The History of Hamer, Part Four

Part Four
Part Four

Well, we near the end of the long tale of Hamer USA Guitars, a saga that began in the early 1970s and is today a great success story in American guitardom. For this installment we bring the litany of Hamer guitars up to date…

Not resting on its laurels, yet two more new Hamer models debuted in ’94 – the Eclipse and the Mirage.

The Eclipse (Model GECS) was a new asymmetrical offset double-cutaway design with short horns, the upper somewhat larger and rounded, the lower more pointed, and a rounded lower bout. The body and glued-in neck were all-mahogany with a black-faced three-and-three Hamer headstock and screened logo. The 22-fret rosewood fingerboard had a 243/4″ scale and dot inlays. The Eclipse sported two Seymour Duncan mini-humbucking pickups with three-way select, one volume and one tone control. The bridge was a Wilkinson Hardtail Wrap Around, and the nut a Lubritrak. An Eclipse 12-String was also available with the same specs. These were offered in Black, Cherry Transparent, Candy Green, Ferrari Red, and Vintage Orange. The Eclipses were eclipsed in ’98.

The Mirage, also introduced in ’94, was another upscale model in an upscale world. It had just slightly offset double cutaways with a slightly extended upper horn and a slightly deeper treble cutaway. Otherwise it was similar to the Sunburst. The body was mahogany with a carved, figured koa top with a glued-in mahogany neck. The 22-fret rosewood fingerboard had a 251/2″ scale, dot inlays, and a Hamer three-and-three head. The Mirage was equipped with three Seymour Duncan single-coil-sized humbuckers (all perpendicular to the strings) – a Hot Rail at the bridge and two split-rail Vintage Rails. These were controlled by a five-way select and one volume and one tone control. A mini-toggle bypassed the volume control for instant lead mode. The vibrato was a non-locking Wilkinson VSV vibrato combined with chrome locking Sperzel tuners. Finish options included Cherry Transparent and natural.

In ’95 the Mirage was joined by the Mirage II, which differed in that it had a carved maple top and two Seymour Duncan humbuckers, with three-way select and no bypass switch. Finishes included ’59 Burst, Honey, Kool Blue, Red Transparent and Tobacco Sunburst. Otherwise, it was similar to the Mirage.

The Mirage and Mirage II lasted until ’97 or ’98, when they were replaced by the Mirage Maple Top (essentially the Mirage II with a flamed maple top), Seymour Duncan ’59 and JB humbuckers, and locking Schaller tuners. This model came in honey, kool blue, and red transparent. The Mirage Maple Top disappeared after only a year.

Artist Archtop, et al
In ’95 Hamer introduced the Artist Archtop (Model GATA), the Studio Archtop Artist, and the new version of the CruiseBass.

The Artist Archtop (sometimes also called the Artist Arched Top or Archtop Artist -fun, eh?) was very similar to the Sunburst Archtop, introduced in ’91. And like the Sunburst Archtop, the Artist Archtop played more name games as it evolved. The Artist Archtop was an equal double-cutaway (as with most Hamers, upper horn slightly extended) with a mahogany body and ivoroid-bound carved flamed maple top. Other features similar to the Sunburst Archtop included a mahogany neck, Hamer three-and-three headstock (blackface), a bound 22-fret, 243/4″ scale rosewood fingerboard with crown inlays, finetune bridge, stop tailpiece, twin humbuckers, three-way select, volume, and two tones. There were two primary differences; first the Artist Archtop was a semi-hollowbody with a sound chamber and f-hole, and the second was in pickups, which were Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers.

After the relocation, the Artist Archtop became known as the Artist Custom, the name it carries today.

Also introduced in ’95 was the Studio Archtop Artist. This was essentially the same as the Archtop Artist, except it lacked body and fingerboard binding, and had dot inlays. The original version also had a Wilkinson Wrap Around bridge, although by ’97 this had changed to a finetune bridge and stop tailpiece. By ’96 the name had changed to become simply the Artist Studio (Model GATA-SO). In ’97, the name changed again to just plain Artist. This model remains in the line to this day.

