Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Rickenbacker 360/12 and a Little History About RIC 12 String Guitars

1966 Rickenbacker 360/12
Perhaps one of the most iconic guitars in Rock history, not just by sight, but by sound is the Rickenbacker 360/12 string guitar.

The Rickenbacker company was started by Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp.

Adolph Rickenbacher

Adolph Rickenbacher was a Swiss immigrant, and was an electrical engineer. He settled in Los Angeles and in the 1920’s opened a tool and dye shop. Rickenbacher also Anglicized his name to capitalize on the popularity of his cousin, Eddie Rickenbacker, the WWI Flying Ace.

National String Instrument Co.

In the 1920's, one of Rickenbacker’s most important clients was The National String Instrument Corporation, which was owned by the Dopyera Brothers. They made National Resonator guitars.  And  it was the Rickenbacker Tool and Dye Company that fabricated the bodies.

George Beauchamp

The other founder of Rickenbacker was George Beauchamp (pronounced Bee-chum). He was a vaudeville performer, and played the violin, and lap steel guitar. He was on a quest for a louder sounding guitar.

1920's Stroviol guitar

At some point he had seen an unusual instrument that had a horn on it, and was searching for someone to built such a model for him. He met John Dopyera, who was repairing violins, and asked for his help. The first prototype did not work.

National Resonator Guitar

Dopyera and his brothers came up with the idea of creating a thin cone of three aluminum resonators that had a guitar bridge straddling them. This cone was placed In a metal bodied guitar, with a wooden neck. They dubbed this the Tri-Cone.

Sol Hoopi

Beachamp wanted to join the Dopyera’s in manufacturing these instruments. To do this he sought funds for this venture. He wound up as a guest at a party given by a millionaire named Ted Kleinmeyer. Another attendee at this same party was the most gifted Hawaiian guitarist of the day; Sol Hoopi.  He was playing at the party. Beachamp gave Hoopi a prototype to play.

He talked up the prospects of this instrument so well that the interested Kleinmeyer cut a check for $12,000.

Beachamp went on to become shop manager for National String Instruments. Beachamp was also experimenting with new ideas, which did not sit well with the Dopyeras, who just wanted to manufacture resonator guitars.

Due to the his initial investment, Kleinmeyer also owned a stake in the company and was demanding returns. Some other internal disputes occurred, and John Dopyera quit the company.  He went on to start The Dobro Company. Beachamp, and others were fired.

1937 Rickenbacker Frying Pan 
Beachamp, and his friend and co-worker Harry Watson, who had been fired from National went on to invent the first electric guitar, which was dubbed The Frying Pan due to its appearance. In order to manufacture it, Beachamp sought the help of Adolph Rickenbacker, and the men set up the Ro-Pat-In Company.

It was  later known as the Electro String Company. The instruments were called Rickenbackers. Two other engineers, Paul Barth and Billy Lane worked on designing and building amplifiers for the company.

F.C. Hall CEO of Rickenbacker
Francis Hall, best known as F.C. Hall became interested in electronics, so much so that by the time he was 18, he had established a business recharging batteries and delivering them to homes. This venture blossomed into an electronic parts company called The Radio and Television Equipment Company. He made public address systems for schools and churches.

In 1946 his company began distributing steel guitar and amplifier sets made by Fender Guitars, by doing so he became part of the early Fender legend.

By 1950 Adolph Rickenbacker and his associates were looking to divest the guitar business. So  F.C. Hall purchased the Electro String Company with the intent that in-house manufacturing would improve the product.

This was an era of much change in the live music industry. Big bands gave way to small combos, and the Swing Music of the 1940’s gave way to Country and Western, and Rock and Roll. The Electric guitar became the instrument for Rock, and for Country Western players. F.C. Hall saw the trend was to move away from the steel guitar that Electro String was producing, and concentrate on what was then called the electric Spanish guitar.

Rickenbacker Combo 600 and 800
To update the Rickenbacker line, he introduced the Combo 600 and 800 guitars, designed for the most part by factory manager Paul Barth. Each differed only in its electronics-the 800's horseshoe pickup had two coils, which was called the "Rickenbacker Multiple-Unit."

Unfortunately they did not patent this design. When used in combination, these coils were humbucking; when used separately, one coil accentuated treble and one bass. Ted McCarty of Gibson, and his design team later came up with the Humbucking pickup.

1956 Rickenbacker Combo 400
Rickenbacker next introduced was the student model 400, better known as the tulip shaped guitar. This guitar featured the neck extending from the head of the neck to the base of the body, with the sides of the guitar body bolted and/or glued into place.

