1980 - Tru Tune Tremolo, Eddie VH, USA
1980 - TTT – TRU TUNE TREMOLO
Right from the start, product development was my main concern and I had just discovered the new, first Floyd Rose tremolo on Matthias Jabs' Stratocaster. A total insider tip: uncompromising clamping of the strings at both ends (saddle and bridge). Matthias, who often came in at the time, was rightly enthusiastic about it, but at the same time he criticized the idea: "If a string should ever get out of tune - which can happen with extreme string pulling - the clamping lock on the saddle had to be loosened with a time-consuming and awkward Allen key in order to retune it.
That's how I got the idea with the fine tuners: Clamping only on the saddle (which always caused a certain friction problem together with the tuners). Tuning the tremolo with fine tuners (which were already known from string instruments). The Rockinger TRU TUNE TREMOLO was born! It worked perfectly. And to take things to the extreme, we had developed a small Allen key holder which was screwed onto the back of the headstock to accommodate the necessary clamp keys. By the way, this key holder is still copied by several Asian companies today.
Shortly afterwards we had our first stand at the Frankfurt Music Fair - a real adventure! Harald, now a freelancer, had created a kind of Hawaiian feeling with artificial palms for the stand. Our neighbour was KRAMER-USA. Their boss, Dennis Berardi, saw our tremolo and was fascinated. Jawoll: The Americans were enthusiastic about our fine-tune-tremolos and the pickguards in "mint-green". In no time at all, a contract was drawn up and we had to increase the production volume considerably.
Dennis Berrardi was immediately able to enthuse Edward Van Halen (first Floyd Rose supporter) for it, and our Rockinger tremolo was then released in the USA as "Edward Van Halen Tremolo". All the other German guitar companies and of course the suppliers were in very bad shape because of the Japanese competition. The Hardware Company was all the more jubilant, because we were constantly submitting orders for hundreds of these tremolos, wonderful! That was a good year!
In life not everything goes smoothly (just as a warning, in case someone hasn't noticed it yet ...). Of course this includes missed opportunities. For example, I got hammered into a historically important conversation with Keith Richards and Ron Wood. Just in the moment when we shook hands, my business partner Ingo called me on his mobile phone that he was now standing at the backstage entrance of the hall and if I could get him in. So I apologized to the two Stones and said: "Just a moment, I'll be right back. It's much better if all four of us talk together." But that was the end of the matter. When I finally had Ingo in the Meet & Greet lounge, Keith and Ronnie were long gone. These things happen, and you can get angry about them in hindsight. It's like when the shaving brush fell into the toilet. But what the heck, you gotta be able to put it away. There are worse things than not talking to Keith and Ron. (But Eddie van Halen, I really wanted to meet him. Then I would also switch off my mobile phone first. I promise.)
1982 – Rockinger USA – Bernard Ayling
Unfortunately also Mister Floyd D. Rose had not slept, but on his part - independently of us - developed a fine tuner tremolo. This came to our ears at an opening party of Musicians Place "MP", a music store in Hannover. Job, the bearer of bad news, was in this case called Frank Untermayer and was an employee of the Hamer company. And Job Frank followed suit: Kramer intends to discontinue his collaboration with Rockinger in order to do business only with Floyd Rose in the future." The world is small ... Züli and I immediately flew to New Jersey, USA, to Kramer to get to the bottom of the rumors. Of course, the Kramer family tried to deny everything, or at least to talk down. But by chance we discovered a clue on a pinboard about the upcoming Floyd offensive. It all sounds like a spy thriller, I know...
Coincidence: Also in New Jersey, and in Asbury Park of all places, right next to the Kramer Factory, was a hip vintage guitar dealer named Bernard Ayling, who had occupied part of our booth at the Frankfurt trade fair. He spoke fluent German because he lived in the Saarland for twelve years as the son of an American occupying soldier. We visited him without further ado and described our situation to him. And lo and behold, he immediately offered enthusiastically to take over the USA distribution for our Tremolos.
