The Kramer Ripley

Steve Ripley
In 1985, Kramer introduced a most curious piece of technology, the Ripley Stereo guitar(RSG-1) and bass(RSB-5). Designed by Steve Ripley, the guitars actually were available in late 1984, prior to the promotions put out by Kramer. In Kramer literature and guitar publications, the Ripley was promoted by Edward Van Halen usually pictured with custom models. Although the Ripley guitar gained popularity with it's involvement with Van Halen and Kramer, the guitar itself was unveiled two years earlier at the 1983 NAMM trade show. Then later, Van Halen's involvement brought the guitar to Kramer and it evolved into the Kramer Ripley as it is known today.

The Ripley, a true stereo guitar, was basically a Baretta with a straight mounted multi-channel Bartolini humbucker in the bridge position with each of the six pickup poles sporting it's own output in the stereo spectrum. This was controlled by six individual knobs on the lower rear bout of the body.

These knobs effectively gave the stereo panning advantage to each string individually. The stereo output was then piped into a splitter box that came with the guitar, some rackmountable in a few cases. The controls also included an LED and on/off switch, volume knob and tone knob. The hardware was black including a Floyd Rose and Schaller tuners. The earlier Ripleys had the banana headstock before turned to the pointy droopy variety later on in 1986 along with the rest of the Kramer lines. Both headstock versions had the Ripley logo.

The Kramer Ripley Bass was a five string with the same electronics as the guitar except having instead separate volume controls for it's two Bartolini pickups and a master volume and tone control. The banana headstock was also more parallel to the neck giving it a more straightened-out look. Also, the body on the Ripley bass in comparison, is more square-cornered than the guitar version.

EVH with his Non-Kramer Ripley
Kramer Ripley Bass
The Ripley, of course required two amps for the stereo effect but could easily be switched for mono use like a normal output guitar. The concept was wildly cool, but did not catch on and thus, not very many Kramer Ripleys are out there making the guitar fairly rare these days with the bass exceptionally uncommon.

In 1986, Steve Ripley moved to Tulsa, Ok and two years later, ended his relationship with the Kramer company. The Kramer Ripley was gone by the late 1987 price list. Steve Ripley had built guitars before and after his relationship with Kramer providing guitars to the likes of such stars as Van Halen, Steve Vai, Ry Cooder, John Hyatt, Jimmy Buffett, among others. Some of his other inventions included stereo gating, stereo tremolo, individual distortion and effects for each string and the "D neck"; an alternative neck for guitars changing a normal guitar to a long scale tuned to D.

Bartolini Pickup
Bartolini Pickup
Circuit Board
Volume Pot

Kramer Ripley with Banana headstock
Steve Vai's non-Stereo Ripley
Some of Ripley's other accomplishments had been in producing and recording. He produced a Bob Dylan album in 1981 and engineered a Leon Russell album among others. Steve is also a successful singer-songwriter and producer who led his country-rock band, the Tractors into platinum status in the mid-90s. Additionally, Steve just recently released his own solo project entitled none other than "Ripley".

There are several "custom" Ripley guitars (non-Kramer) out there, some with additional knobs for stereo panning and some guitars having no stereo options at all (Steve Vai's Ripley shown below). The Kramer versions basically only came in a few colors, mostly black, white, and red.

List prices for the Kramer Ripley guitar and bass were $1299.95 and $1249.95 respectfully. Kramer also lists a Ripley guitar with built-in distortion for $1599.95 and a lefty option for each of the models, an additional $50.

A SUPER rare maple banana head Ripley - Thanks to Mitchell at MeanStreeGuitars for a shot of his stunning Ripley!

Rick Vito Ripley

Here is a custom Ripley made by Steve for Rick Vito, session player and guitarist for hire for a multitude of bands and performers. Steve Ripley had this to say about this guitar.

"I first met Rick Vito when he was playing with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne. Rick is a masterful guitar player and guitar designer. We made his pink Ripley in 1984 – 21 years ago! Rick designed the custom pickguard, and put on the pinup girl. He used the guitar for about twenty years, with Bob Seger (featured in the “Like A Rock” Seger video), and when he was a member of Fleetwood Mac. All of the actual wood working on the real Ripleys was done by another master: Tom Anderson of Anderson Guitar Works. It’s a truly great guitar. There are two custom made 6-channel Bartolini pickups. Each string has it’s own pan pot or balance knob. Stereo guitar cord & Ripley Stereo Splitter Box. Some wear on the back, probably from some of Rick’s extra cool Rock & Roll belt buckles."

Kramer Ripley Headstocks

Banana or Hockey Stick Headstock
Banana Bass Headstock
Pointy or Shark Headstock

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Ripley Ads, Flyers, Photos, and Catalogs

Pre-Kramer Ripleys
Tele-shaped, Non-Kramer Ripleys
Pre-Kramer Ripleys
Electronics Details
EVH Ripley Ad
Show with black Kramer Ripley
Kramer Ripley
as seen in the 1985 Catalog
Kramer Ripley Bass
as seen in the 1985 Catalog
Kramer Ripleys
as seen in the Japan 1987 Catalog
86 Catalog Ripley
Pointy Headstock
Ripley Review
1985 Guitar Player Magazine
Ed and the Red Cloud
Red cloud Ripley Guitar
Clear Tele Ripley
Not related to Kramer

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