When a former Motorcycle repairman went into guitar dealing, the infuriating case of Ed Roman.

Blazer

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Well, I found out about Ed Roman in the mid-nineties around my high school graduation when I saw pictures of his store in Guitar Player magazine.
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Which to my 18-year-old mind was as good as it gets. Because in my native province of Limburg, the Netherlands, we simply don't have stores that are THAT huge.

It took however seven or so years with the coming of broadband internet that I would be able to go and explore what was out there, that I came across his site. And once again was blown away by how vast his inventory was.

But by that time I also started working as a professional guitar repairman myself, and as such learned about how you shouldn't replace parts on instruments without the owner's consent. It's a bit like that anecdote of Ritchie Blackmore, how he had his main strat re-fretted and the guy who did so, planed the fingerboard because he mistook the scallops as extreme damage to the neck.

Also, around that same time, programs such as "Pimp my ride" and "American Chopper" began to air and with me being the Technical enthusiast, I watched those religiously. As such, I learned about how Harley engines would be used in other bike builds but keeping the Harley brand name and ditto serial numbers intact.

Then around the year of 2009 I started to read about Ed Roman Chopping up vintage Gibsons to transplant their necks into newly made bodies, going "I'll make them better than Gibson could EVER make them themselves." And "I'll improve that stock guitar so much by re-topping it!"

And me going, “Hang on a minute, you CANT do that?” because guitars are to their owners, as lovers. Heck that's also why so many players gave their guitars names.

And then I learned about Ed Roman's past as a Motorcycle repairman. Very much like those Teutel guys in “American Chopper” which also explains his attitude towards guitar modifications, he simply didn't understand the emotional bond between an instrument and its player.

(Warning in advance, this clip contains footage that makes Pete Townshend look like a choir boy.)

Roman had no issue with selling BC Rich branded instruments which were not approved by the company who legally owned BC Rich, defiling vintage instruments to "Improve them."

Having said all of that, I still want to go to that store of his, because as it still stands, we simply do not have guitar stores that vast where I live.

Has anybody ever visited that store?
 
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Peegoo

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I stopped in many years ago just to look around. Some of my pals that did business with the joint had less than glowing reviews of Ed and his staff. Your comparison to OCC is fairly astute, because Ed's operation was more like his sandbox than a typical guitar shop. I think he ran off more customers than he kept.
 

bsman

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He was nothing if not opinionated and always stated his opinions as facts, which some folks find off-putting. He also tended to concentrate more on tearing down his competition than focusing on the virtues of his guitars which I found extremely off-putting.
 

3fngrs

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I remember some wild times in the early Harmony Central forum, circa the late 90's, when there were both fans and detractors, probably more detractors.
Oh, yeah! I miss that. I'm sure that's where I first heard of Ed. I always thought he made some good points in spite of his rather "aggressive" attitude.

I don't/ didn't approve of his chopping up vintage guitars and definitely didn't like some of his less than ethical practices.

There were serious flame wars on HC. Not a place for the thin-skinned.
 

Mike_LA

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Ed Roman Guitars History

History​

The late Ed Roman (1950 - 2011) was quite the unique individual, particularly in the world of guitars. He had a long history in this industry. His passion and energy for this business was both unparalleled and rarely seen in the world of guitars. Ed was dramatic and had a flare for showmanship, but he always backed up his beliefs with what he felt was the best way to do something, despite what others may have thought. He always had so many ideas. Before one idea came to fruition he would have two others and already modified the first. It could be frustrating working with him when he was in that mode, but you couldn't deny his excitement for turning things around in ways that were not part of the status quot. That was one of his strengths, to not limit his creations by what is "industry standard" especially if that standard meant perpetuating outdated thinking. Always "building a better mouse trap" when at all possible. While he wasn't afraid to try new ideas, he also wasn't afraid of respecting old ones, when they worked...but whether discovered or not, he did believe that there always were alternatives.


