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Rickenbacker Guitars


The history of RIckenbacker is the history of the electric guitar - the instrument that changed the sound of 'popular' music forever.

It began in 1931 in Los Angeles, with George Beauchamp, a steel-guitar player from Texas, searching for a way to make his guitar heard over the other instruments in the band.

From as early as 1925 Beauchamp had been experimenting with the new science of 'electronics', winding coils witht the motor from his washing machine in an attempt to devise a pickup that would amplify the sound of a guitar string.  Finally, in 1930, by using two horseshoe magnets and a coil, he achieved the sound he wanted.  He asked a friend, Harry Watson, to build a neck and body for it and several hours later, in Beauchamp's garage, the first electric guitar was produced.

The 'Frying Pan' guitar caused the patent office some difficulty as they didn't know whether it was an electrical device or a musical instrument--there were no categories that included both!

During his experiments, Beauchamp had enlisted the help of Adolph Rickenbacker, a skilled production engineer with experience of manufacturing techniques.  Together, on October 15th, 1931, they set up a company to produce the world's first practical guitars.

The 'Electro String Instrument Corporation', (initially called 'Ro-Pat-In Corporation'), started to expand, producing it's early 'Rickenbacker Electros' out of aluminum, wood, and Bakelite (for the first solid body guitar).  Along with the manufacture of guitars, from the very beginning, Electro String had been involved in the development and production of amplifiers, as all the Rickenbacker Electro String instruments, (including mandolins, violins, cellos, and even a prototype electric piano) were designed to be used in conjunction with an amplifier.

After Beauchamp's death, Adolph Rickenbacker continued the Electro String tradition for another thirteen years.  When, in 1953, he sold his company to F.C. Hall, it was the end of an era, but the beginning of the modern era of Rickenbacker guitars.

The early 1950's was a period of major change in the music industry, the popularity of steel guitars was decreasing in favour of the more versatile electric Spanish guitar.  F.C. Hall brought in Roger Rossmeisl, a European instrument designer, to produce the popular solid body 'Combo' series and in 1958, the innovative hollowbody 'Capri' models.  All Capri styles were available with or without Vibrato, a choice of either two or three pickups and deluxe or standard fingerboard inlay, neck and body bindings.  All had the famous slim 'fast action' neck.

In the 1950's, Rick Nelson promoted a variety of Rickenbacker guitars.  He and his band's guitar player, James Burton, played and tested prototypes, providing useful information that helped to shape the designs of future Rickenbacker hollow body guitars.

It was ten years later when Rickenbacker guitars became wedded to the biggest music phenomenon of the twentieth century - The Beatles.  The models they played became legends.  John Lennon owned several 325 models, including a 12 string version that was specially built for him.  Paul McCartney used a two-pickup 4001S bass and George Harrison had two different styles fo the 360/12.  It was this model that Roger McGuinn used as the foundation of 'the Byrds' first albums.  After seeing 'A Hard Day's Night' for the second time, he wanted to know what guitar George Harrison was playing.

Rickenbacker continued to add new models to the existing range.  In the 1970's and early 1980's, with an emphasis on quality, they included new pickup designs, new body shapes and new electronics.

In September 1984 F.C. Hall retired, turning over control of the complany to his son, John C. Hall.  The manufacture and distribution of Rickenbacker guitars and Road amplifiers were combined into one company - The Rickenbacker International Corporation.  This is the company of today, integrating the best of the past with the future of musical instrument manufacture.

The Rickenbacker tradition, started over 50 years ago with the aim of helping musicians, is alive and well today.