Hamer Guitars was an American manufacturer of electric guitars founded in 1973, in Wilmette, Illinois, by vintage guitar shop owners Paul Hamer, and Jol Dantzig. The company's early instruments featured guitar designs based on the Gibson Explorer (The Standard) and Gibson Flying V (Vector), before adding more traditional Gibson-inspired designs such as the Sunburst. Hamer Guitars is generally considered the first "boutique" vintage-style electric guitar brand that specifically catered to professional musicians, and was the first guitar manufacturers to produce a 12 string bass guitar.
Hamer Guitars on display at a music exhibition, 2008
|Headquarters||Arlington Heights, Illinois|
|Paul Hamer, Jol Dantzig and John Montgomery|
|Parent||KMC Music |
The company was incorporated in Illinois in 1976 by John Montgomery, Jol Dantzig, James Walker and Hamer. It was acquired by Kaman Music Corporation in 1988, which was purchased in turn by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 2008. Hamer offered a wide array of electric guitars and electric basses and since its foundation, placed an emphasis on producing high-quality instruments with vintage aesthetics as well as creative innovations.
Kaman marketed a lower-priced line of Asian-built instruments called the Hamer XT Series and Slammer by Hamer, which was discontinued in 2009.
After a 4-year hiatus since Fender had discontinued the Hamer models in 2013, the brand was re-introduced as a subsidiary of KMC Music, which announced the return of Hamer Guitars at the NAMM Show that same year.
The first Hamer guitar, a Flying V bass, was built at Northern Prairie Music, a vintage instrument shop in Wilmette, Illinois, owned by Hamer and Dantzig. The shop catered to musicians who were interested in high-quality instruments. This first instrument served as the basis for a new company called Hamer Guitars.
Hamer began publicizing its instruments in 1974, with small black-and-white ads in guitar magazines. Hamer Guitars Inc. was incorporated in Illinois in 1976 by John Montgomery, Jol Dantzig, Paul Hamer and James Walker. In 1977 the company set up shop in Palatine, Illinois and employed seven workers. At this time the woodworking was being subcontracted to the Tom Holmes Company in Nashville, Tennessee, with the painting and setup (stringing) being done in the Palatine shop. Prior to that point production had been one-off custom variations on the original "Standard" and "Flying V" guitars. The new arrangement with Holmes allowed Hamer to broaden its offering by building a more mainstream instrument called the "Sunburst." Before this expansion Hamer's customers were limited to big-name touring groups such as Kiss, Bad Company, Wishbone Ash, Jethro Tull and Savoy Brown. In the late 1970s to the mid-1980s Def Leppard used Hamer guitars and basses.
To appeal to a broader market, Hamer introduced its first production guitar, the Sunburst, 1977. Production was reportedly around 10 guitars per week. During that time, the company gained more popularity due to the high-profile patronage of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen and that group's use of Hamer eight- and 12-string basses. In 1978, Frank Untermyer joined the company as part of Hamer's attempt to expand its business worldwide. Untermyer served as a partner and international sales manager.
In 1980, Hamer moved to larger quarters in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. The staff had grown to 12 and Hamer Guitars continued to launch new models, such as the "Special", "Cruisebass", "Prototype", "Blitz" and "Phantom". Paul Hamer, the company's president,and chief salesperson, left in 1987 to pursue a career in retail. Kaman Music was then approached to handle sales, while the remaining owners concentrated on manufacturing. Kaman Music agreed to purchase Hamer in late 1988.
Form this era stems the appearance of Hamer models for Heavy metal pioneers Judas Priest. Glenn Tipton's designed and used two very iconic Hamer guitars: the non-production Hamer GT Custom, introduced in 1986, and the Hamer Phantom GT. Especially designed by Tipton, the GT Custom has a unique design, loosely based on a classic asymmetric V design but optimised for balance, sporting either Seymour Duncans and EMGs pickups. The Phantom GT followed the more traditional design of a super-strat double cutaway guitar, equipped with EMG pickups. Both guitars are still used by Tipton on stage as of 2020.
After five years with Kaman, Dantzig left the company in 1993, moving to California to begin a design and consulting business.
In 1997 Kaman Music relocated Hamer to a small shop in New Hartford, Connecticut, home of Ovation Guitars. Ten employees were relocated to New Hartford along with Dantzig, who was re-hired as technical director. Untermyer had the dual role of general manager of both Hamer and Ovation. Hamer then began concentrating on a core of high-quality designs targeted at the high-end and collector market. Brand Manager Frank Rindone assumed all marketing, advertising and sales responsibilities. Along with its parent company Kaman Music, Hamer was acquired by guitar giant Fender Musical Instruments on December 31, 2007.
Hamer lives in Chicago, where he operates a retail framing business. Dantzig left Fender in 2010 to build instruments under the Jol Dantzig Guitar Design name. Untermyer left the company in 2012 and now oversees the global supply chain of guitar manufacturer C. F. Martin & Company.
As of January 25, 2017 KMC Music announced at NAMM 2017 the re-introduction of import Hamer Guitars with 5 models.
- Our brands on KMC Music website, 13 Oct 2019
- Steve Matthes, Joe Moffett (2013). The Ultimate Hamer Guitars: An Illustrated History. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7643-4352-0.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Zachary R. Fjestad (ed.). Hamer Electric Guitar Values. Blue Book of guitar Values. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- "Fender closes Hamer. Are more to follow?" by Ronnie Dungan, 28 Dec 2012
- "FMIC Suspends Hamer Production" on Premier Guitars website, 9 Jan 2013
- January 25, Press Release; 2017. "Hamer Guitars Announces 2017 Lineup". www.premierguitar.com.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- Hamer Guitars History Interview with Jol Dantzig
- Hamer Guitar History Article
- Hamer Guitar History Video
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