On a trip to L.A., we actually met Eddie in the Guitar Center, who just had something to pick up. Super nice and as a Dutchman even speaks German. And "Conan The Barbarian" had just had its movie premiere!
A little bit strange for me is that in an interview, which he had given not too long before his death, he claimed that he had had the idea for the fine tuners. Now that was definitely my idea. But that's how history likes to be bent!
But now some technology...
Usually a professional stationary router (also called copy router) has a lowerable, high-speed motor with a chuck for milling cutters of different diameters and profiles. Centrally underneath is a chuck for interchangeable guide pins, also of different diameters. These engage in the milled recesses of the template bases so that the body can only be moved as far as the guide pin fixed in the table allows. Thus the shape of the stencil is copied cleanly 1:1 into the body. And should a milling - for whatever reason - be too small, simply replace the guide pin with a smaller one so that the milling cutter can be moved a little more.
On this machine we also milled the bindings. For example, you take a guide pin with a diameter of eight millimetres and a milling cutter with a diameter of twelve millimetres, which then takes away two millimetres all round. Look at the nice sticker that Horst has stuck on the milling motor (10 years of drunk driving)!
Our magnificent fret saw was built by a certain Friedel Osburg. He was an old Russian fighter who was "lucky" to have been hit in the leg by a grenade ricochet. So he was able to limp home and escape the inferno of Stalingrad. Osburg - who died in the mid-90s - was a mechanic and had a workshop in the working-class district of Hanover-Linden. Well, he wasn't a normal locksmith, but much more sophisticated: two lathes, milling and punching machines and whatever else. A certain problem, however, was that you had to endure at least half an hour of Russian stories at the beginning of every visit. But at least in that wonderful Linden dialect: "The Russians also had women in the army, and they were tougher than the men. Always with the bayonet right in, like animals"! Russia or no Russia, Friedel Osburg was no Nazi and a resourceful man. He made everything for our machines: tons of start-up pins and rings for our copy mills, glue press tools for bodies and so much more. Simply wonderful! Plus a punching and bending tool for the trussrod gear adjustment of our first Duesenberg Metal guitars in the 80s. When he had a good idea for us, he used to say: "Let me make you smart!"
It was also Grandpa Osburg who created the nipple-shaped pot knobs of our Heilmann guitar on the lathe, which was no easy job. And he was still interested in women and sexual intercourse. Once he remarked in passing that he would still pull "his old lady" on the hook sometimes in the morning ... He also used to shoot pigeons with his air rifle in the yard at lunchtime. And he owned a small moonshine distillery, a large glass structure made of various pipes and tubs, in which he distilled potato schnapps in particular: Illegally, of course.
Just our fretsaw machine, a really ingenious monster! A thick shaft with 24 saw blades and mounted in front of it an extremely massive unit that could be swivelled by a chain gear and on which four different necks could be clamped. The neck then swung through the saw blades at the push of a button, all the fret slots sawed at once and done. However, we always had certain concerns about safety because this plunging of over 20 saw blades into the fretboard wood during this sawing process meant a killer force. Wearing a helmet was the order of the day. Once, while sawing, a bass neck was actually cut and some saw blade splinters flew through the room. Fear and horror including financial damage.
Painting with Sascha
At that time, most guitar builders and smaller manufactories had their guitars varnished by the Clover company in Recklinghausen. They did a great job, but this endless back and forth by mail or UPS was really annoying. And the painter we found near Hannover was also great. But we still had to do the driving. Bring it there, pick it up. Bring, pick up .... So we decided to take the painting into our own hands as well. We needed our own, official painter! And we actually came across our Sascha.
Sascha, born in Russia, and now far away from home, actually wanted to become an cosmonaut (like all Russians), logo. But then he miraculously completed an apprenticeship as a guitar maker in the Bavarian luthier's Mecca Mittenwald. But in the company there he had mainly painted (exploited, like most apprentices), so he knew everything about it! Bernd Röttger, always a man of action, had constructed and welded together the varnishing booth shortly before. We were prepared.