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Van Halen Tabs

The Demise of Kramer Guitars

By Mike of

This article was written as Internet rumors of Michael Jackson causing Kramer guitars to fail as a business. Today you can buy Kramer guitars direct from

Basically, Kramer failed not because of Michael Jackson, but because of some really bad management and a multitude of bad business decisions. Even around 1980, Guitar Center had purchased a large chunk of Kramer in order to keep it afloat. Off and on throughout the 80's, Kramer struggled even when they had the massive sales, EVH pushing them along with countless other endorsees.

Towards the end, it really started getting bad. Kramer was suffering because they had taken on so many endorsees and couldn't pay them, so people started leaving and the demise started. EVH left around 1990, as you know, to pursue the Ernie Ball. Eddie has said in interviews that it was because he found out ESP had been making the bulk of Kramer's parts for quite some time, which was true, but it was probably due to Eddie seeing the writing on the wall with Kramer. He and Dennis Berardi (ex CEO) were really good friends, so I doubt it had anything to do with the overseas connection. However, on a funny note, Eddie's 5150 neck was probably an ESP made neck, which was reglued to make the larger headstock. Most of Kramer's necks through the 80's were made by ESP. As you guys may know, George Lynch had originally approached Kramer about an endorsement deal, and most likely, he probably found out ESP had been making the bulk of their parts, so he pretty much built ESP into what it is today because of leaving Kramer to help build that company up.

The real downfall occurred when Henry Vacarro (the main owner/investor in Kramer) invested a HUGE chunk of money in the Ashbury Park renovation on the New Jersey Shore. If you watch the Sopranos, you'll see the failed building project in Season 3 when all the guys are out on the construction project. This project was invested in by Henry, Johnny Cash, The Jacksons, and countless others. Somewhere along the way, the cashflow stopped and the project was never completed leaving Henry with just about no money. With Kramer hurting and Henry having no more money to invest in it, it was really starting to become evident that Kramer was not going to make it. This is not to mention, Dennis Berardi funding many of his own projects with Kramer money, such as the Moscow Peace Festival, which Kramer put a LARGE chunk of money into. If you go back and watch that event, look at how many Kramer endorsees were playing that gig (Skid Row, Motley Crue, Gorky Park, Bon Jovi, Cinderella).

So Henry had approached the Jacksons about buying the Kramer name so the company could stay afloat around 1991. Basically Michael never paid up, hence why Henry has been in legal battles with Michael and the family for quite some time. Kramer filed for bankruptcy protection in 1991. Henry tried to resurrect the company in 1995, and when that didn't work out, Gibson finally purchased what was left of Kramer. That is why you see Gibson/Musicyo selling Kramers today.

So in essence, Kramer failed because of its own mismanagement, although Michael did play a small part in its going under. It was a matter of time though as grunge was in, Charvel/Jackson had been purchased by a large overseas company, so it was inevitable anyway, especially after Eddie left. If he had stayed on board, more than likely, Kramer would probably be in business in some shape or form to this day.

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