FRT-1 "ROSE" Tremolo

Above is the famous “Bumblebee” VH-II black/gold Charvel guitar which was made famous by Eddie Van Halen and featured one of the first five Floyd Roses in existence.  The tremolo was hand-built by Floyd Rose in the USA, and the tremolo was labeled as the “FRT-1” in earliest Japanese literature by Fernandes.  Fernandes acquired a real USA FRT-1 and copied it with extreme precision.  At a NAMM show (unknown year, possibly 1981), they supposedly showed their Japanese clone of the FRT-1 to Mr. Rose, impressed him, and subsequently made a contract with Mr. Rose to produce the future official Floyd Rose designs (this was prior to the major Kramer Guitars/Schaller deal).  Fernandes Japan would briefly make the FRT-1 for six months before releasing Mr. Rose’s official updated non-fine tuner design, the FRT-3.

The FRT-1 is the first ever Floyd Rose to hit production and made by Fernandes Japan in 1981.  Before production, approximately 50 garage-made USA versions were made by Floyd Rose in around 1979/1980, some of them going to Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schon, Brad Gillis, and Randy Hansen (a Jimi Hendrix impersonator whom Floyd knew).  There are also stories of Floyd selling USA-built FRT-1s (built by Mr. Rose) from his own shop in the early 1980s while the Japanese production took place.  It was essentially the first production tremolo with a locking nut.  There are no fine tuners on an FRT-1.

 

There are supposedly 50 USA  and under 400 Japanese FRT-1s in existence.  

USA FRT-1 (1979-1980)

1980 “ROSE” Tremolos Ad/Description Letter

The earliest Floyd Rose FRT-1 tremolos in 1980 were originally called the “ROSE” tremolos, as seen by this letter sent to the rare folks inquiring during that time.  

For a hefty price of approximately $500 usd, you could actually go to Floyd’s personal shop in Seattle, Washington and purchase a hand-made FRT-1 directly from the man himself.  He would also install it.  

These seem to have been offered to the public only in late 1979 and 1980, and you had to go directly to Floyd’s shop to purchase one.  However, these can sometimes rarely be seen on certain Charvel and Boogie Body guitars if the customer specifically asked them to put on one of these USA FRT-1s in 1980.  This is due to the Lynn Ellsworth/Floyd Rose relationship.

Floyd was friends with Lynn Ellsworth, an early Boogie Bodies/Charvel luthier who made necks for Eddie Van Halen.  In fact, contract discussions were made in around 1980/1981 for Charvel/Boogie Bodies to exclusively have the “ROSE” (FRT-1) system. Ken Warmoth, a later partner of Lynn Ellsworth in around 1981, declined the offer.  This was a decision Lynn Ellsworth and Ken Warmoth would later greatly regret.

In 1981, Floyd stopped making the FRT-1s and switch to his FRT-3 design, which you could also purchase from his shop in Seattle.  

The USA-made FRT-1s sometimes featured this patent sticker, as seen on later USA FRT-3s and versions sold at the 1982 NAMM show by Mr. Rose.

An often important yet missed detail are the tremolo posts.  The USA FRT-1 and most USA prototypes featured tremolo posts like the one pictured above left.  The screw dead depth is thicker and requires a flat-head screwdriver.

Here you can see the USA saddles are milled.  Also, on the side profile of the saddle, the space between the rounded hump and the square rear section is shorter than on the Japanese FRT-1.

The intonation holes are set slightly back when compared to the Japanese FRT-1.

This FRT-1 nut was milled to accommodate a Fender truss rod.  Notice how there are marks showing the “4508” number strongly associated with later Japanese official Floyd Rose locking nuts.  Furthermore, there is evidence that Floyd used Fernandes Japanese parts with his own USA parts at times, especially near the end of 1981 and through 1983.

Mill marks are more pravelent on the humpback part of the saddles, probably due to the round milling bit. 

Notice the leather washer, another tell-tale sign of an early garage-made FRT-1.  

