Some other facts about the Shredder/Nightswan/Buddy Blaze that should be noted:
1. Warmoth never made production Swan parts. They made parts for Buddy as "starter" parts for the original Blaze line, but were never able to come up to a deal with Kramer to mass produce Swan parts. All Nightswan parts were made by ESP, just like other American Series Kramers.
2. Vivian and Buddy created the Shredder, it was not a copy of another persons instrument that Buddy had made. Its was truly a collaboration between the two.
3. Buddy retained rights to the Shredder when he went to Kramer, and was to receive royalties based on sales of the Swan as well.
4. The Proaxe was the nail in the coffin to the Nightswan. It is thought the Proaxe possibly was created as a Swan like guitar in order to cut out Vivian and Buddy from sales of the Swan. Given the similarities of the two, it seems a viable scenario for Kramer to do this.
5. Contrary to what many websites say, Buddy did build or paint the Original Dean ML that Darrel "Dimebag" Abbott of Pantera fame owned/played - BUT, the guitar was actually Buddy's personal guitar he made for himself. Upon taking the job with Kramer, Buddy gave the guitar to Darrel as a present to a good friend, as Dime had asked about the guitar repeatidly back then before Buddy moved to New Jersey.
The Lightning Prototype Pictures and Details
Sometime in 1987, in Arlington, Texas, the Nightswan was born. A VK web visitor, Guy Gustafson, and associate of Buddy Blaze, writes this about the Swan prototypes and Buddy. A very very special thanks goes out to Guy for providing these extremely rare photos of Buddy painting and building the second Swan prototype.
The original "Polka Dot" guitar was indeed built from Warmoth parts that were modified. The Nightswan prototype (Lightning Design) was also built from Warmoth parts and built in Texas. Buddy had been in talks with Kramer about the guitar and his job at Kramer during the time he was building the "Lightning" guitar. When he came to an agreement with Kramer, the Kramer logo was added to the guitar before he sent it to Vivian. (see Guy's Photos below).
The story on how Buddy got hooked up with Vivian was that Vivian did an in-store appearance at Speir Music in Dallas, Buddy had just finished a guitar for a friend of mine (black and white polka dot) and Vivian was interested in something similiar. He loved it but wanted a second humbucker in the middle position and blue and white dots, along with other various custom changes.
As for what happened to Buddy after Kramer. He moved to NYC to start a band. I moved up there in early 1990 to play bass in the band. The band called Gunga Din featured Jesse James Dupree on vocals which he later went on to join Jackel. After a few years of trying to get the band together, he moved to LA. He was a guitar tech for Great White in the late '90s.
This prototype has Vivian's signature on the body. Check out where all that studded spandex wore off the paint on the back, a true relic. The larger version photo of the back shows the neckplate saying "Prototype" on it. Justin at JC Guitars currently owns this rock legend, and has provided the pictures to VK for everyone to see. Thanks Justin, and thats an extremely cool, historic guitar!!
Kramer Nightswan Features
The back shape of the neck is different from any other guitar I've played. Its sort of like a "C" shape, with the middle portion being very flat, and the curves being very sharp. The nut is also an R1, which makes this a very tiny fretboard to play on. Its is a VERY comfortable neck play, its very smooth, and plays like butter. The dot inlays are in a diagonal pattern, which was very original at the time the Nightswan was introduced. I remember hearing that Vivian wanted the neck to have a similar feel to that of a Les Paul, however, I don't think this neck is anywhere close to that description.
The Kramer Nightswan II
The Nightswan Reissue was a planned attempt at recreating the Lightning Swan that is very popular among Kramer enthusiasts. Richard Akers headed up the original design and engineering on the Swan, using a vintage Kramer Nightswan Lightning as a starting point. At the time, Gibson owned Kramer was attempting to make a line of all USA instruments, which also included the 1985 Baretta Reissue. Additionally, Gibson had just acquired the Baldwin Piano Company out of Arkansas, and the thought was they could make a line of USA guitars through Baldwin, paint and prep there, and then have the USA team in Nashville assemble the instruments. If this idea had worked out, the reissue Swans would have been more Made in USA than the originals. Richard Akers and Michael Maloney worked hard on trying to get this line started. That never came to be.
