Ghost Builders

Ghost Builders

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Let's say you own a large production guitar facility, Let's say that a famous pro endorser, who you are paying top dollar for is not satisfied with your usual off the rack BS guitars. Let's say this guitar player who happens to wear a Top Hat and isn't real easy to please wants to get a real custom made guitar.

     Who Ya' Gonna' Call'

Posted By Ed Roman 12/02

 Ok Kids, today we are going to learn a new word, "Ghostbuilder"

You may be skeptical regarding some of the facts that I will be relating to you in the examples section below. It is possible that there may be a couple of errors, it's possible that some dates are incorrect but 98% of the facts below I can personally substantiate.

Some of these are supposed to be kept secret. I have not listed all of the ones that I know or I might get some friends of mine into trouble. Some of them are common knowledge, most of them are little known facts that the big guitar manufacturers don't really want you to know.

I have received about 60 letters since I posted this with people asking me to remove their names from this list. I have even been threatened with lawsuits for disclosing some of these facts. So this list has shrunk quite a bit from it's original size.

How many people know what a Ghostwriter is?  In the publishing business a Ghostwriter can be several things..........

  1. Most commonly a Ghostwriter is someone who writes someone's life story or autobiography for them. For example, let's say you never got past the 5th grade but you became famous. (Actually many people who do become famous are not well educated).  Simon & Schuster wants to do an autobiography of your life and times. They will approach you with a cash offer and give you the option of using someone else, to actually write the book. That someone else could be called a Ghostwriter. You would sit & be interviewed by the Ghostwriter who would write the book or story in the first person.
  2. A different kind of Ghostwriter might be a young talented storyteller or Sci-Fi writer that nobody ever heard of. A well known writer like Tom Clancy or Steven King or Harold Robbins might read a story by him and like it.  In fact, he might like it so much, that he might buy the rights to the story and then rewrite it in their style so that it would be a guaranteed best seller. Of course the Ghostwriter would get no credit. I am not suggesting that the well known writers I listed above have ever done this, or may have done this, or even thought about doing this.  The only reason I used those names were for analogy purposes only. I haven't got even the slightest idea that any one of these people ever engaged in any activities like that.    

Ghostwriters write books, songs, poems, plays, movie scripts, and very commonly jokes.  Do you think that Jay Leno or David Letterman don't use a bunch of joke writers backstage. The only thing that separates a Ghostwriter from a known writer is who gets the credit. When Conan says something funny, how do we know if it was him talking, or some talented joke writer backstage.  Actually Conan was a writer before he was a celebrity. He wrote lots of jokes for people. He even wrote some of the Simpson's episodes.


How about a Ghost Singer,  Can you say "Milli Vanilli"   !!!!!!!!!!!


Are you starting to get my point? It happens all the time, in fact it's so common it has actually become accepted.  Well, that still doesn't make it right. If I bought Jimi Hendrix's biography I would surely enjoy it more if it was written by Jimi and not by Joe Schmeaux.  (Schmeaux is my poetic license name for Schmoe).  By the way, anything you read on my website, is directly from me. Punctuation mistakes & all.

In the guitar business, a Ghostbuilder is someone who builds a guitar for a celebrity or another company  but does not put his name on the headstock.  Many  years ago my shop  Ghostbuilt several Spector lefthanded  basses because their machinery was not set up to do lefthanded instruments.  Carl Thompson used Ron Blake to Ghostbuild hundreds of basses including one for Les Claypool, Stanley Clarke and Jeff Berlin.  In fact Ron Blake built most of the Carl Thompson custom basses for over 15 years.


Listen To Uncle Billy, He knows the score !!!!

"Been There Done That"




Hello Ed,
A friend of mine sent me your web page yesterday--very impressive site, by the way.

What caught my eye was that you are the only person I've seen post anything about a fellow luthier I worked with back in the early 80's down in Atlanta, Georgia. It was Kris Derrig!!   (See below under Slash's Les Paul's)
We worked at a shop called Atlanta Guitar Works. I flew down to AGW after I completed a guitar repair vo-tech program in Minnesota, that's how I met Kris. We became fast friends. After work, we would cruise in his convertible.

So sad to hear about his passing.

Kris was amazing: He had a huge pin router set up in his small apartment. His attention to detail was perfect, he indeed, could build a better LP than Gibson. Back at AGW, Kris would get set up for spraying his lacquer by taking the siphon cup full of straight lacquer, no solvent, and heat it up on a hot plate to thin it.

"holy shit, Kris, you're gonna burn the shop down", I'd say.

He'd just laugh with his North Carolina accent, and spray away. He would spray with one light bulb on in the outside hall, he said he could "see" better in low light. Dude must have had cat eyes.

