Welcome Guest! To enable all features please Login or Register.



My 1984 Ibanez DT555 - a 33 Year Mystery:
Von Herndon Guitars
#1 Posted : 7/17/2017 2:11:21 AM
Von Herndon Guitars

Groups: Member
Joined: 7/16/2017(UTC)
Posts: 1
Location: Lake Arrowhead California
Hello everyone,

I have come here with an interesting question about my Ibanez DT555 that has been a mystery for many, many years. I post this not only because it is interesting, but also in hopes that someone with Ibanez corporate experience may be able to solve the mystery.

I am a 51 year old musician who grew up in a musical family; the son of a back-up vocalist for both Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. One could say that I, quite literally, grew up in a recording studio - both at Buck Owen's Chester Avenue Studio in Bakersfield, California and at my parent's private studio near our home. At the age of 15, I was already a BMI registered recording artist and I was playing on recordings for hire. I was also the guitarist and bassist in my Mom's C&W group - The Wild Rose Band....But Rock and Roll was my first and truest musical love. When I first heard "Mississippi Queen" in 1971, I was hooked by that guitar sound. Next was "Ram Jam," then "Rick Derringer," early Scorpions and AC/DC. In 1975, I asked for a guitar and was given a 1959 Sears Silvertone, which I still have to this day.

The 1980's was a great time for me. I played in a couple of local garage bands and we frequently played at school assemblies. I was into the typical music of the day, graduating from high school near Fresno, California in 1983.

I was a Def Leppaard fan since the 1980 USA tour, but when Pyromania was released, in early 1983, I was blown away by the tone and arrangement. Keep in mind, I had experience as a studio musician, so the incredible production of Pyromania really captivated me, along with the awesome tone of Pete Willis, Steve Clark, and a relatively unknown (then) fellow named Phil Collen. I bought one of the first copies of the Pyromania LP that was ever available in our area, paying double for it from a friend who worked at Midnight Records. I put the album on the turntable and was simply blown away. Immediately, I began working to learn all the songs so we could begin performing them.

Eventually, I saw an advertisement for Phil Collen's Ibanez DT555. The local Ibanez dealer told me that only the DT155 was currently available. The DT155 was a Fender 25.5" scale, 9.25" radius bolt-on maple neck with a non-locking tremolo and dot inlay. This wasn't good enough. I had to have the DT555, which was based on a Gibson scale (24.75") neck with a 12" radius and three piece inlay. The local dealer told me he had no idea when a DT555 would be available, and he actually gave me the Phil Collen banner from the window to cut back on people asking him about the DT555.

Through my local dealer, I got the contact information for Joan Chesbro at Chesbro Music, in Idaho Falls. At the time, they were a HUGE national Ibanez retailer. During my first conversations with Joan Chesbro, she said she was "having trouble getting a hold of a DT555" for some reason....but added she would "see what she could do." This was in November or December of 1983.

After a few weeks, she called and told me she found one DT555 - a demo - in Glendale, California. We now know that Tak Hoshono was building Ibanez USA models, and doing custom work in general for Ibanez, at his Glendale shop. In fact, it was Tak Hoshono that built Phil Collen's original Destroyer from a 1980 DT400 and it was Dave Storey who installed the Kahler on it at Hoshono's shop.

Joan Chesbro told me she ordered the guitar and arranged for it to be shipped to her facility in Idaho falls, and if I wanted it, she would sell it to me - at full retail - and ship it to me.

The guitar arrived in the same box that it was sent to her from Hoshono Guitar Works (HGW) in Glendale. I am currently looking for my invoice, because it was dated December 1983 and yet showed the 'A840003' (1984) serial number. The same 1984 serial appears on the 1988 police report where I reported it stolen.

My DT555 had the "Hard-Rocker" locking trem with fine tuners. However, I had Wayne Charvel replace the Ibanez tremolo in June or July of 1984 with a Floyd Rose.

For whatever reason, it appears that this guitar was built outside the normal production line - possibly even built entirely by Hoshono - in 1983, but assigned a 1984 build code????

