TMI Custom JRH SB79

Here's another TMI Custom hot off the press and yet again heavily influenced by Johnny Ramone but this time NOT a Mosrite.

While Johnny was most famous for playing Mosrites, the 1965 Mosrite Ventures model II was his weapon of choice and although he did own and play other Mosrites, the famous blue and white "slab bodies" were his most recognizable guitars by far.

In 1978 Hamer approached Johnny with the hopes of making him a signature model to replace his Mosrites. Jol Dantzig, who was co-owner of Hamer was a big Ramones fan and wanted to work with him to make a guitar that would work for Johnnys style and tone. After an initial meeting a guitar was built and delivered to Johnny later that year. These guitars were to be based on the current new Hamer model, known as the Sunburst which was based on the Gibson Les Paul Special although both of the Hamers Johnny would end up with would be custom made for him and had no top body binding.


In 1975 Hamer had introduced the "Standard" (they weren't very inventive with names) which was based on the Gibson Explorer with typical Hamer appointments. In '77 they wanted to add a more affordable guitar to the range and the Sunburst was born, and although its construction was very similar to the Standard it was slightly cheaper to make. These were all one-piece mahogany necks with rosewood fretboards and one-piece mahogany bodies with a one-piece bound maple cap. The hardware and electronics were not copied from the Gibson with a master volume for each pickup and one master tone knob and 3-way switch. The bridge was based on a Fender hardtail design with a spacer (usually timber) to raise the height to suit the angled set neck.

After the first Hamer was given to Johnny, he had some suggestions for another one and Hamer accommodated him with a second one delivered in 1980. The second one would be lighter with a thinner and more contoured body and would have a thinner neck closer to his Mosrite. It also had an aluminium bridge based on the Hamer Sustain bridge. These changes would have made the guitar closer to his Mosrite which is very light with a very thin neck. This second one also had a black bridge humbucker with black pickup surrounds which weren't offered on the production model. 

While Johnny used these Hamers in film clips and TV appearances they only made a short appearance as his number one live guitar. Coincidently the first time I ever saw the Ramones Johnny was playing a Hamer. He also appeared in official Hamer advertising as an endorser but ultimately Johnny would go back to his trusty (and awesome) Mosrite and use one of the Hamers as his back up for a few years in the early 80's.

While the second Hamer (serial number X X0#¢ ) remained unmolested, his first one from '78 (serial number 0185) was given the Johnny mods so he could use it live. The original Grover tuners were replaced with Schaller tuners and the bridge humbucker was replaced with Johnnys new favourite pickup, the amazing DiMarzio FS-1 which had recently been put in his Mosrite after the original bridge pickup died from rivers of sweat running into it. 

This first Hamer shows all the signs of its late '78 manufacturing date with the shorter headstock and wider bridge but as mentioned neither of Johnnys Hamers had the typical body binding and being dot marker versions didn't have neck binding either. This would have suited Johnny as his "student model" Mosrite had neither as well.


So, if you're not completely bored yet, let me introduce the new TMI Custom which is heavily influenced by Johnnys first Hamer with a few features that probably would have appealed to Johnny. 

This TMI version, like all my TMIs is chambered pine (48mm thick) making it light and resonant weighing in at exactly 3KG. It also has a neck based on a mid 60's Mosrite profile with a 22 fret rosewood fretboard with zero fret and small dot markers. The neck itself is laminated mahogany, like later Hamers but with a large volute and long tenon running under the neck pickup just like original Mosrites. The handmade aluminium string guide sets the strings at a "slightly" wider 35mm at the zero fret. 


I made the bridge block from a piece of aluminium in a close approximation of the original Hamer sustain bridge and it has a 52mm string spacing. The original Hamer was a through body design, but Johnnys Mosrites were all top loading, so I wanted to work out a way of making this one a top loader to closer emulate Johnnys original tone. This meant machining in from the back and angling an escape route for the strings under the saddles. 

The pickups are hand made by me with the neck pickup being a BIG single coil built on 2 humbucker bobbins attached together and winding both at once. This means the slug magnets (A5) are offset to the coil and give a unique tone. The "fake" screw pole pieces are stainless steel so as not to be magnetic and affect the flux of the slugs. It has a healthy output of 12.4K. I wasn't sure how this would sound but I actually LOVE it and will revisit this on a future guitar.

The bridge pickup is my first attempt at a new model I call the JR-1 being made to DiMarzio FS-1 specs with A5 slugs and 14.8K output. It is fitted in an offcut plate like Johhny's original, and the body is routed for a humbucker (both cavities are) so if the owner eventually wants to make it a double humbucker "Sunburst" they could. (I could do a separate blog on the pickups if anyone's interested?)

The controls and layout are borrowed straight from the original Hamer with a volume for each pickup and a master tone control. The standard 3-way switch allows humbucking in the middle position to calm things down a little if that's your thing.

As is my preference everything is finished in hand rubbed acrylic lacquer with this one being a "slightly" off white colour, with matching neck and headstock, which I mixed specifically for this guitar followed by several coats of clear.

Like my TMI Custom JRS SB75, these series of custom-made guitars are my homage to my favourite guitarist of all time and no doubt there will be more coming as I find time. 

This one is serial number 0141 and will be available on the site soon so keep an eye out of you're interested. 

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