Looking back at some of the business deals Ed made throughout the years is quite something. Like the obtaining of the contents of the Steinberger USA Newburgh, New York factory from Gibson. The purchasing of the Class Axe era BC Rich bodies, necks, cores, etc. Purchases from Kramer and Jackson among many others. He was not afraid to invest, to take a chance, because he believed in his craft and in his ability to make things work, when others could not see the diamonds in the rough. He gave attention, support and room in his showrooms for up and coming builders in addition to developing his own custom build lines. The Ed Roman Guitar shops were never quite the same as your local music store or your large chain store. There was always something different and if you didn't see what you were looking for, then perhaps, together we could find it or better yet create it.


Now, here we are, Ed Roman's legacy is simply Roman Guitars. A place where we can express a level of individuality in a world of mass production. Gone may be some of the more controversial aspects of the man, but the positive aspects and free thinking, coupled with flexibility and artistic endeavor live on. Ultimately, we are here for our clients, to try our best to work with them in a positive fashion, be it in a brand purchase, custom creation or manufacturing capacity.


The old Roman website will stay active as a historical site, but will no longer be updated. It is an old site, one of the first of it's kind on the internet, written in by today's standards, what could be called an "ancient code". There are several reasons for this and remembering one's history to better improve the future would certainly be one of them.
 

Midgetje94

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I watched the rant video when it came out. First time I ever heard of him. While I wouldn’t buy anything of his and claim it’s true Gibson or PRS. It would be cool to have one of his guitars just to say it’s his. Seeing how controversial he is.
 

drf64

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Ed got really angry about negative reviews. There were allegations that he either hired people to write good things about him on Harmony Central or he did it himself.

Sadly his daughter died under mysterious circumstances several years ago. Anyone know any updates on this?

I owned one of his Roman Baker B1 models. It really wasn’t a bad guitar, just overpriced.
 

dogmeat

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I bought a USA made Hamer Studio from him when he was still on the east coast (1990?). good price on a great guitar, though it took forever to be delivered. yeah.... lotta controversy about that guy. there is a similar thread on the Hamer forum right now, with the same video
 

Chester P Squier

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I remember seeing what looked like a Fender Stratocaster on his website, except it had a set neck and humbuckers. I suppose he was going after the feel of a Fender and the sound of a Gibson.
 

drf64

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I remember seeing what looked like a Fender Stratocaster on his website, except it had a set neck and humbuckers. I suppose he was going after the feel of a Fender and the sound of a Gibson.
The Pearlcaster. I think the tele version was called, I kid you not, a "Magic Twanger."

Ed also posted sound clips of him covering "Aqualung."

Ed was all kinds of messed up.
 

ZackyDog

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Has anybody ever visited that store?
Yes. I grew up in CT, and East Coast Music Mall was in Danbury.

One time, I wanted to try a vintage Gretsch Country Gentleman/G6122 and Ed wouldn't let me play/demo it---unless I had the funds in my bank account.
 

drf64

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Ed also threw his suppliers under the bus. He picked up Eastman as a cudgel to beat Heritage over their hollow/semi hollow body models.
 

Slip Kid

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I went to his Danbury, CT store in the early 90’s. I just remember it being very large store. The only thing that stands out in my mind was they had a SG painted like Clapton’s “Fool” which I had never seen before.

A friend of mine bought a Heritage archtop from Ed in the early 2000’s. I don’t think he had the big “music mall” anymore. My friend told me Ed was kind of eccentric and against paying taxes. Ed told my friend he would give a “deal” for cash.
 

Mr. St. Paul

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I remember reading that his Vegas store was charging people $20 just to come in the store. If you bought something, it was applied to the cost of the purchase. If you didn't, they kept it. Supposedly, it was a way to weed out the tire-kickers. I don't know if it's true or not.
 

RodeoTex

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Personally, I didn't know the guy and only interacted with him once, but he wanted me to produce parts that I thought unethical.

Edited: I was a little aware of the controversy, I didn't know really how deep it went until this thread, so I retracted everything except what I personally knew.
 
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