Notice the USA FRT-1 sustain blocks just say “ROSE” with a “USA” on the sustain block as compared to the Japanese FRT-3s which said “Floyd Rose” on them with different fonts.

The next photos are courtesy of Scott Dunham.

Above is a very early USA FRT-1 supposedly once owned by Roger Fisher of the band “Heart.”  Roger lived in the Seattle area and knew Floyd Rose early on.  

Notice the beveled front edge of the base plate.

Extremely early USA FRT-1 parts.  Noticed the non-chromed saddles, as seen on Eddie Van Halen’s VH-II guitar.

The locking nut clamps seem to be milled, and the string retainers on the top left are reminiscent of early versions.  

Above you see very early locking nuts and string retainers.  Notice the brass string retainer – very similar to the one on the Eddie Van Halen’s VH-II Bumblebee guitar.  This set once belonged to Roger Fisher of the band “Heart” and now resides with a Floyd Rose collector.

Above are earliest examples of pivot screws.

Above is another USA FRT-1, also called the “ROSE” system upon first released.  This one is personally signed by Floyd Rose.  Thanks to Scott Dunham for the photos.

Above is Randy Hansen, the first person to receive an FRT-1 prototype, playing “Purple Haze” with his Fender strat equipped with an FRT-1 or FRT-3 (hard to tell from the video).  

 

 

Above you see very rare early Japanese magazines discussing Randy Hansen. The first is the write up on Randy Hansen from spring 1981.  The second article about trems is from June 1981 (published in Player #182, July 30th cover date – so published a month earlier.)  Thanks to J.L. for the scans.

Japanese FRT-1 (late 1981 - early 1982)

Floyd Rose contracted Fernandes Japan to find a factory to produce his FRT-1 design in around 1981.  According or Mr. Kikawa, a former Fernandes salesperson in the early 1980s, Fernandes originally impressed Mr. Rose by showing him an FRT-1 clone they created during the 1981 NAMM show.  Mr. Rose, being impressed by the quality and precision of the clone, decided to contract work with Fernandes Japan to create these units.  It’s rumored that a factory in Kyoto, Japan fabricated the actual FRT-1 units (Fernandes was a marketing company and never actually built anything – they contracted out to other factories).

This ultimately sparked the Floyd Rose/Japan relationship that would be a vital aspect in the creation and development of further Floyd Rose prototypes and models prior to the Kramer Guitars deal in 1983. 

 Upon signing the contract, the Japanese FRT-1 was very short-lived due to the FRT-3 design already completed.  The Japanese FRT-1 was probably only in production for around 6 months.  The Japanese FRT-1s seem virtually identical to the USA FRT-1s except for the sustain block.

Japan offered a gold version of the FRT-1, as seen here.  

The intonation holes are closer to the edge on the Japanese FRT-1.  

Sustain block is slightly thinner on the Japanese FRT-1 with no sticker.  

The bridge started production in possibly Kyoto, Japan and was in production only briefly for 6 months from approximately November 1981 – winter 1982 before being quickly replaced by the more refined FRT-3.    It’s also important to note that Mr. Rose may have used Japanese FRT-1 parts on his garage-made Floyds in 1981.  The Fernandes-marketed FRT-1s were put on Fernandes’ top of the line models, such as the ST-130, ST-160, FV-135, EX-145, VH-135 (VH bumblebee copy), and LG-135NS (Neal Schon copy).  They are first seen in the 1982 Fernandes Catalog.  

 

The LG-135NS Neal Schon model sported the FRT-1 very briefly before being replaced by the FRT-3 in late 1982.  The ST-135VH was an obvious and illegal copy of the Van Halen VH-II Charvel Bumblebee guitar and ceased production shortly after release.  That being said, I have heard the Fernandes ST-135 is a rather impressive guitar, and since it features an original FRT-1, it’s perhaps one of the closest clones you will find of the original Charvel bumblebee.

Here are photos from the 1982 Japanese Fernandes Catalog featuring guitars with the FRT-1.