There would be further variations on the Artist Series, as it became known, but we’ll come back to this in a moment.

In ’95, Hamer brought back a number of variations on the venerable CruiseBass, the original of which had run from ’82 to ’90. The first had the sleek offset double-cutaway body similar to the Phantom guitar, with pointed horns (the upper extended), glued-in neck, and a three-and-three headstock, which changed to a four-in-line. The new version (Model BCRS) was redesigned to have a much more rounded form, much closer to a Fender bass design, just slightly more exaggerated waists. The upper horn remained extended, but was much thicker. The body was now made of alder, and the maple neck was bolted on, with the four-in-line headstock. The pickguard was a natty laminated tortoise affair, sort of oval extending under the strings from the neck, but with a kind of batwing extension over the treble cutaway horn. The rosewood fingerboard was now 22 frets (34″ scale), still with pearl dot inlays. Replacing the former P and J-style pickups were a pair of Duncan Vintage Jazz J-style units, one pickguard-mounted, the other on the top near the Gotoh bridge/tailpiece assembly. Controls remained two volumes and a tone. Color options in ’96 included two-tone sunburst, black cherry ‘burst, candy red, candy blue, candy green, emerald green, and white transparent.

Alongside the four-string CruiseBass was the CruiseBass Five (Model BC5T). The Five was essentially the same as the four-string except for having a 2-Tek bridge/tailpiece mounted through the body, and the addition of a fifth tuner on the bottom of the headstock.

Also part of the ’95 CruiseBass line was the 2-Tek CruiseBass (Model BCRT). This was identical to the CruiseBass except for having the 2-Tek through-body bridge assembly.

Finally, all three Cruisebasses were available in fretless versions (Models BCRTF, BCRSF, and BC5TF) identical except for a Madagascar ebony fingerboard inlaid with maple markers.

These remain in the line today.

Standard Revisited
The Hamer Standard, the upscale Explorer copy that started it all back in ’74, was discontinued in ’85. However, in the new “vintage” environment of the ’90s, the model was revived in ’95. It met the same specs as the original, with a one-piece mahogany body, bound bookmatched flamed maple top, glued-in mahogany neck, droopy six-in-line headstock, twin humbuckers, finetune, stoptail, three-way, volume and two tones. It was available in two versions – the Custom (Model GTSC) and Standard (Model GTSS). The Standard Custom had a bound rosewood fingerboard with crown mother-of-pearl inlays. The Standard had no binding on the fingerboard, and dot inlays.

In ’95/’96 Hamer produced a limited number of Korina Standards, versions of the original Gibson Explorer of ’58. These featured “korina” bodies with unbound rosewood fingerboards, dot inlays, covered humbuckers, and black pickguards. Korina is a term which is generally applied to a lightweight mahogany-like tonewood known as African Limba. It is sometimes incorrectly applied to guitars which look similar but are made of other woods, such as ash.

The Standard Custom remains in the line to this day. The Standard lasted only through ’97 and the move, when it became part of the Import series.

In ’97, Kaman/Ovation found itself with excess capacity in its New Hartford, Connecticut, factory and operating a second (Hamer) factory in suburban Chicago. This did not really make good business sense. Double expenses and not operating at full capacity at one plant that could easily absorb the other operation. The decision was made to consolidate all guitarmaking activities in Connecticut, and the Illinois factory was closed.

The move occasioned a realignment of the product line. Some models were dropped, others renamed, and new ones added.

At the end of ’96, the Hamer line consisted of the Standard, Special, Special FM, Vintage S, T-51, Californian Elite, Californian Custom, Diablo, Diablo II, Daytona, DuoTone, Eclipse, Mirage, Mirage Maple Top, Archtop Artist, Studio Archtop Artist, Short-Scale 8-String Bass, Short-Scale 12-String Bass, Long-Scale Acoustic 12-String Bass, 12-String Chaparral Bass, and CruiseBass.