I know for a fact he build a ghost LP for Charlie Daniels in the early 80's: He stood in line at a record store, opened up the guitar case when it was his turn to meet Charlie. He did one for Dicky Betts, too.

Things didn't work out too well for Kris and me with the owner of AGW, so I went back to Minneapolis where I eventually got a gig with Knut Koupee Music, and I lost track of Kris.

Just thought you might be interested in some more biography material regarding Kris.

Best wishes,
Barry Haugen

Note from Ed

"Kris Derrig Is Famous because he is "The Man" who built most of Slash's Les Paul's"




 Read Below for Amazing Information

Washburn Several different no name Korean companies, Ghostbuild all the Schecter & ESP's Most of the Washburns and Music Yo Kramers.
Gretsch Heritage Guitars Ghostbuilt the top of the line USA made Gretsch until the quality problems forced Gretsch to go to Terada in Japan. 
D'Angelico Jim Triggs Ghostbuilt all the D'Angelico models when Heritage couldn't keep up with production and their quality was dropping off.
I have been challenged and I am now told by a number of people that it was Kris Derrig who made a number of Slash's Les Paul Replicas.
He may have also had some of the Max Replicas also but I really don't know.


It's funny that Gibson was about to crash and burn and Slash saved the company with a replica guitar.

Kris Derrig Built a number of 1959 Replicas for Slash, I have been contacted by a number of people who have given me names of over 12 different Luthiers who are building better Les Paul's than Gibson !!!
I won't mention their names because I don't wish the wrath of Gibson on them

letter sent in by a customer, he asked me to print it on the Ghostbuilder page.   (Read On)

Sheesh...I'm always amazed at how far out of whack this story gets! I have corrected this story on the LPF and other forums, so I guess I'll do it here as well.

Kris Derrig was a close friend of Jim Foote, the owner of Music Works in Redondo Beach, Ca. back in the 80's. At that time a lot of the more popular/up & coming local LA bands came to MusicWorks to rehearse in the studio. Among these was Dokken, Guns 'n Roses, Great White, etc. Kris Derrig was staying there part time, and he was building Les Paul replicas (on his own initiative) to fund fixing up his Pontiac LeMans convertible. Chris had a motorhome parked in the MusicWorks parking lot that he lived in while the LeMans car restoration was going on. All of the local players knew Kris (and Jim Foote) from being around the studio, and as would be expected, wound up talking to him. At the time Kris was finishing up a replica (to fund more car restoration cash), GnR were in the Studio and Slash's guitar was giving him fits, as it wouldn't stay in tune. He came in to MW and Kris agreed to let him borrow the guitar for the recordings. Kris stuck a set of Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro pickups in it because Kris needed some pickups in the guitar for Slash to use, and these were the only spare pickup set that Foote had at the time (APH-1 alnico II pro™) to lend him. Derrig put the pickups in, lent the guitar to Slash (who later had their manager pay for it), Slash played it on the "Appetite for Destruction" album, and lots of folks went bonkers for the tone.

Summary: MAX did not build Slash's guitar used on AFD, Kris Derrig did. Kris died of leukemia in the late 80's shortly before finishing his LeMans, but well after he finished the replica that became Slash's guitar used on AFD. When you read articles talking to Slash about the guitar he used on AFD, and he refers to the builder as "the guy in Redondo Beach, CA", that's who he's talking about...Kris Derrig, not MAX/Peter Barant. MusicWorks left that location years ago, but is still on Artesia Blvd, just 1 mile down the street in Lawndale, Ca now. Jim Foote is still the owner of MusicWorks, is a business associate and friend of mine, and I've been aware of the actual truth of this for years, well before I got on line to guitar/LP/gear forums. There are pics of the guitar in an old photo album before it went out the door to Slash, and a framed picture as well hovering around the shop somewhere. There are also many gold/platinum records on the wall presented to Foote/MusicWorks from GnR. Great White, Dokken, etc. There is a sort of a "shrine" to Kris in the toolroom in the form of his tools mounted on a pegboard that he used to make these guitars to this day.

I hope this clears up once and for all who made Slash's guitar. MAX has made, and (maybe) for all I know, still makes Les Paul & Flying V replicas. From what I hear he does a great job, although I've never played one. I have played several Derrig's, and they're not perfect replicas, but they're damned fine guitars with unique tops, and great workmanship. which are no longer being made. MusicWorks still has a presence in the LA area as a premier repair shop, specializing in guitar restorations, repairs, and amp repairs. You can have your "Burst" or PAF's authenticated, run into Don Dokken, Lenny Kravitz, Robben Ford, Alexander Dumble, Kirk Fletcher, and alot of other local LA music luminaries there, too.

