Rick’s Picks: 1981 Hamer Five-Neck

October 7th, 2012

By Rick Nielsen

I have a total of three Hamer five necks, but this is the original orange one that was built for me in 1981. This guitar has been displayed in several museums and now lives on the wall at Piece, my restaurant in Chicago.

How did I come up with such a backbreaking idea for an instrument? Well, back at shows in the late Seventies and early Eighties, I used to stack up as many as five guitars for my guitar solo. I’d play one for a little bit, then throw it away and play the one hanging underneath it. Usually, the last one was the prototype Hamer.

The other guitars in the stack were often a single-cutaway Les Paul Junior that I had put a humbucker into; my “flag” guitar, which had an interchangeable top that I would switch for whatever country we were in; and a left-handed Stratocaster with a right-handed maple neck.

Eventually, this part of the show gave birth to the idea of building a multi-necked guitar. The original concept was to have a six-neck that spun like a roulette wheel, so that I could play one neck and then rotate to the next, but then I decided to go with something more conservative—five necks in a row!

Structurally, building this monster was a bit of a chore, because I wanted a 12-string and a fretless, and one that sounded like a Stratocaster and one that sounded like a Junior. But Hamer, never to be daunted, managed to put all the ideas together and made it work. And, now, because he was there when they built it (and is still there to this day), I’ll turn the floor over to Hamer’s Frank Untermeyer:

“Rick’s out of his mind, but in a wonderful way. By 1981, we had already done some pretty wacky stuff for him and Cheap Trick, like the Checkerboard Standard, an electric mandocello, and a 12-string bass, so we were used to the fact that they set all standards for going to the limit. For this guitar, we cut apart five double-cutaway Hamer Special bodies and laminated them together, and then sanded in between the necks to get that sort of swoopy look. As I recall, routing the wires through this thing was also a huge pain in the ass.”
— Frank Untermeyer

Thanks, Frank!

  • Kevin Watson

    Rick IS out of his mind. I am from Rockford Il. And met him in 1973. He has always out there, WAY out there! A lot of Rockford Rockers were mad when Rick said they were from Chicago!

  • I really love Cheap Trick,it is pure power pop at it’s best..Rick is no slack on the guitar or song writing..I have seen them about 25+ times LIVE but I can not get enough of the band,I used to have loads of treasures autographs,programs,books from Japan,Rick’s bow tie,I lost it all in a fire along with my guitars a GIBSON LES PAUL 25/50 1979 ..LED ZEP autographs from 1977 ect..ect..Will Rick remain a writer on the back page,i LOOkedand he was gone,I hope this is only tmp,Need my dose of Cheap Trick each month, dansajdak@yahoo.com

  • Alan Hacko

    What a Great Combo!!

  • Douglas Guenther

    Great read. Especially- “As I recall, routing the wires through this thing was also a huge pain in the ass.”

  • Kurtis Mullinax

    Rick has always amazed me with his playing and craftmanship.He is truly one of the greatest guitarist of our time. I saw him and Cheap Trick a few years ago at the crawfish boil in Birmingham Al. One of the best shows I have seen in years. How bout’ and album of covers. Kurt

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  • Aaron Larson

    My father was actually the sound man for cheaptrick for a couple of years from what I remember, truly some crazy innovative guys