After the move, models that survived included the Standard, Special, Special FM (renamed the Special Custom), DuoTone, Eclipse, Mirage Maple Top, Archtop Artist (renamed the Artist Custom), Studio Archtop Artist (renamed Artist), Short-Scale 8-String Bass, Long-Scale Acoustic 12-String Bass, and CruiseBass. Noticeably absent were most of the Strat-style models such as the Californian, Diablo and Daytona, and the T-51 Tele, though some would soon reappear as Import models.

The Eclipse and Mirage Maple Top disappeared after ’98. It was also in ’98 that Hamer shifted its Korean-made guitars from Slammers to Import Series and began applying the Slammer by Hamer brand to guitars made in Indonesia.

Artist Ultimate
Around the time of the move Hamer introduced another variation on its semi-hollow Artist guitar, a top-of-the-line Hamer Artist Ultimate (ARTULT). This was a spectacular guitar, substantially the same as the carved-top Artist but with some extra-fancy features. Not only were the highly figured maple top, soundhole, ebony fingerboard and headstock bound, the body binding included mother-of-pearl. The headstock logo was also pearl inlay. The ‘board was adorned with pearl crown inlays. Tuners were Grover Super Rotomatics, with the “Art Deco” buttons. Hardware was gold. Pickups were hand-wound using oxygen-free Monster Cable wire, with gold covers signed by Seymour Duncan himself. Finish was a brownish-red called Cognac. This came with a special alligator hardshell case. The Artist Ultimate remains atop the Hamer line to this day.

Phantom Revisited
Also in ’97, Hamer reintroduced one of its earliest original designs, the Prototype, using another model name, the Phantom (PHAN). This had the Prototype’s equal double-cutaway body with the extended upper horn and rounded lower bout. As before, this new Phantom’s triple-coil pickup was a combination of a humbucker and single-coil in a single pickup ring. Pickups were now Seymour Duncans. The Phantom had a Honduras mahogany body, glued-in neck, three-and-three headstock, 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays, finetune bridge and stop tailpiece. There was a small black pickup, three-way select, volume and tone controls. The Phantom came in two-tone sunburst, black, and TV blond finishes. This Phantom lasted only a year before it was replaced by the Phantom Custom (PHANC).

The Phantom Custom was basically a Prototype Custom with a triple-coil pickup at the bridge and slanted single-coil neck pickup, plus an unbound flamed maple top. The pickguard was laminated pearloid. The fingerboard remained unbound rosewood with pearl dots. The primary difference between the new Phantom and the old Prototype was pickup selection. Instead of a lever, the Phantom Custom featured a five-way rotary selector which offered the neck single-coil, neck and bridge single-coils, bridge single-coil, all three bridge coils, and the bridge humbucker – plus master volume and tone. Colors were Amberburst and Vintage Orange. The Phantom Custom remains in the line to this day.

Rick Nielsen Limited Edition
In ’98, Hamer hooked up again with long-time supporter and enthusiast Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick to develop the Rick Nielsen Limited Edition. This was more or less a version of the ’96 Gibson Futura. Futura is the name applied to some early ’58 Gibson Explorer’s which were closer to the prototype sketch in the patent application than subsequent production models. These had much narrower waists than the typical Explorer, plus an asymmetrical split-V headstock (kind of a lopsided version of a Dean head), as opposed to the scimitar. Futura was not the official name of this model. In ’96 Gibson made a limited run of 100 replicas of these early Explorers called the Futura. This is not to be confused with the ’82-’84 Gibson Futura, which was a totally different modernistically designed guitar! In any case, the Rick Nielsen Limited Edition was its take on this venerable classic, with the lower bout as wide as an Explorer, but the waists very narrow (and consequently thinner treble horn), yielding a very dramatic presentation. The headstock was the split-V three-and-three with a black face. The treble horn had a white pickguard with a Rick Nielsen logo. Two covered Duncan pickups were operated with a three-way, volume, and two tones. A finetune bridge and stop tailpiece completed the outfit. As with the Gibson, this was a limited edition guitar.