Edited to correct Kris' name spelling, and to change the car from a GTO to a LeMans convertible. Sorry, Bill!
Guild Tacoma Guitars solely owned by Fender Ghostbuilds all of the Guild flat top acoustic guitars
Alembic Bruce Becvar Ghostbuilt Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones Alembic Omega Bass.
JBG Ghostbuilt Fender & Gibson Vintage Style Guitars and Basses for ZZ Tops Billy Gibbons & Dusty Hill. Also for Joe Perry.
Terry Rogers John Suhr built the now defunct Terry Rogers "Mallie" from day one till the end.
Jackson Chu Shin Gakki in Japan Ghostbuilds all the Jackson imported guitars (Very fine quality)
Gibson Paul Reed Smith actually Ghostbuilt Ted Nugent a Gibson Byrdland back in 1974.  Ted wanted something better than stock.   There are other rumors Of PRS building Explorers for ZZ Top under the Gibson name  but no one is admitting to it.
Fuji Gen Gakki Ghostbuild the Japanese Fenders and many of the Ibanez guitars available.
Neal Schon Jackson Guitars Ghostbuilt all the Neal Schon Guitars in the 80's (I purchased the last 170 of them) still some available.
Mosrite Tokai used to build all of the original Mosrite Japanese models including "The Ranger" Great Quality
Original Kramer Tom Anderson built a lot of the Kramers for Kramer's artist roster back in the 80's
Kramer USA All of the Kramer USA guitars that said "Made in USA" were actually manufactured in Canada by Godin Guitar Company. Just because a neckplate says  "Kramer  Neptune NJ" that does not mean that Kramer Guitars makes anything there. It simply means that is where it's corporate headquarters are.
Garrison Canadian Garrison Guitars are built by some nameless Chinese company (Quality is Very Poor)
Kramer Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt several of the Gene Simmons USA Made AXE Basses after Kramer went out of business.  We had to pay Gene $1,000.00 each for the right to do it. But that of course gets passed on to the customer.  (Ouch)
Ibanez Joe Despagne (AKA JEM) Ghostbuilt many of Steve Vai's original Ibanez brand name guitars.
Max's story.

I am just reprinting this I have no idea who is right and who is wrong.

When I met Max he struck me as an honorable guy.

The bottom line is his guitars were better than the stock Gibson's No surprise there.

A California luthier named "MAX" Ghostbuilds most of Slash's guitars that say Gibson on them. Slash actually told magazine interviewers this and it actually got printed.

Originally Posted by Max on the Les Paul F0rum

actually the true story is as follows. Guns-n-Roses lived and rehearsed in a garage in the alley behind my shop in Hollywood. I knew these guys before Guns-n-Roses ever formed. one Friday afternoon Slash came in with a friend of mine. He had just been signed to a record deal and was supposed to start recording their first record on Monday. he didn't have a guitar. any guitar ! ! ! he knew I made 'bursts' and wanted one. I had nothing finished. He kept pressing me to help him out somehow. finally I told him all I had that was finished was my personal 'burst'. I let him take it on loan. he came back the following week and said he loved it and wanted to buy it. he did not want the original 50's parts that were on it so he had them removed and newer parts put on. this is the guitar he used in the studio.

The Derrig 'burst' was purchased later and was used on tour. it is the one in all the photos. it is the one he refers to as his 'main guitar' as, at that time, it was his main live guitar until he bought that ugly 80's Gibson. he keeps my guitar locked away in storage and only brings it out to record with. this is his main recording guitar. his interviews are vague and confusing but, I know because I was there and I still hang out with Slash every once in awhile. sorry to differ with your story but that's the way it happened.

Keep the faith, Max
Silvertone Danelectro Ghostbuilt the Sears Silvertones & Montgomery Wards guitars of the early 60's.
Epiphone Epiphone guitars are built by numerous Chinese companies. There are so many different companies actually making guitars under that name that it's impossible to find out all the names !!!!!
Ibanez USA Models PBC Guitars, (Dave Bunker) Ghostbuilt all the USA Made Ibanez Custom Shop guitars for about 3 maybe 4 years.
  JBG Ghostbuilds Guitars for Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones. Many famous bands are contractually bound to play certain brands.
Polka Dot Vee Abstract Guitars Ghostbuilt the Randy Rhoads Polka Dot Guitar for 12 years before actually putting the brand name on the guitar.
Rickenbacker  builds some pretty nice guitars

If you have large hands you  simply can't play them.

If you are very hard on your guitars the Rickenbacker's don't take abuse very well !!