Four bodies were created in the Baldwin factory as prototype runs, from top quality Mohagany. Two necks were connstructed as well, just to see if Baldwin could create the necessary parts for Gibson to assemble these Kramers. Around the time of the 2004 Kramer Konvention, Kramer wanted to have Barettas and Swans available for all the enthusiasts to check out, so Richard spent a large amount of time at Baldwin hand shaping, and fretting the first prototype Nightswan. The four bodies created were airbrushed by Dave MaHaffey. They were rough finished in order to confirm the graphic could be done, they were not showroom quality guitar finishes. The original prototype was shot with nitrocellulose lacquer for the clear coat over the graphic, as were the rest.
The final prototype Swan was displayed and played by That 80's Hairband at the 2004 Kramer Konvention and was final assembled by Jimmy Ellis on the USA Kramer team. It still lives in Nashville in the Epiphone plant, and gets attention from time to time from Richard. A second prototype exists that was created from the second neck made at Baldwin, and was most likely assembled by a Kramer employee from parts sold at a Epiphone employee sale. Those two Swan reissues are the only two known in existence at the time of this writing. Two other bodies still exist out there and are probably stored away in someone's garage.
Vivian Campbell is a guitar god to almost every guitar player that is 28 to 45 years old. This is because he was one of the guys who at the beginning of it all really got out there and gave each and every one of us something to shoot at. Vivian's first album with Dio was "Holy Diver" in 1983. The other two that he played on were "Last in Line" in 1984 and "Sacred Heart" in 1985. It is easy to say that I am sure that every one who is reading this, owns those three CD's. If not you must be under 20 years old, and you should go and get them, because that is where a good portion of our music today comes from.
After Vivian stopped working with Dio, he filled in for and played along with Adrian Vandenberg (who was always complaining or sick with something) in Whitesnake. Vivian didn't record the record, but played live on the tours. After Vivian's stint with Whitesnake, he started his own band call "River Dogs". I don't know much about them and with out blowing a whole night, I can't find out much about them. Next he became a member of Def Leopard. He was filling for Steve Clark, that had drank himself into the grave (not too bright of an Englishmen).
This is the guitar that started it all for every Kramer Nightswan. I believe that the Nightswan to be Kramer's best guitar that they made. That is one of the reason's why you see so many late 80's early 90's pro's using them. Vivian's prototype is actually just that, the first one. It wasn't even made by Kramer. The guitar was made by a Texan named Buddy Blaze. Buddy and Vivian worked together on the guitars design (shape, pick up configuration, woods, etc..). What they came up with is a mahogany body, maple neck with an ebony board. Two hums in the neck and middle position, a volume and a three way, and an original Floyd. The paint job is the legendary lightning graphic (so each lightning graphic you see on ebay, is the son of this guitar - not to mention all the other colors too).
I believe that when Vivian (and Buddy) brought the prototype in, Kramer liked it. I believe that they changed the neck so that the neck would say Kramer and not Blaze (like his blue and white polka dot one says) since this was his main photo shoot guitar. This neck is actually not the standard Nightswan neck, it is much narrower and thinner then a normal one. Also there is no truss rod at the top, it is in the heel of the neck. Vivian had used the trem so much, that the holes for the post had become loose in the soft mahogany, so they were plugged with maple and redrilled. Along the way I think there could of been a possible refret and the bridge could of been swapped out for a newer Floyd. This guitar was in Vivian's position from 1987 to 1994 (that is when he gave it back to Buddy). He signed the front when he gave it back.
If you look closely in the advertisements, you can see the evolution of the guitar from a two hum, to the one hum with added Tom Anderson single in the neck. Aldo look very closely at the damage to the top of the guitar and how it matches up perfectly.
This one truly is one of my most important guitars. This if for two reasons, the history of Kramer and the history of guitar players.