Fernandes ad in a magazine with the VH-135 with an FRT-1.

Ironically, they show an FRT-3 on the next page, so this must have been later in 1982.

What’s very interesting is in the 1983 Fernandes catalog another Van Halen replica model is listed as the “SX-135VH” (next to the ST-135VH) which features a banana headstock and FRT-4

 

Above are videos of the band Journey from their 1981 Escape tour which feature Neal Schon playing his modified Fender and 1977 Les Paul with prototype USA FRT-1s.  Neal Schon was one of the first to receive one.

Neal Schon’s late 1970s Norlin-era Les paul with an FRT-1.

White strat with FRT-1.  Neal played the song “Lights” with this guitar.  

Red Strat with FRT-1

Above is Neal Schon telling Floyd Rose a happy 40th anniversary and mentions he received (he thinks) the 3rd ever Floyd Rose FRT-1.  Neal starts talking at 1:02.

Above is a rare article from a Japanese magazine “Music Life” Jan/Feb 1982 discussing the FRT-1, Eddie Van Halen, and Neal Schon.  

Although the FRT-1 is most notable as being on Eddie Van Halen’s black/yellow Charvel bumblebee, he indeed had another on his original Frankenstrat guitar for a brief period during 1980 or 1981 as you see here.  It is difficult to determine if it is gold or chrome in this picture. 

Floyd Rose knew Lynn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies, whom also knew Eddie Van Halen, and that connection got Floyd in contact with Eddie to test an early FRT-1 prototype.  Randy Hansen also claims that he met Eddie and discussed the Floyd Rose FRT-1 with him.

Here’s a rare interview with Eddie briefly talking about the FRT-1 and his early love/hate relationship with it (fast forward to 12:00).  He then talks about how a newer bulky version is going to be on his “new” guitar, but he could be talking about a prototype FRT-3.  With the early problems Eddie mentioned with the FRT-1, it’s good to know Eddie kept with Floyd Rose and made it his go-to tremolo his entire life.

If anyone knows of any old videos of Eddie discussing the Floyd Rose, please contact me.

Here is Eddie Van Halen with his famous VH-II Charvel Bumblebee guitar made by Grover Jackson at Charvel.  The guitar is now buried with Dimebag Darrel, and it is unknown if the bridge is still on the guitar (and that current neck).  Eddie received an early of the FRT-1 and not a production unit for the bumblebee.  The bridge was rushed and chrome plating was not able to be applied before giving it to Ed.  The tremolo quickly rusted because of this. 

Above is Eddie playing a bare-looking FRT-1.

Below are anecdotal memories of a technician who worked for Van Halen in the late 70s/early 80s. These are his memories and views.  It’s interesting to note he claims Eddie had a “black” prototype Floyd Rose as well.


“1977
He is playing the black strat. I have several pictures of him with this guitar. It has been verified that the Boogie’s Body was all black before getting its white stripes. Sometime in early 77 it gets painted.

1978
Tours with the black and white guitar. I would call it a Charvel but I do not think that is accurate.

1978-1979
Ed gets the Black and Yellow VHII guitar. It comes with a Charvel bridge and a 21-fret neck with a black headstock. Around this time Ed also paints the black and white guitar with the red paint becoming the Frankie and puts the mid and neck pickups back in (un wired). At this time the Frankie still has the Fender Bridge, a small pick guard (just enough to hold the pot) and a badly worn CBS head neck.I have pictures of this exact set up with dates.Ed dose not like the way the Black and Yellow guitar sounds. He removes the neck from the Black and Yellow and puts it on the Frankie and starts the VHII tour. I have pictures and dates of this also. So far we have not seen the Black and yellow LIVE except for promotional use when it came from Charvel. I cannot find one picture or source that can confirm that Ed ever played the Black and Yellow in public when it had the Charvel Bridge and the black headstock.