Artist – 25th Anniversary
In ’99, Hamer continued its juggernaut with the introduction of a flurry of new semi-hollow Artist models in celebration of the company’s 25th anniversary. Actually, this is misleading because, as we’ve documented, the company really began in ’73 and kind of evolved into existence over the next couple of years. However, ’74 was the year the first Standard (Explorer) appeared, so that is apparently the marker being used.

The Hamer 25th Anniversary Edition (AN25E) featured Hamer’s now trademark equal double-cutaway shape with the slightly larger bass horn, glued-in neck, three-and-three head, f-hole, Seymour Duncan JB and ’59 humbuckers (covered), Grover tuners, finetune bridge, and stop tailpiece. The fingerboard was unbound mahogany with dot inlays. The body and neck were of mahogany, but the distinguishing feature was a carved top made of bookmatched “chevron” mahogany, a highly figured variety with dark striations.

Also offered was the upscale Hamer 25th Anniversary Limited Edition (AN25L). This differed from the regular edition in that it sported a bound flamed maple top (even the f-hole was bound) and a bound ebony fingerboard (and head) with pearl crown inlays. Pickups were Seymour Duncan Custom and Pearly Gates humbuckers. However, the truly deluxe features were “25th Anniversary” – engraved sterling silver truss rod cover and back control plate, a line of sterling silver purfling on the inside of the body binding, and a special silver-colored hardshell case!

The 25th Anniversary Edition and 25th Anniversary Limited Edition were both finished in transparent cherry and were offered in ’99 only.

In ’99 Hamer introduced the Vanguard, yet another in its semi-hollowbody Artist series. Essentially, this was the Artist equivalent of the Archtop GT, featuring two Duncan P-90s with black covers. Otherwise it was similar to the f-holed Artist with one exception – it was finished entirely in silver sparkle. It remains available.

The latest addition to the USA line is the Newport, also introduced in ’99. It’s essentially a hollowbody version of the Artist, but with a wider body and a pair of f-holes. The body and neck are mahogany, the top carved, arched spruce. The neck is glued in, with the three-and-three headstock. The 22-fret rosewood fingerboard is bound with pearl dot inlays. Pickups include two Duncan Phat Cat single-coils, with three-way select, volume, and tone controls. The bridge is a finetune coupled with a Bigsby vibrato. Tuners were the “Art Deco” Grover Super Rotomatics. Finish was transparent orange. A similar Newport Pro model was also offered, identical except for a pair of Duncan Seth Lover humbuckers and a stop tailpiece. These remain in the line, and pretty much define the state of the Hamer art!

Import Series
As mentioned, ca. ’97 Hamer began to shift its Korean imports from the Slammer Series into the Import Series, switching Slammer production to Indonesia. The Import Series, sometimes called the Hamer Guitar, was intended to be the company’s mid-line offering. Since Korean manufacturers have dramatically improved their quality in recent years, these are high-quality guitars, designed in the U.S. and made overseas. Hamer’s Korean Imports carry the Hamer logo (no “USA,” see the sidebar on logos).

In ’98 the Import Series included the Sunburst Arch Top Flame Top (SATF), Standard (STD), Rick Nielsen Signature (RNS), Echotone (ECO), Stellar 1 (ST1), Californian (CAL), Diablo (DAB), and Cruise 4 (CRS) and Cruise 5 (CRV) basses. The Sunburst Arch Top Flame Top, Californian, Diablo, and Cruise basses were continuations of previous Slammer models. As alluded to earlier, in terms of design the Import Series was very similar to their previous American counterparts, although materials were sometimes different. Pickups on the Import Series were Duncan Designed.

The Import Sunburst Arch Top Flame Top was basically the equivalent of the Hamer USA Studio, which descended from the Sunburst Archtop Standard. Carved flame maple top over mahogany, rosewood dotneck with three-and-three head. Color options were Cherry Sunburst, Purpleburst and Blueburst.

The Import Standard basically replaced the old USA Standard. This looked like the old model, complete with pickguard, but was now made of solid maple with a glued-in neck and scimitar headstock.