RICKENROCKER  This is an imitation

Rickenbacker builds some pretty nice guitars but if you have large hands you simply can't play them. If you are very hard on your guitars the Rickenbacker's don't take abuse very well. Consequently Beatle Tribute Bands ask us for Replicas all the time. They make great money so they don't care what it costs.  We have only done a couple with permission from Rickenbacker but there are people out there that do it more commonly. (Don't get caught or Rickenbacker will have your ass for lunch) The guitarist in Tribute 64 builds his own and more recently one of my customers built one for himself. He asked me to show it here. I wish to make it clear that it is relatively easy to build a replica guitar.
There are hundreds of people out there building replica vintage guitars. That is why I won't get heavily involved in the vintage end of the business.

Kramer ESP Ghostbuilt all of the early cheaper Kramer Strikers & Aerodyne guitars during the 80's`
Blade Terada Ghostbuilt the original high quality Gary Levinson Blade guitars in the early 90's
Jaros Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt all the Jaros  guitars for a 2 year period when Jim Jaros hurt himself and could not build.
Kramer Robert Godin (Robair Godan) Ghostbuilt almost all of the American Made Kramers during the mid to later 80's.  We knew about the cheap ones being built by ESP but only recently we were made aware that Kramer never actually made any American Guitars themselves !!!
Tobias  Cort
Conklin Others
Jack Westheimer AKA Cort Ghostbuilds at least 40 brands of guitars that you have heard of and probably assume are made by the companies whose names are on the headstock.
Kramer Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt the Van Halen Kramer Red 5150 style guitar after Kramer went out of business.  Over 600 were made between 1984 and 2003
Charvel Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt the Van Halen Yellow Candy stripe guitar with the Fender Headstock during the years 1989 and 2002    over  30 were made
Gibson Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt 4 Ace Frehley style flashing light guitars during the never ending Kiss last tour.
Tom Holmes Divisor Guitars Ghostbuilds the Tom Holmes Models that are sold worldwide
Steinberger Ed Roman's Custom Shop Ghostbuilt over 200 Steinberger style headless instruments using acquired old Steinberger parts after Steinberger shut down
PRS PRS actually had their EG Model USA Ghostbuilt by a small guitar manufacturer in Baltimore (I can't remember their name)
Silvertone Silvertone had all the guitars that Paul Stanley made built by the legendary LA Ghostbuilder.  Performance Custom.  Originally Performance made all of Steve Vai's wild Guitars like the flame guitar  etc.
Mosrite Ed Roman recently got the contract to build the new improved Mosrite quilt top ebony fretboard 65 reissue guitars (The Original Ventures Model)
Eastman 2006 2007 2008 Eastman Guitars will be Ghostbuilding the popular Blues Deluxe slimline that Heritage previously Ghostbuilt under private label for Ed Roman for 6 years.    
D'Angelico Heritage Guitars of Kalamazoo Ghostbuilt all the D'Angelico guitars in the early 90's. (Heritage built a great guitar during that era)
It seems like everyday I hear more & more Ghostbuilder stories. It involves pickup builders, electronic designers, luthiers, engineers, inlay artists and other various items.

Some of these have been removed because I have been asked to by parties involved.

ESP outsourced a Skull N' Bones body, This is not the best example because the bodies were really horrible. They hired a guy named Dave McSwain to carve some bodies. They used an imported Asian made neck and proceeded to call these crappy guitars made in USA.

PRS outsources their Dragon Inlays. Nothing wrong with that, it's totally legal.... I just don't happen to like it that they use "The Dragon" as their main icon and trademark etc etc. and they don't even really make it. It is completely CNC made by the very talented Larry Siffel of Pearlworks in Baltimore.  I outsource some of my inlay work, almost everyone does. I just don't try to iconoclize my products with trademarked outsourced items.  ( Iconoclize? is that a word?) (yes it is, a very cromulent word indeed)

PRS has used the Dragon to embiggen themselves from a small company the mega company they are today. Embiggen? that's another very cromulent word.

Hey sometimes I take poetic license.

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but I happen to believe that people should know who builds their guitars.

It pisses me off to no end that some 14 year old kid goes out and buys an expensive overpriced guitar.  Just because he saw Jimi Page playing it.  He assumes incorrectly that the guitar he buys is going to be just like the one his hero plays. In some cases that might be true like Alembic's Jerry Garcia tribute guitars or their John Entwistle bass. Most of the time however the poor hapless customer gets reamed.

If you want the straight story call Ed Roman Guitars.

Since I printed this page I have had to remove about 60 items.
 These items  were causing contractual conflicts with several manufacturers.
 so we were asked to remove a number of them.
  I was even asked to remove something because years later the company started to actually make guitars

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Ed Roman