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Reader Guitar of the Month: "Nagel" Kramer Baretta

A reader scores his ideal ’80s guitar, with historic art included.

Name: Peter Ellman

Hometown:Pinehurst, North Carolina
Guitar Model: “Nagel” Kramer Baretta

This is a Baretta with a reverse “pointy” headstock (as opposed to banana). The Kramer Barettas evolved through a number of iterations through the early 1980s into the early ’90s. The first Baretta came out in 1983 and was inspired by Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat.

The graphic is inspired by artist Patrick Nagel, who did illustrations for Playboy, the cover art for Duran Duran’s Rio, and inspired the aesthetic behind one of the greatest videos of all time: Robert Palmer’s “Simply Irresistible.” Nagel died tragically from a heart attack in 1984 at age 38 after, no joke, an “Aerobathon” fundraiser for, you guessed it, the American Heart Association.

Guitars with his artwork on them were illegally produced in the following years until the Nagel Foundation worked to stop it. And thus this rare bird. I got the guitar from a dealer in Las Vegas after a web search. I’ve looked hard for these Nagel graphic guitars and haven’t really found any others. B.C. Rich had one for a bit, I think.

My understanding is late ’80s Kramers used necks and headstocks made in Japan by ESP, and they assembled these guitars in Neptune, New Jersey. These serial numbers were EXXXXX-GXXXXX. This guitar is FXXXXX.

When I got the guitar, it had an EMG pickup in it. It didn’t work very well so I put a black Seymour Duncan JB in it, which I later learned was probably what was in it originally. I put a new 500k pot in and a treble bleed circuit as well.

The neck is a slim profile and is super comfortable. The guitar is light, and playing it is like putting on an old, comfortable pair of jeans. For my ’80s band Falkyn Velvet, it really does the trick with the look and the sound.

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