The Kramer Guitar was considered the axe of choice for many professional rock guitar players during the 1980s. In the past it was officially endorsed by a number of famous musicians including Eddie Van Halen, Mick Mars and Richie Sambora.
Founded in the mid-1970s in Neptune, NJ, the company produced aluminum neck guitars exclusively. Wood replaced aluminum as the material of choice in late 1981 to gain an edge in the metal music market. An exclusive deal with Floyd Rose was sealed in 1982 along with the introduction of the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo, they achieved the success they would look for.
The early aluminum necks were fitted with maple or walnut inserts to give them a better feel than aluminum alone. The fretboard was made from Ebonol, a material that is very similar to what bowling balls are made out of. The bodies were typically walnut or maple but the company experimented with exotics like Koa, Swietenia and Afromosia. High quality hardware consisted of pickups made by Schaller or DiMarzio. Experts agree that the earliest models are fine specimens that exhibit exquisite craftsmanship.
The wooden neck designs came along shortly after 1980 and by this time, Kramer was outsourcing various components to manufacturers overseas. It was the Floyd Rose pickup system, however, that gave them the marketing edge.
In 1983, the Kramer Baretta became their flagship instrument and simultaneously brought single pickup design to the forefront. Designers combined a single humbucker similar to that favored by Eddie Van Halen with a distinctive banana shaped headstock.
Schaller pickups were replaced by the Seymour Duncan brand in 1985 and the headstock became slanted and pointy the year after that. By 1986 Kramer was the leader in guitar sales.
The descent to bankruptcy was almost as steep as the rise to prominence. This didn’t take long for legal issues involving royalties, overextended endorsement contracts and a Korean labor strike to bring about their demise. Gibson Guitar Corporation bought the brand name out and turned it over to their Epiphone arm. Since the late 1990s, they have reissued many of the classic models.