After creating the initial models, Floyd finally had a highly-developed piece of original hardware, and began showing and talking up his new system to friends like Randy Hansen, an extremely talented Hendrix impersonator, but Randy challenged Floyd that he could put it out of tune. After several minutes of giving the guitar a true Hendrix treatment, which included slamming the guitar on the ground, stepping on it, and worse, Hansen held up the guitar, looked at Floyd and went to strum what he expected to be a horrifically detuned open E chord—of course, he was baffled when not a single pitch was out of place. Naturally, Hansen became one of the first buyers. Floyd’s friendship with Linn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies Guitars also proved to be extremely fortuitous when they became his first manufacturer and allowed him to show his system to guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who had very recently exploded onto the national scene with his band’s 1977 debut album, Kinetic.
Eddie’s use of the system was nothing short of the ultimate artist endorsement, and was a great relief to Floyd after having no success bringing his innovation to Fender, Gibson, and even local music shops, all of whom doubted its marketing viability (it was also Eddie’s idea to allow the system to be fine-tuned up to a whole step, letting guitarists tune to drop D without undoing any clamps). Realizing that this was a better method of getting his invention out there, he developed a consistent method of going backstage at concerts and talking up his system to the guitar techs, who would then bring it up to the guitarists themselves. This model of casual artist endorsement, with Eddie Van Halen at the forefront, along with greats like Neil Schon, Brad Gillis, and Steve Vai, became the root of Floyd’s success, which lead finally to large-scale manufacture when he licensed his model to Kramer, shortly after receiving his first patent in 1979. The list of artist endorsements, as you can see on the Artists page, has grown exponentially since then.
After early work with Fernandes and Boogie Bodies guitars, Floyd Rose had perfected his model, and received U.S. Patent 4171661 on October 23rd, 1979; the invention was described as a “guitar tremolo method and apparatus.” Kramer’s distribution of the system began shortly thereafter; Eddie Van Halen often came in to the shop and worked on personalizing his own system with Kramer President Dennis Birardi and Vice-President Andy Papiccio. The popularity of the system had become immense, but an unintended result was that many companies began violating Floyd’s patent and distributing low-quality imitations. However, the sheer number of imitations was such that the number of lawsuits necessary to maintain complete control simply wasn’t feasible (although there were more than a few successful cases). Instead, Floyd and Birardi decided to begin sub-licensing the original to interested manufacturers, to prevent them from distributing the unlicensed imitations.