1979
Somewhere in early 79 Ed hooks up with Floyd. Floyd gives Ed a black prototype bridge. Since the Frankie was Ed’s main AX he elected to put the Floyd on the Black and Yellow along with a new 21 fret natural headstock neck making the VHII guitar the first to have a Floyd. I have backstage pictures showing the Frankie with the Fender bridge and the black head stock neck (with tape over the Charvel Logo) next to the VHII with the Floyd. This pretty much supports my timeline and puts aside the Frankie had the Floyd first.

1979 Tour
Ed cuts his finger after re stringing the Yellow and Black before a show. He leaves a bloodstain on the neck at the 10th fret.

1980
Ed dose not like the Black and yellow any more. He takes the neck and the Floyd off of it and puts it on the Frankie. This is verified as pictures from the 1980 tour that show the Frankie with the Floyd, the neck still sporting the blood stain at the 10th fret (supporting the theory that the neck came off the Black and Yellow) the center pickup removed and still sporting the micro sized pick guard. That is the last time we saw the Yellow and Black.
1981-82 Still using the Frankie but it now has a larger pick guard. It sports a non-fine tuner Floyd up until 1983. Sometime in 83 Ed gets a new Floyd. The VH II guitar is relegated to the closet where sometime years later it gets a new neck, a gold Floyd

Now the black and yellow story.
Like I said. I was on the road with VH from late 78 – 81. I was around Ed’s stuff all day long. I cannot say how many VHII guitars Ed owned but I can say this. I only ever saw one. The guitar in all the live shots is the only VHII that I ever saw Ed with and I was around the equipment on a daily basis. I saw the guitar in its original configuration (Charvel bridge etc) only on one occasion and that was at a photo shoot in Burbank. The next time I saw it was when we were loading it on a truck. It had a new non-logo neck and a black plated prototype Floyd bridge. I have many pictures of Ed with this guitar clearly showing the black Floyd. This is the only configuration I ever remember Ed playing except that I do remember him changing pickups a few times. He did have another Floyd in the stage box which was nickel or chrome plated that I believe had a different weight block. It was the same as the black one and I believe that it was on the guitar from time to time. This plated Floyd was the first one to be installed on the Frankie when Ed went back to it. Not a well-known fact but the VHII guitar is actually broken at the neck pocket. Despite the fact that Ed is quoted as saying that he never really liked the tone of the guitar, this is the main reason that it was retired. I was not privy to the story surrounding the creation of the VHII. If you ask Ed he will tell you that other than routing the body and the paint that Charvel had little to do with the guitar and that it was his creation. Charvel obviously used Ed as a marketing tool figuring that they could make a few guitars painted like Ed’s and sell them. This is where the Pre Pro came in. They were all striped differently and sold by Charvel. I have a sales flyer for the VHII guitar. Now since Ed is not endorsed by Charvel, it hits the fan. Charvel makes a few of the guitars and the rest is history. So I guess you could call the VH II the Holy Grail but I think for the wrong reasons. Charvel did not make a bunch of guitars for Ed. The guitar at the Hollywood Guitar center was one of them. Ed never owned or played that guitar. I was told by Chris Workman who was a sound engineer for VH that the guitar in the home video was another Charvel but that it did not belong to Ed it belonged to Alex and was a gift. Last but not least. I was a volunteer when Ed built the 5150 studio and moved almost all of his junk to the upstairs room. The VHII guitar was in a box without a neck or bridge on it and covered with dust. This was 84 I think. Again I never remember seeing another black and yellow guitar anywhere at Ed’s place.

