1986 - Duesenberg Heavy Metal
The new workshop - 80s Duesenberg Heavy Metal
In our workshops the wood was piled up on pallets cubic meters by cubic meter. A new gluing frame with hydraulic pressing cylinders made it easier to join the halves of the carcass together. Dresser, thicknessing planer and a stationary sanding belt levelled the wood surfaces. Wood chips and wood dust were collected by our large four-bag extraction system.
And Hinnerk (a friend of Thomas Stratmann) and a Swabian named Rüdiger Schäuble had started with us.
Duesenberg – Heavy Metal
When our whole operation was finally running like clockwork, I wanted to create an independent guitar brand. We could have done that under "Rockinger", but that had come to be known for parts, kits and custom work. Somehow that didn't quite fit for a new and exclusive line of guitars. A new brand name was needed!
I tasked a number of friends and acquaintances to "please think up a suitable name!" The winner receives 500 German marks.
And who came up with "Duesenberg"? Well, our eagle bass specialist, Fargo Pedder. Yeah, we used the Duesenberg name, here's your 500 marks! We already had a certain idea of the final product: Strat style body with slimmer horns and shaped more in the metal direction.
Since tuning at the body was the trend in those years, why not do a tremolo, where you can tune the strings? The strings are anchored to the headstock in the same way as on our headless basses. In addition, we used a cleverly designed roller saddle - not rollers on small axles, but small, centrally grooved rollers of different diameters, which move freely when the tremolo is activated. Pickups: OBL blades by Bill Lawrence, which were very popular at that time. They also had an active midboost and a Q filter to lower the mids.
Error as art
On one body Sascha had accidentally sanded through the paint, so that a lower layer of paint appeared. I thought it looked hot and made him sand through some other parts of it, to bring his "mistake" to perfection. That's how our so-called dreadlock-painting came into being, i.e. painting the body with several, different layers of paint and then sanding it through again in certain places. This is basically the same thing that is called "aging" today, except that our intention was not to make the body look old and worn out. It was more an artistic, individual design. We even applied for a patent for it.
The headstock: It simply had to be metal. That's how this rather extreme design came about, with a little curlicue at the saddle level. There was also a slot that was not visible from the front, so that served as a cigarette holder. On the headstock there were six clamps that the strings were put through. These could then be tightened with caps and threaded slot head screws. To this end our necks had a round truss rod (like the old Fender and Gibson necks) but with an adjusting nut on the side where the neck is connected to the body. This worked like a guitar tuner with a gear and worm shaft. Opa Osburg punched the U-shaped bodies from sheet steel and bent them into shape.
And last but not least, the hip tremolo, a kind of knob that could be quickly inserted into the tremolo block on the back of the body, leaving both hands free to operate the tremolo from the hips.
To our "Power-Strat" with the name Starplayer, we added the “Schmitt" model based on the design idea of Thomas Schmieder. Super extreme, futuristic and of course not for every taste, but I really liked it. We only produced a very small number of them.
We then made a special model for the bassist in Thomas Schmieder's band, of which only one was made. Soon you would see Billie Liesegang, Nina Hagen’s guitarist, with a The Schmitt on stage.
Here is the D logo compared to the current one:
Back in Frankfurt
Once again we were at the Frankfurt Musikmesse. It's always really busy here. Thomas Schmieder presented our Duesenbergs and people crowded around. This ingenious band named "Silly" dropped by and told about their problems getting equipment and guitar parts in East Germany. After all, they enjoyed a special status in the GDR and thus received a special visa to visit the fair.
There was at least one more booth where there was a lot going on, namely the company of Chris Jagger, Mick’s brother, with their exotic Helebardic staccato basses: fiberglass body and an aluminum neck. We soon took over the distribution for it. Chris came to Hannover to discuss the details. But Staccato was unfortunately not a great success despite the Rolling Stones background - very expensive and too exotic for the average bassist. Today I'm still friends with Chris, who came to visit in Madrid several times with his small band for various gigs and stayed with me. A very well educated person in addition to being a really good musician and singer
Custom Guitars & Kits
We continued to produce a lot of custom instruments and kits. For the kits we had the best packaging: super hard single layer cardboard foam, the finest!
And always good press ...
