Kramer guitars took on a more Strat-shaped appearance and all-wooden necks.
64 PREMIER GUITAR GREATEST HITS VOL. 1 82 R T 124 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2009
Calling these “Pacer” models, Kramer began
to feature a double-locking tremolo made
by Rockinger, a German company. Eddie Van
Halen appeared in ads with a Pacer series
guitar and the tremolo was listed as the
“Eddie Van Halen Tremolo.” It was during
this time that a new contraption by a guitar
tech named Floyd Rose entered the scene.
It was a double-locking tremolo, much like
the Rockinger, but it had a two-point floating pivot rather than the six-screw anchoring of the Rockinger. As Kramer continued
to evolve, they discontinued the use of the
Rockinger and began using the Floyd Rose
tremolo, which was exclusive to all Kramer
guitars by 1984. By then, Kramer had started
adding other body shapes with exotic
graphic paint jobs.
At that time, in order to get a Floyd on your
Charvel/Jackson guitar (or any other custom
manufactured guitar), you had to buy one
and send it to them to put it on your order.
Kramer owned the rights and distribution
to the Floyd Rose until the late eighties. As
an alternative to the Floyd Rose, companies
offered the Kahler tremolo bridge, which
was more like a moving tailpiece that passed
the strings over roller saddles. One key
point of difference was that it stayed in tune
with the use of a lockpiece on the headstock
behind an existing nut. It proved less desirable because this design didn’t eliminate
friction at the nut, and the tailpiece didn’t
have enough of a break angle to increase
sustain. The Floyd Rose was preferable
because of its tuning stability and sustain.
Kramers had all the custom hot-rod options
already done to them: high-output pickups,
a Floyd Rose tremolo, flat-radius necks and
flashy paintjobs. It seemed they had taken
what Charvel had started and mass mar-
keted it. Soon, players everywhere needed
to have guitars that were “souped-up” with
the appointments introduced into the main-
stream by these east and west coast branch-
es of the guitar industry. They were highly
influential and became the standards to
follow. Guitar playing had gone into a whole
new realm, and shredding was becoming
a competitive sport. Even more traditional
rock players like Peter Frampton and Neal
Schon were using customized hot-rodded
guitars that suited their playing styles.
To Mod, or Not to Mod?
The general components needed to hot-rod
a guitar were focused on increasing the performance capability of the electric guitar—as
I had done to my Les Paul, increasing sustain
by changing the tailpiece and the bridge
pickup. It was finding a way to improve my
guitar to meet the standards of the playing
trends before finally buying a new guitar
that met those standards more completely.
But there were those who didn’t want a new
guitar. If there was a will, there was a
A 1981 Kramer Pacer