Please everybody Keep in mind that these events happened more than 20 years ago and I tried to be as accurate as possible. These are facts as I remember them and how I saw them. I am sure some will contest what I have said and so be it. The funny thing is that I have talked to Floyd on one or two occasions 10 or so years ago and his story has changed each time as well as Wayne’s and Grover’s.
I don’t think anyone remembers exactly what happened or when. The problems with debates on chat boards is that 98% of the topic matter is nothing more that hearsay handed down from one guy to the next. Everyone has a cousin whose sisters friend knows Eddie. Everyone is on a first name basis with Floyd and Wayne& Mike Charvel and Grover etc. How come there are so many different stories? The Van Halen timeline is pretty easy to replicate as the band was heavily photographed and publicized. There are literally thousands of pictures to tell the story so I find it hard to believe the discrepancies. I have a lot of VH things including piles of pictures. To clear up a few more things. There was a post buy a guy that said that Eddie had the first Floyd and Neal from Journey had the second or third. Not true. Floyd made many units before Ed had one. I can’t even imagine how many different proto’s he made. Also the statement that all the Prototypes/first generation Floyds that were US had no markings and the Japanese units had the name is not true. I have a picture of Ed holding the Frankenstrat the day that he put the Floyd on it and it has Floyd Rose stamped on it. I seriously doubt that Ed had a Japanese unit. But then again, this is only what I believe to be true.
Remember that these events and stories are how I saw and interpreted them. They may not be 100% as far as exact dates or 100% as far as accuracy. Like when I said that I only ever saw 1 VHII guitar in Ed’s possession. Doesn’t mean that he did not have 4 in the living room. Just means that is all I saw. Same with the Floyds. I only saw 2. Doesn’t mean he did not have 20 at home.”

Above is an example of a possible “black-chromed” USA FRT-1 on Brad Gillis’ Les Paul.  Although Eddie’s VH-II FRT-1 was rusted, he may have had one of the black-chromed versions laying around. 

This is a recreation of the FRT-1 in bare metal.  There were 50 of these created for the Fender reproduction of this guitar in 2019.  

Above is Eddie with his Star Guitar sporting an FRT-1 used during the invasion tour in 1980.  Eddie Later replaced the tremolo with a German FRT-5.

Above is Eddie’s “Rude” guitar with what looks like an FRT-1 next to the Frankenstrat….which also sports the gold FRT-1.

The “Unchained” guitar with an FRT-1 as shown next to the Frankenstrat and Rude guitar with an FRT-1.  Ironically, the bumblebee disassembled in 1981.  This photo is from 1981.

Above are photos of Eddie with his black/gold guitar in no particular chronological order.

Above is Brad Gillis playing his modified Fender with an FRT-1 in “Rumors in the Air” during the 1983 tour.  Guitar solo at 2:20.  

Above is Brad Gillis playing his modified Fender with an FRT-1, which is still plays to this day.  He also would later play an FRT-3 on his Fernandes BG models.

Great shots of the FRT-1 can be seen starting at 2:35.

Brad talking about his 1962 strat and FRT-1.

Brad Gillis today discussing the same strat and claiming only 25 “garage made” FRT-1s exist, and he has 12 of them.  There are rumors that 50 were made, however.  Floyd talk starts at 2:30.

In the above instruction video with Brad Gillis, he mentions that the FRT-1 and locking nut on his 1962 Fender strat was originally black chromed but wore off over time.  

Above you see Brad’s 1962 Strat with a USA FRT-1.  On the left is an extremely rare USA black-chromed FRT-1 on Brad’s Les Paul.   Thanks to Scott D. for the photo.

Above is Brad Gillis’ actual garage-made FRT-1 prototype made by Floyd D. Rose.  Photo courtesy of Cara Guitars.  Cara Guitars remakes new FRT-1 and FRT-3 saddles for Brad Gillis.  You can purchase stainless steel FRT-1 and FRT-3 replica saddles here.  

A “modern” Brad Gillis playing his 1962 Fender strat modified with his prototype FRT-1 (saddles may have been replaced over time).  Cara Guitars can remake this guitar with incredible stainless steel saddles.

Here are some recent shots (2011) of Brad playing his Fender strat with an FRT-1, which looks to possibly have replaced saddles.

Mathias Jabs of the Scorpions in 1980 playing his black strat converted with a USA FRT-1.  

Above is Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions in 1982 with a 1963 Fender Strat modded with a humbucker and FRT-1 during the Blackout tour.  Matthias would keep the FRT-1 on this strat until 1985, where it was replaced with an “original” FRT-5 with fine tuners.  

