The Demise of Kramer Guitars
By Mike of vintagekramer.com
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 MusicYo.com.
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
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
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.