The Import Echotone and Stellar 1 did not have USA equivalents. The Echotone was basically a version of the semi-hollowbody Gibson ES-335. With a glued-in neck, the Echotone had bound solid maple top and back with bound f-holes. The 22-fret fingerboard was bound rosewood with dots. Twin humbuckers, three-way, two volumes and two tones, finetune bridge, stop tailpiece and elevated black laminated pickguard completed the picture.

The Import Stellar 1 was clearly a nod to the success of Paul Reed Smith guitars, with slightly offset double-cutaways, the upper horn extended a bit. This featured a maple body with a set maple neck. The top was carved, highly figured “silky maple.” The unbound two-octave fingerboard had pearl dot inlays. A three-way, volume, tone, finetune bridge and stop tailpiece rounded out the Stellar 1.

The Import Californian was our old 27-fret friend, again pretty much the same except for having a solid maple neck and body.

The Import Diablo, too, was similar to its forebear, with maple body and neck.

The Import Cruise basses were replicas of the latter model, with the Fender-style profile and the little batwing pickguard. Body and neck were maple.

The Hamer Import Series remains available to this day.

Modern players
The list of Hamer artists currently featured on their website (www.kaman is considerably smaller than the peak of the mid ’80s, but includes Gary Bell, Felicia Collins, Stephan Jenkins and Kevin Gadogan of Third Eye Blind, Shane Theriot of the Neville Brothers, Joel Shearer, David Sinclair (Sarah McLachlan), Mark Rivera, Lyle Workman, Billy Joel, longtime friend Wolf Hoffmann, and of course, Rick Nielsen.

There have been a lot of Hamer guitars over the last quarter century. Curiously enough, most have held their own very well in the used in vintage markets in terms of value, a tribute to their intrinsic quality and the heart that the Hamer folks put into their products. Looking at the company today, it’s interesting that Hamer still has somewhat of an ambivalent image, somewhere between high-end boutique and budget vintage, perhaps best summarized (yea, perpetuated) by its own well-used advertising slogan, “modern vintage.” Well, after surviving this long, Hamer can now lay claim to some “real vintage” guitars, too. The founders may not have quite gotten it, but Hamer guitars sure didn’t turn out to be a mistake. And now you know all about them…

Dating Hamers
The first Hamer Standard was numbered #0000 (stamped into the wood) and subse-quently consecutive numbers were used on all guitars until 1977. By 1980 most models had switched to a second system, however, some continued to be produced bearing 4-digit numbers until 1985, mostly Standards, Eight- and Twelve-string basses. Approximately 750 guitars were made with 4-digit serial numbers.

Beginning in 1977 with the Sunburst, a new system was initiated in which the first digit represents the year and the following numbers (four or more) are the running total of all guitars numbered using this method (Y XXXX). By ’80 most models used this second system. Numbers were stamped on the guitars, either in ink or black paint, or in yellow on dark instruments. Guitar #8 0196 would be from 1978 and was the 196th guitar numbered that way. Guitar #8 21416 was made in 1988 and was the 21,416th guitar so numbered. Beginning in late 1987 serial numbers were again stamped into the wood.

Many one-of-a-kind and prototype instruments have numbers that do not relate to either of the two numbering systems.

Slammer by Hamer
By 1996, Hamer had begun to modify its import strategy and made a transition for its Ko-rean models which would end up being called the Import Series – basically upscale copies of its better Hamer USA guitars, still made in Korea. The Slammer brand name was switched to more down-market guitars made in Indonesia. These Indonesian models were then called Slammer by Hamers, with the Hamer block logotype. Early Indonesian Slammers from ’96 featured a “Slammer by Hamer” logo, with “Slammer” in the Hamer block lettering and “by Hamer” small underneath. Three guitars and one bass were offered. All were in a more conventional Fender-style mode. The guitars were Strats with Hamer six-in-line heads, the bass Fender-style. All had bolt-on maple necks, rosewood fingerboards, dot inlays, and pearloid pickguards. Guitars had traditional non-locking vibratos. The Slammer DA3 guitar had three single-coil pickups with a five-way ($269.50). It came in three-tone sunburst (SB), copper metallic (CM), and jet black (BK). The DA212 had a humbucker/single/humbucker layout ($289.50), in black only. The DA21 had twin humbuckers ($279.50), in copper metallic only.