Above is Steve Lukather’s 1964 Fender strat modded with EMGS and an FRT-1.

As you can see, the FRT-1 is a rather primitive design, albiet doing its function perfectly.  There are no fine tiners or “Floyd Rose” logo on the base plate.  The saddles connecting to the insert block have a design never seen again. Thanks to AXN Guitars for the pictures.

The FRT-1 also has a unique locking nut compared to other early Japanese made Floyds.  The nut is flat where the locking screw meets, as compared to the “humpback” semi-circle locking nuts on the later pre-Schaller Floyds.  Also note that other FRT-1 locking nut variants have been seen (with the general humpback style).

The back of the FRT-1 shows no numbering, which is different than production FRT-3 and 4 Floyds which generally had a “4508” number stamped on the back.

The insert blocks are chromed and thinner than modern Floyds.  They are T-block designed and will not fall out.

Above are examples of “T-blocks” which were used on most early Japanese Floyds.  They will not fall out based on this design, which is different than the standard square block designs on all Floyds post 1983.  Most of the T-blocks were made out of stainless steel depending on the model.

Possible FRT-1 Variant

A reader emailed me pictures of his FRT-1 above explaining that he bought this FRT-1 in 1983 from someone who claimed they got this FRT-1 from Floyd Rose himself in the USA from his shop.  Floyd Rose did in fact have his own shop and where he made FRT-1 prototypes for artists and possibly other USA FRT-1s on request.  This is a fully complete FRT-1, which is rather rare.

Differences between the USA prototypes and production Japanese FRT-1 are discussed earlier in this article, and this unit seems to feature characteristics of both.  

The locking nut on this FRT-1 resembles the standard humpback style of the time.  The back, however, is not fully flat like the previous FRT-1 and has a recessed area in the middle to accommodate a Fender truss rod.  The “4508” stamped is barely visible and suggests it may have come from Japan.  

FRT-1 screw post on left, standard modern FRT-5 post on right.  Notice how this FRT-1 has posts which are more coarse.

FRT-1 springs on left, standard FRT-5 springs on right.  The earlier springs seemed to have had a darker color.

                                                                                                   Above is an example of a rare left-handed FRT-1.

Above is a very rare example of FRT-1 literature, but the wording is difficult to decipher.  If you have rare literature like this, please contact me.  

Here is a gold FRT-1 on what looks to be an early Fernandes EX-145.

The reign of the FRT-1 was short-lived and only lasted six months until the more refined and sleeker FRT-3 replaced the innovative trem.  To the left is the FRT-3, the right is the FRT-1.  These two tremolos become mistaken often due to some similarities, especially the “actual” prototype FRT-3 which had no Floyd logo and chromed insert blocks (most people call production FRT-3s “prototypes” but are not.  Most are production units).  Clearly, the saddles are completely different between the production FRT-1 and 3s, and that’s the first thing you should look for to distinguish them.  

 

 

Above is a rare transitional FRT-1/3 model which sports an FRT-1 baseplate but FRT-3 saddles.  I talk about these pieces more on the FRT-3 page, but it seems that multiple prototypes were made to determine exactly how to make the more refined FRT-3.  The FRT-1/3 transitional prototypes seem to have no Floyd Rose logo, chromed insert blocks, and varying steel blocks.  This Floyd Rose prototype, however, is the only one I’ve seen to have an FRT-1 baseplate with FRT-3 saddles.  The FRT-1 baseplate can be more “square”.  That being said, photos of the last FRT-1 gallery show the baseplate slightly different and not as square!  I’ve seen varying depths in the bridge post anchors on certain bridge plates as well.

Charvel/Jackson small batch remake

The very first Jackson created supposedly had an FRT-1 on it.  This guitar is a remake of it at a recent NAMM show.  Charvel supposedly hired out some small shop to make a small batch of these units.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED……………………………

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT:  Check out the FRT-2