More Early EVH: First Frankie, Kramer Days, Studio/Pickup Tidbits

June 29, 2009 | By | Reply More
Ed at the Kramer factory in 1984.

Ed at the Kramer factory in 1984.

Wayne Charvel Suggested an Ash Body to Ed?

Here are some more Edward Van Halen “back in the day” tidbits, though not as far back as last week’s article. We’ll go from farthest back to most recent. As with all Ed-related info, it’s best taken with a grain of salt because there’s been so much mis- and dis-information out there.

B&W Frankie

From a guy who goes by the username “tubetramp” at the MetroAmp forum, and who knew Ed before Ed was famous – confirmed because it turns out tubetramp’s real name is Terry Kilgore (Google him).

“I remember it like [it was] yesterday. It was the final experiment. He first had an early ’60s Strat that he put a DiMarzio humbucker in, painted white then black. The popular paint to use was Schwinn bicycle paint. Back then it was real lacquer. He played that one for about 6 months, but often complained the frets were to small and [he wanted] a wider neck.

“Enter Wayne Charvel. He saw Edward play at a club called Barnacle Bill’s out in [south?] Duarte [Calif.]. It was a real dump. Played there myself a dozen times – not exactly Stargroves or Leeds to be sure. Wayne approached Edward and said try a Boogie neck and ash body. [Ed] went out there and purchased some factory seconds, used black electrical tape to mask off [the body], sprayed [it] black and white, and hey, presto, there it was.

“Many modifications followed. He used a mid-’60s t-style [?] humbucker in it. I always liked the body – it had great conformation as Strats go – and the neck was a dandy. As soon as I played it I wanted one, but held off for a couple of years. Each neck was different back then. Lynn Ellsworth [of Boogie Bodies] took a long time to standardize them, and when he did they kinda lost their original feel. Ed’s was a one and three-quarter at the nut. I noticed that Ed’s guitars have very small necks on ’em now…. Remember, it wasn’t the plane, it was the guy flyin’ it.”

Hangin’ at Kramer 1

A user named plexified at the MetroAmp board used to work at NJ-based Kramer when the company picked up Ed as an endorsee. He’s picked up a lot of Ed info over the years. Here’s some choice info.

“The man was always drinking beer and eating cold pizza. He wanted Paul’s [Kramer employee] Marshall so bad it was crazy. He threw insane offers at him and always asked Paul to find him plexis and old Marshalls through the Asbury Park Press [newspaper] at the time. Over the years we found many for him.

“His sound out of his [Marshall] heads that he brought with him at times were loose on the bottom, very fat, with a warmer midrange and an apparent lack of top end to them as we played into a single cab at the factory. The circuit was really…a Super Bass. He liked the [Super] Leads to plug directly into and the [Super] Bass circuits to run his rig. He…had the [Super Leads] he liked tweaked on the front end to work with his setup.

“Eddie liked the Lead heads when plugged directly into the head and a single cab. The Super Bass was used with his large rig. A studio rig, actually. The single [Super Lead] head and cab just straight got a lot of the tone we know….

“He would tell Paul about the VOLUME. [Ed] loved to feel the hairs on his arms vibrating and [his] pant legs a-flapping whenever possible. Apparently the volume would resonate his guitar and the feedback was intense, like the final note in Eruption…or the F chord at the end of Atomic Punk.

“Every little thing was done for a reason. [Ed] f***ed with everything, and a lot of the stuff didn’t work at all on its own.

“All the little things add up to the end result of the sound. His pick, held thumb/middle finger, 8-gauge strings, PAF-style pickup on that angle and spacing with the maple neck, 500k pot (Paul sent him the 500k pot with the 150k resistor and 1000pf cap on it) and the series continues.

“In the club days, Ed’s standby was a [Les Paul] Junior. That was his reference point. The frown EQ was to simulate that pickup, and to tame the high end on the top and the bass on the bottom.”

Hangin’ at Kramer 2

Also by user “plexified” at the MetroAmp forum:

“The visits Ed made to the Kramer factory were like a young kid in a science lab. He was a butcher – not much craftsman-like skills. But to see him bounce around like a kid in a candy store…punctuated with him plugging in to either a Laney half-stack or the 15-watt Peavey [solid state] practice amp combos. In either, he tore it up. You knew you were listening to something special.

“All his personal guitars [1984 era] were shipped with Duncan PAF clones [clarified as ’59s] in zebra style with a rosewood slab underneath the pickup screwed directly to the body. All [were] wax-potted, just like stock, 500k volume pot with a 150k resistor and .001 cap piggy-backed for the highs to peek through when [the volume was] rolled back. He loved the basswood bodies and the Ripley stereo Axe in particular. It had Bartolini pickups that could pan each string left or right with a pot on each string. All blacked out and hush-hush. You hear that mostly on the first Sammy records. Burnished nickel-wound Fender strings.”

Hangin’ at Kramer 3

From a post at the forums:

“My guitar teacher worked for Kramer back in the ’80s, building guitars. He said that all the big-name guitarists of the day would come in to visit the factory, but they’d all come in and worry about their hair and go right to the offices, totally ignoring the guys building the guitars, even though they had to walk past them to get to the offices. Then one day, in 1984, Eddie van Halen came in, and instead of being like the other guys he walked in with a Heineken in his hand, went straight to the guys who were working, slammed down the beer, then went around spent time talking and playing with every single guy out there building guitars. He came over to my teacher, talked for awhile, took a nearby guitar my teacher thought was crap, played for a second and goes, ‘Man, this thing’s a piece of shit’ and threw it to the side. My teacher said as a person, he’s the nicest guy….”

Category: Edward Van Halen, Kramer, Marshall, Seymour Duncan

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