These Slammer by Hamers were probably available through the move to Connecticut. By late ’98 the logo treatment on the Indonesian Slammers changed to a more contemporary “italic” typeface. The name had changed but the appearance was still generic.

Slammer by Hamers available in late ’98 included the Pacer PCC3 (Strat copy with pickguard, three single-coils, traditional vibrato), Centaura CT21 (superstrat with humbucker/single/single pickups and locking Floyd Rose), Special SP1 (Special shape, solid wood, twin buckers), Special 2 SP2 (single-cutaway modified Les Paul shape with body binding), XP-Standard XP1 (Explorer with pickguard), Vector VK1 (Flying V with Modern-style V-head), Chaparral Bass CP4 (one P-style pickup), and the Blitz Bass BZ4 (two J-style pickups). All came with bolt-on maple necks, unbound rosewood fingerboards, dot inlays and chrome hardware. Finishes included Black, Transparent Wine Red, Sunburst, Silver Sunburst, Two-Tone Sunburst, Red Metallic, Transparent Blue, and Purple Metallic, though not all finishes were available on all models. They remain in the line.

Hamer’s headstock logos can be misleading. For American-made models, from ’74 to ’97, the logo can be either Hamer or Hamer USA (with “USA” a little postscript to the final “r”), although for the most part the logos are Hamer USA. Some models around the early ’80s also added a checkerboard pattern. From ’97 or so, all American-made models have Hamer USA logos.

From ’90 to around ’96 Korean-made Hamers carried logos that read “Hamer Slammer Series,” with the Hamer block typeface, “Hamer” big, “Slammer Series” underneath. Ca. ’96 Indonesian-made models began coming in with “Slammer by Hamer” logos – “by Hamer” small underneath, Slammer in block letters. By 1998 these logos had changed to a more stylized, italicized typeface. As the Korean-made Hamers made their transition to become the Import Series around ’98, the logo simply read Hamer, in Hamer block type, no “USA.”

So you shouldn’t have trouble identifying a Slammer import. However, an early American model may or may not have “USA” as part of the logo, but after ’98 absence of “USA” in the logo indicates the guitar is imported.

The first run of Hamer Stan-dards in ’74 were fitted with a Gibson-style tune-o-matic finetune bridge and stop tailpiece. When the Sunburst debuted in ’77 it sported a Fender-style non-vibrato bridge with a rosewood shim to raise the height of the bridge. Strings passed through the body. The shim proved unsatisfactory, and in late ’78 Hamer introduced the Sustain-block bridge, a chrome-plated solid milled-brass unit thick enough to dispense with the shim. These were used on most fixed-bridge guitars, including the Special, Prototype, Vector, TLE and FB I, at least up to ’90. Saddles varied, with smaller ones used between ’81 and ’83, and a slightly altered style (the same as on the vibrato) thereafter.

The Sustain-block vibrato basically used the same components as the fixed version, with the bridge pivoting on two points. Springs attached inside the body in the back, as on Fender-style designs. Relatively few were used, mainly on ’83 Phantom A5 and Blitz guitars, after which the fashion for locking vibrato systems supplanted the Sustain-block vibrato.

Beginning in ’83, locking vibrato systems predominated. Kahler flat-mounts were used on the Phantom, Scarab, and early Blitz models. When the headstock on the Blitz was changed to an angled version, a Floyd Rose was employed. By the ’90s, virtually all other vibrato guitars featured Schaller Floyd Rose systems, cast with a Hamer logo.

Ca. ’92, as the vogue for locking vibratos began to wane, guitars such as the Vintage S and T-62 were fitted with a non-locking ABM roller-saddle bridge. Recent stoptail models are generally fitted with Schaller tune-o-matic bridges and tailpiece, including the Archtop, Special and Standard reissue. Recent Studio versions of the Archtop and Archtop Artiste feature Wilkinson single-piece hardtail bridges. The Daytona, Mirage and T-51 have either Wilkinson VSV vibratos or HT100 stoptails.

