It was way back in 1973 that some guys decided to start Hamer Guitars, a manufacturer of electric guitars. In Wilmette, Illinois, four owners of a vintage guitar shop were inspired to create their own ”boutique” electric guitars. In the beginning, they based their creation on Gibson guitars, like the Flying V.
Knowing the history of a guitar company can help you when it comes to determining which guitar you'll buy for your own musical endeavors. The longevity of a company says a lot – the fact that someone would bring back a name that has been off the market for years means even more.
What Made Them a “Boutique” Manufacturer?
Hamer Guitars was considered a boutique manufacturer because they catered to the professional musician, as opposed to people that just wanted to toy around with a guitar. The fact that these guitars were aimed toward professional players is reflected in the cost.
The names behind the start of Hamer Guitars are Paul Hamer, James, Walker, Jol Dantzig, and John Montgomery. Of their accomplishments, Hamer Guitars was one of the first to ever produce a 12-string bass guitar (though one would question why a bass guitar would need 12 strings). Hamer had a name for making electric basses and electric guitars that had superior-quality with a vintage feel. They were a creative and innovative company.
Hamer Guitars' Timeline
Hamer has been on the market for awhile, and then it was off the market for awhile. This timeline will show you that you can't keep a good product down.
- 1976 – It wasn't that long after their humble beginnings in 1973 that the group would incorporate the company. That was in 1976. Then in 1988 Hamer Guitars was taken over by Kaman Music Corporation.
- 2008 – As things go with major companies of all kinds out there in the world, in 2008 Kaman would be purchased by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, putting Fender in charge of the Hamer name. Under each owner, Hamer Guitars would expand.
- 2009 – Kaman created an Asian-built line, the Hamer XT Series and the Slammer by Hamer – manufactured to be a lower-priced option for the enthusiasts that don't have the cash of famous rock stars. Lower-priced didn't mean less quality though. These lines were discontinued in 2009.
- 2013 – It was in 2013 that Fender opted to discontinue the Hamer Guitar name. Sales had declined, so production stopped. That could have been the end of a legacy of guitars played by many big names in the music industry – but it wasn't.
- 2017 – In fact, in 2017 it was announced that Hamer Guitars would return. Hamer Guitars is now a subsidiary of KMC Music.
KMC is a “guitar warehouse” that works with many reputable guitar names, including Washburn Guitars and Martin & Co. Strings. By looking at the names they work with you can be assured that their work with the new versions of Hamer Guitars is as high-quality as the original products.
The New Hamer Guitars
According to the announcement made by KMC Music in early 2017, the refreshed and reanimated line-up would include six reissues. This redo would be inspired by their best-selling Import Series of guitars, featuring classic Hamer designs. Still making quality work that musicians came to expect from the original Hamer designs.
The KMC website, however, only lists four guitars in the Hamer name. Here's a look at the current Hamer Guitars.
The Special Jr. is similar to the original Sunburst guitar from the 80s. It doesn't have the arched top of the Sunburst. This guitar has more to it than it appears.
It is a double cutaway design made with a mahogany neck and body, and a rosewood fretboard. It has a Tune-o-matic bridge and is equipped with one Dog Ear single coil pickup. You can grab the SPJ for about $699.
This is the first of two Archtop options currently available in Hamer Guitars. The Sunburst SATF-TBK matches the original design of the Hamer Studio guitar created in 1977. It can be yours for just under $800.
This Sunburst comes with a gorgeous mahogany body and neck. Maple veneer over transparent black gives it a unique look. The fretboard is rosewood. Expect classic Hamer controls on this one, with a Tune-o-matic bridge and two Hamer Humbuckers pickups.
The third of the classic Hamer guitars was the inspiration for this version of the Sunburst. With this choice, you get a beautiful dark cherry finish, on a mahogany body and neck. The color on this guitar really pops, making it visually impressive.
This one comes with a Wilkinson Tremolo and two Hamer Humbuckers pickups. The SATFW-DCB can be purchased for $500.
The Monaco has a carved top, with a single cutaway design. The veneer on this mahogany body makes the guitar look hot and on fire. It looks like the sun, with a cherry sunburst.
Like the last two guitars, this one is a mahogany body with classic Hamer pickups and a Tune-o-matic bridge. A classic looking guitar that plays like a dream. You can get the MONF-CS for $750
Any of these four guitars would be a wise choice for purchase, and well worth the money.
A Look at Some of the Original Hamer Designs
Now that you've had a look at what's new in the name of Hamer Guitars, it's important to get a look at the history. Here is a little introduction to a few of the original Hamer designs.
1. The Standard
The standard was basically a Gibson with a bound flame top. It had a mahogany body and neck and a fine-tune bridge. There were custom versions of this guitar created as well. Back when it first came out, in the late 70s, this guitar would cost you just over $1000. It was definitely a pro piece.
This was the second design introduced by Hamer Guitars, in 1977. It was a junior copy of the Les Paul, with a double-cutaway design. It had the red-to-yellow design giving it the look of an actual sunburst. When it came out it could be purchased for $700.
3. The Special
The Special was a new release for a new facility, coming out in 1981. This guitar came in a few finish options, including yellow, green, orange, and the classic sunburst design. The Standard went for around $1,200 back in the early 80s.
4. The Vector
The very first guitar the Hamer guys created when they got started was a Flying V-shaped bass. It didn't go into production back then, but it did find it's way onto the market in 1982. It was called The Vector.
Some Famous Hamer Players
If you're interested in learning who some of the first musicians to buy and play Hamer Guitars were, you can find them with a few strategic searches. There are some awesome names that helped turn Hamer Guitars into the big name it once was. Here are a few of the first buyers worth mentioning.
- Former Blues Brothers' John Belushi and Matt Murphy both had Sunburst guitars from Hamer.
- Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson, and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick all owned and played various guitars and basses from Hamer.
- Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler had a Sunburst.
- Joe Walsh of the Eagles also had a Sunburst.
- Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame had a couple of Hamer guitars in his roster.
- Paul Stanley owned at least three Standards back in the day.
- Joey Ramone purchased a couple of Sunburst.
- The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Ron Wood both had Standards.
- Even Lita Ford donned a Standard when she was jamming with The Runaways.
- The Sex Pistols' Steve Jobes had a Sunburst.
- Both Peter Townshend and John Entwistle had Hamer Guitars.You can join the ranks of these musicians and so many others by investing in the more affordable Hamer Guitars that are available these days. You may be able to get a vintage one used, but you won't get it at a bargain price.
Should You Buy a Hamer?
If you've found yourself shopping around for a guitar, there is no reason not to consider a Hamer Guitar. Just because they were extremely expensive in the 70s and 80s doesn't make them a pricey option now. There are actually guitars on the market that are far more expensive than the Hamer. If you want a quality guitar, Hamer is still a name that garners respect.