Now, from interviews with former Ibanez, HGW staff and Ed Roman, we have been told that Ibanez was sending (some) Japanese made (Hoshino Gakki) parts to Hoshono Guitars in Glendale for assembly (allegedly) because importation taxes were lower on component parts than on completed guitars. I was also told that PBC (Dave Bunker) and JEM guitars (Joe Despagne) also did contract assembly work for Ibanez in the USA, including some of the artist models, (Joe Despagne is said to have built all of Steve Vai's guitars) so the question is, how did a DT555, produced and later sold in December of 1983 in Glendale, California, end up getting a 1984 serialization????

While we cannot substantiate any of the above related information in the form of official internal corporate memorandums, it is intriguing to consider the possibilities.

I recall a conversation with Wayne Charvel, many years ago, about serial numbers and production dates on his guitars. I don't remember all the details, but I seem to remember him saying the switch to January dates happened at Charvel about mid month December because they didn't come back to work for Christmas until the day after New Years.

But the story doesn't end here...

Back in 1983, I did not realize how the 24.75" scale length, and the hot 16k Ibanez V2 pickups, would have such a profound impact on what I wanted from a guitar. I spent years trying to figure out what it was about my Destroyer that my other genuine Gibson's and Fender' could never give me. As a result, I begin producing hand built Strat-shaped and Tele-Shaped 24.75" dual and triple humbucker custom guitars, in extremely small quantities, for local SoCal musicians, under the olde family "Von Herndon" name. However, I never stopped wanting a replacement for my 1984 DT555 that was stolen from me after a show at Hollywood's Whisky A Go-Go in 1988.

For many years, I looked at countless DT 555's, but didn't want to buy a weathered relic with the inferior Ibanez tremolo. Secondly, many DT 555's on the market now have had broken neck repairs, ghastly refinish jobs and some counterfeits are being offered complete with fictitious documentation - at phenomenal prices.

Additionally, I wanted to expand the dimensions of the Destroyer's neck profile to something a little thicker and wider than both the Gibson 50's Profile and the fender 'U' profile, while still retaining the ability to use a common 'R3' nut. My specs call for a full 1.0" of thickness both at the 1st and 12th frets - something several builders simply would not consider - and the dimensions I eventually settled on for my Von Herndon Custom Models.

Initially, I was planning on having the replica struck by a custom builder in Poland, (RAN Guitars) at the cost of €2,650, but they, quite understandably, did not want to replicate the Ibanez headstock and lettering.

This Destroyer was to be built for me personally, not for resale, hence the desire for the Ibanez name on the headstock. It was also to bear the serial number of my original DT 555 that was stolen in 1988. It was to be an exact replica of my DT555, right down to the Floyd Rose Tremolo installed on it by Wayne Charvel in 1984.

Since I was already having neck prototypes built in Korea, and I knew the quality of work being performed, I approached my builder about the DT 555 project and It was enthusiastically received.

Through networking in the Luthier world, a call was eventually returned by a retired luthier who possessed a copy of a set of original DT 555 plans. A graphic designer was contracted who altered the blueprints to include a Floyd Rose Tremolo system and a neck that was 1" thick at both the 1st and 12th frets and 43mm at the nut and 57mm at the heel. Once plans were delivered and all measurements confirmed, we were ready to get down to business.

The project was green-lighted on May 31, 2017 and the body and neck were cut out of the highest grade of mahogany available. The guitar is currently in the final stages of assembly.

So, although my original is long gone, my replica is nearly complete.

I invite your thoughts and opinions on the true origins of my 1984 DT555.


Robert Von Herndon
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s):
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): 05-31-2017 DT555 First Cuts.jpg
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): Progress DT555-FR.jpg
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): Herndon DT555-FR Paint.jpg
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): Herndon July 15 2017 QC Refinish.jpg
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): DT 555 FR Project Front July 2.jpg
Von Herndon Guitars attached the following image(s): Custom Von Herndon Supre-Sonic Humbuckers.jpg
Users browsing this topic
Guest (3)
Forum Jump  
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.