12-string bridges were originally a Hamer design, which allowed individual intonation of each string. However, recent 12-strings have been fitted with a stock Wilkinson design.

Until recently, virtually all four and five-string basses featured Schaller-made bridge units with the Hamer logo. In the mid ’80s the Kahler bass vibrato was offered as an option. Bridge units on the multi-string basses were of Hamer’s design, allowing individual intonation of each string. Recently, the CruiseBass began to offer an option 2-Tek bridge.

As with most other features, Hamer will install any bridge, so if you find something not described here, that doesn’t mean it has been modified.

1974-’80 – Grover
1980-’82 – Schaller
1982 – Hamer (Schallers with Hamer logo)
1982-ca. ’90 – Hamerlock (locking Schallers)
Ca. ’90 – Sperzel locking
Ca. ’98 – Grover Super Rotomatic (on select models)
Different tuners can be special ordered.

Hamer guitars and basses have used a number of pickups over the years. The following guidelines can help determine if a guitar is in original condition, but this information should be used with caution. Always keep in mind that Hamer has always offered to install any type of pickup requested by a customer – so just because a guitar doesn’t fit the description doesn’t necessarily mean the pickups aren’t original.

The first few Standards were fitted with original Gibson PAF humbuckers, many of them non-functioning units obtained from the repair shop at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo and rewound by Larry DiMarzio. It soon became clear that the supply of vintage Gibson PAFs, even broken ones, would not be adequate to support new guitar production, so Hamer commissioned DiMarzio to produce humbuckers to its own specs. These almost always came with a cream bobbin on the bridge pickup and a zebra (cream/black) bobbin on the neck pickup. These were used on virtually all two-humbucker Hamers up to ’82. Single-coil pickups used on the Prototypes were also DiMarzios. From ’82 until the early ’90s Hamer used “Hamer Slammers” – black-bobbined humbuckers with “Hamer” stamped on the bottom plate. These, too, were made by DiMarzio.

Many guitars built between ’86 and ’89 came with OBL pickups made in Germany. OBLs were mainly used on the “Custom” models, though some show up on standard instruments. Beginning in ’87 many Hamers had EMG pickups. Also beginning in ’87 Hamer began using Seymour Duncan pickups. Most recent guitars feature Duncans, though the Diablo has DiMarzios, and, again, a customer may order any other type of pickup.

1974 – Original Gibson PAF humbuckers (many rewound by DiMarzio)
1975-’82 – DiMarzio humbucker and single-coils (cream/zebra)
1982-ca. ’92 – Hamer Slammer humbuckers and single-coils (black, DiMarzio)
1986-’89 – OBL (German)
1987 – EMG
1987 – Seymour Duncan

Early Hamer 8-String and Standard Basses were fitted with DiMarzio X2N bass pickups, often with an active preamp. Ca. ’82 most came with passive DiMarzio P and J-type, with exposed polepieces. Beginning in ’85 most were fitted with Hamer Slammers (by DiMarzio), which feature covers, not open coils. From ’86 to ’88 some came with German OBL pickups, including HB types. Beginning in around ’88 Hamer basses increasingly used EMG pickups, which began replacing Hamer Slammers. Some recent basses use Seymour Duncans. Again, any kind of pickup may have been ordered by the original customer.

1975-’85 – DiMarzio X2N (with or without active preamp)
1982-’85 – DiMarzio P- and J-type (open-coil, passive)
1985-ca. ’90 – Hamer Slammer (covered, DiMarzio)
1986-’88 – OBL (German)
1988 – EMG
1995 – Seymour Duncan

Special thanks to Andrew Large, Steve Matthes, and Peter Fung for their help assembling this information. Also, thanks to Jol Dantzig for helping to paint the “big picture.”

Custom-made Firebird made for Scotti Hill of Skid Row. Photo: Peter A. Fung

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Sep. ’00 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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