Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Kramer Gorky Park Guitar

1989 was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. President Reagan had instituted his Star Wars program, or at least lead the World to believe he had. The Soviet Union's economy was failing and the Berlin Wall came down.

Russia opened itself to Western Influences, since Communism failed.

Rock music which had been banned since before it started, was not acceptable. Russian youth, who before had to go underground to listen to American and English rock music, now could listen to it without fear and even openly play rock music.

With this relationship to Russia opening up, rock bands were invited to play concerts and tour. Moreso, importing and exporting had opened. The U.S. was now trading with the Soviet Union and was importing products and goods.

We refered to this as the era of Perestroika.

For the guitar industry this meant procurement of electronic amplifier tubes. All manner of glass tubes were still being manufactured in the Soviet Union as there was still a market.

In the United States the amplifier/radio tube industry had become an anacronym with the advent of transistors. But guitarists appreciated the warmth of electronic tubes.

There were several rock bands that emerged from the Soviet Union. Probably the most recognizable was a band called Gorky Park.

A company called Berardi & Thomas Entertainment Inc. saw something marketable about this group and offered to manage them.

Dennis Berardi 1989
Interestingly Dennis Berardi, of Berardi and Thomas Entertainment, had bought out Kramer guitars and became Kramers' president.

The Kramer guitar company had recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sold off their assets to pay their debts. Berardi bought the assets.

Since Berardi was managing the top Russian rock band, he decided to have a guitar designed to celebrate Perestroika. It was named in honor of the group and was named The Gorky Park guitar.

If you think back to 1989 this was also the era of "Hair Bands"; guys dressed up in provactive clothing, spraying their hair and waring more make up than a girl with racoon eyes. A style of guitar playing called Shredding also emerged.

And this was the age of pointy guitars, which were sometimes called Superstrats.

These Superstats featured sharp cutaways, bodies that resembled strats but were cut somewhat differently.

The neck radius' were almost flat and the headstocks were very pointy.

They faced downward or upward. Tuners were on top or the bottom, depending on the direction of the headstock.

Most featured a Floyd Rose Tremolo bar with locking chrome plated nut (for that dive bomber sound).

They were produced by companies such as Kramer, Charvel and Ibanez.

The Gorky Park Guitar featured a downward pointing black headstock with a locking nut to prevent the Floyd Rose II from detuning. It's rosewood neck radius was practically flat to facilitate tapping.

The guitar had only a single Power Sound humbucking pickup with no cover and a single volume control.

The thing that distinguished this guitar from other Kramers of the day was it's unusual triangular balalaika shaped body.

For the unfamiliar, a balalaika is sort of a large Russian mandolin/lute sort of instrument with three strings and played with a pick.

Like mandolins, the come in different sizes from a small soprano to a large bass balaliaka. The shape of The Gorky Park Guitar represented Perestroika, the joining together of two cultures. There were Russian and American flags painted on the body.

The signatures of the Gorky Park band members were also displayed on this instrument.

The public version of The Gorky Park was made in South Korea with the graphics silkscreened on its red body.

The Gorky Park Band
There were a total of seven models that were esentially handmade. Of the seven, one was made in Russia.

The other six guitars made in the United States at the Kramer factory.

The Russian made model was given to Gorky Park guitarist Alexey Belov.

The Russian guitar was finished in Red (which figures!)and featured a glued-in neck.

Two of the other six made in the United States and were also given to Belov. The second one was white and the third one was Red. All had painted representations of a Soviet and America flag to symbolize Perestroika.

So what happened to the other four? They were never finished, never painted and were purchased by a former Kramer employee.

If you read any guitar magazines from the 1990's, on the back pages that contained the small black and white advertisement, you could see Gorky Park guitars selling for less than one-hundred dollars.

I surmise from that The Gorky Park was a real sleeper and Kramer was trying to divest themselves from the overstock. Despite the unusual body.

Kramer necks are supurb and a Floyd Rose tremolo system would set you back well over one-hundred



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