We offered all sorts of other products such as pickups and various electronics from other companies, whereby I still follow the beautiful saying of Bill Lawrence: "Batteries listen to a flashlight! Unfortunately we also had the product "SPINS" in our program, a neck mounting plate with a ball bearing mechanism to which a belt and cable were attached. You could spin the guitar or bass in front of you. I think there was once a video from ZZ Top with it. But unfortunately that didn't help. We only sold a few of them. Failure all along the line! Along with a high risk of injury! At a concert of the Hanover band Amazone the guitarist used this spin and shaved his face and nose with the headstock so that his black and white rocker jeans turned red from the blood. (It was a great show, though...)
For filigree work, we had a small, high-speed unit that came from a dental laboratory. Horst's girlfriend was a dental technician and a musician friend of his had elementary dental problems. So Horst's girlfriend went straight to the point ...
And here's Norbert. The man who built me my very first amp and produced lots of preamps for us. His obsession was, "I can make it so a Stratocaster sounds like a Les Paul and a Les Paul sounds like a Stratocaster." What crazy ideas!
Das Multi-Trem Compartment
I think it was Horst who had the idea to put the rather unloved 9-volt batteries under the tremolo cover. Battery changes made easy without having to unscrew the whole pickguard. It was practically invisible. You have to remember that there were a lot of active pickups and active electronics on the road at that time. We had our finger on the pulse of the time.
After work Horst used to make "private messes", as he called it, i.e. building special instruments for friends and acquaintances. So this Firebird was built for the still very young Jake Paland.
and another creation of Horst …
They didn't even have the fax back then. We had a telex machine for our important international correspondence. And look at the printer next to it: it has a continuous paper roll. And the big floppy disks, what times!
Kralle Krawinkel and the Grumm-Guitar
You remember "Dadada"? The "Trio" group with their world success. Horst once built this model for guitarist Kralle. Because millionaires came and went, like this one and Marius Müller-Westernhagen (no photo from that time).
So that nobody can graphite any nonsense on the garden wall, I have immortalized myself there ... Jawoll!
Oh, how uplifting! I was allowed to play as the opening act for B.B. King with my band "Rollinger". This happened twice in the following years and King signed all kinds of guitars for me, which I still own today. You can listen to a few songs from our group here under "Dieters Musik".
1987 – Stones tongue …
And one more of Horst's private ventures - the Schleck guitar in the shape of the Rolling Stones tongue. Built by Horst and finished by Sascha. It hangs in a Stones museum somewhere.
Yes, Dieter and Horst. And Sascha had finally painted our "Titt"-Caster erotically shiny. And the Osburg knobs found their place
Things went pretty well with our Duesenbergs. Mr. Stratmann had a lot to do with the assembling, and Sascha could hardly keep up with the painting. In addition, so many other guitars had accumulated that we finally built a wooden construction on Stratmann's initiative to hang as much as possible under the roof - saving space! And Winkelmann could hardly keep up with the gluing and levelling.
1988 – Big party at Rockinger
We often celebrated festivals with plenty of Rotari Brut Rosé Italian sparkling wine. Here we see Thomas and his girlfriend at the time Susanne, as well as Olaf Giebe (fellow law student in Göttingen as well as gifted guitarist) and today our patent attorney. Furthermore Ullus, the guitarist with the electric construction kit, which was so beneficial to our pickup research.
Fury in the Slaughterhouse
This Hanover band celebrated unbelievable success and Christoph Stein-Schneider and Thorsten Wingenfelder often dropped by. For Thorsten we built a really nice Coral-Pink-Strat with Tru Tune-Tremolo. And in our showroom we had a really impressive collection of guitars and basses
Here is a photo of our former staff ...
As you can see, over the last few years we have expanded our product range with a large number of third-party products. We were no longer just the guitarsmiths, repair specialists and custom go to people, but we had become an official mail order company for our own and a variety of other products. A whole range of Hughes & Kettner products, including OBL, Seymour Duncan, EMG, Shadow, Hipshot, Bartolini, Schaller, Gotoh, ABM, Spins, Pyra-Sound strings, Tombo Harps, CAE cables, Arion tuners, Dunlop Wah-Wahs etc., vintage amps, various tubes, Bell PA systems, various books and videos and even products from Floyd Rose and Warwick.
And watch out (red arrow) for the "grumpy" battery compartment - order number 12B01BP.
1990 Rudi Hintermeier
My old friend Horst had painfully left because of psychological problems, and we found Rudi as a new workshop crack. Rudi - guitarist of course - had also learned mechanical engineering and was extremely creative in his work. He is still with us today (2020) as a freelancer and always finds a solution for technical problems.
One day my love of design led me to buy this Mercedes twin headlight coupe. A bit flashy, but I had to have it. It was really sharp and the fuel didn't cost as much then as it does now.