John Frusciante’s 1980s Performance Custom

This guitar was previously incorrectly identified as a Kramer Pacer.

This was likely the only guitar that John had with him when he first joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988. He only used it for a few gigs with the Peppers [Red Hot Chili Peppers John Anson Ford Theater October 8, 1988], and for some of the early gigs with HATE (sideband project with Flea).

Model, Specs

This particular guitar is somewhat of a mystery. What we do know is that it had a 24-fret maple neck with dot inlays, long banana headstock, strat-style body with sharper horns, and an HSS pickup configuration. It also featured a custom paint job, perhaps something inspired by Eddie Van Halen who John looked up to in the early days.

As far as the exact model, for the longest time the best match seemed to have been a Kramer Pacer Custom II. As one of our readers pointed out via email, this seems to be the only model with an HSS config where the humbucker isn’t slanted like for instance on the Striker model.

What doesn’t fit with the usual configuration of Pacer Custom II model is the 24 fret maple neck featuring long banana headstock. By 1986/87 when the model was first introduced, Kramer already started using pointy headstocks, so John’s guitar must have been one of a kind. Even the few of the Pacers that featured maple necks all came with pointy headstocks finished in black, so again quite unusual seeing that particular setup on John’s guitar.

A more likely option is that this was not a Kramer, but a Performance guitar [PerformanceGuitar.com]. If you look at some of the photos, you’ll notice that the branding on the headstock is way too long to spell Kramer.

Furthermore, one of John’s friends who actually drove him to buy the guitar, said in a post on insagram that according to his memory, it was an Ibanez Performance.

Its an Ibanez performance custom with nudes all over it i drive him to pick it up

Matthew Goodman – Instagram
John playing what was likely a Performance Custom guitar. Photo credit: Jim Steinfeldt
John playing what was likely a Performance Custom guitar. Photo credit: Jim Steinfeldt

But, since “Ibanez Performance” is tied to an acoustic line, and there was never an electric guitar from Ibanez branded “Performance”, likely, Matthew is remembering only partially correct.

[To be continued…]

Where is it now?

As far as to what happened to the guitar post-1988, it’s apparent that it was filmed in the 1993 short documentary recorded at John’s place. This means that John kept the guitar for at least 5 years, even though by then he switched to playing Fender Stratocasters almost exclusively.

John's Kramer spotted in the 1993 short documentary Stuff
John’s Kramer spotted in the 1993 short documentary Stuff

From that point on, it’s most likely that the guitar was either sold, or it was destroyed during a fire that caught John’s house.

If you happen to know anything more about this guitar, even the slightest bit of information, be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this page. To help you start in your research – below is a video of John playing this guitar in 1988, and here’s a photo album on imgur showing screencaps from a couple of different videos.

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The other
The other
2 years ago

I assume it was destroyed when his house burned down the following year

I read alot of his artwork and guitars were lost in that fire