Rickenbacker was first to mass produce instruments like this, and the design would soon became their trademark. Perhaps this was due to the companies history of building lap steel guitars in this manner, as they were essentially a neck with pickups on top.

It was in 1958 that Rickenbacker introduced the hollow body 6-string Capri models, introduced in 1958. These were mainly designed by German luthier Roger Rossmeisl.

Toots Thielemans with a Capri
in front of 1959 Rickenbacker models
This line-up featured three types, each distinguished by a different body style. The first group had 2-inch-thick double-cutaway bodies, while the second group had 3 1/2-inch thick single-cutaway bodies. The third grouping was a catch-all category for instruments with even deeper bodies, which included the acoustic models.

All Capri styles came with or without Vibrato and either two or three pickups. Customers chose either deluxe-style fingerboard inlays and bindings or standard inlays and no bindings.

1959 Rickenbacker 360 Capri
The Capris had slim and narrow "fast action" necks, which appealed to many. Standard colors in 1958 included Hi Lustre Blonde (a natural maple finish) and Autumnglo (a 2-tone brown sunburst). Fireglo (the pink to red sunburst we now know so well) was added in 1959.

Standard finishes for Rickenbacker solid bodies included Cloverfield blue-green, natural maple, gold-tinged Montezuma Brown, and Black Diamond. Virtually any color was available on any model by special order, and the factory made them.  In the late 1960s the standard colors would include Azureglo-blue and Burgundyglo.

By the early 1960’s, Folk Music briefly came on the scene, but left a lasting impression. The twelve string guitar made it’s mark with Folk players. So in 1963 Rickenbacker began developing its version of the 12 string guitar by first using the Capri 360 style body.

1963 360/12
The company created three prototypes, all incorporating the unique headstock design submitted by employee Dick Burke. The design features three tuners on each side mounted as on a standard guitar, with the tuner posts projecting out from the face of the headstock. Two parallel channels are machined into the face of the headstock, reminiscent of the slots in the headstock of a classical guitar, but cut only halfway through the headstock. Three more Kluson tuners are attached to each side of the headstock.

360/12 headstock
The knobs of the tuners project towards the rear of the headstock, and the posts transect the slots in the headstock. This innovation minimizes the size of the headstock, and keeps the instrument from feeling "head-heavy" in the player's hands. It is also one of the very few twelve string guitars to use a conventional width six-string neck,

This is a very noticeable and unique feature on Rickenbacker 12 string guitars.

John Hall - CEO of Rickenbacker
A long time ago, before Facebook, and other social media sites existed, their were chat rooms on the internet that one could go to. One of these was Liszt, which had a site called ALT-Rickenbacker.

F.C. Halls son, John Hall, who was by then running the business with his wife Cindalee, answered a question for me about the Rickenbacker 12 string headstock design. He stated the style was purely economic. The headstock was of a similar size to the six string model, so turning it into a 12 string was easy, plus the twelve string guitar fit in the same size case as the six string. That sure made practical business sense.

Narrow neck on 360/12
As mentioned the Rickenbacker twelve string model spacing on the twelve string model is the same as the spacing on the six string model; 1.63”. It can be somewhat more difficult to play cleanly for those with large hands/fingers, as the string courses are much closer together than they would normally be on most twelve string guitars.

Another feature is that Rickenbacker chose to place the thicker strings on the bottom of each course, while all other manufacturers put the lighter string on the bottom.

This seems to add to the jangly Rickenbacker sound of their twelve string model. And it is this jangly sound that appeals to Rickenbacker players.

Suzi Arden's Rickenbacker 360/12

Rickenbacker gave the first of these prototypes to Suzi Arden, who was a Las Vegas country music entertainer.

Perhaps as a result of working with Leo Fender, The companies owner Francis (F.C.) Hall was following Mr. Fenders method of providing entertainers with instrument to test run, and hope for brand recognition. Most of Fender's first players were Country and Western artists, since this music was popular in 1950's California.

Rose Morris Shaftesbury
note the pickup

Rickenbacker's franchisee in the U.K. was Rose Morris and Company, which was a very old British firm, that distributed, sold, and manufactured music related instruments. They sold Rickenbacker guitars. Initially they were re-badged as Shaftesbury electric guitars.

'64 Rose Morris Rickenbacker 12 string

Later they were sold under the Rickenbacker brand, but with a distinct difference; Rose Morris models had a standard "f" hole instead of the Rickenbacker "cats-eye" hole.

If not for the good sense of Harold Buckner, one of Rose Morris' sale representative, the  Rickenbacker Company may not have had the popularity it now enjoys. It was Mr. Buckner that sent a letter to F.C. Hall in November of 1963, alerting him that The Beatles were using Rickenbacker guitars, and advising of their trip to the USA. Buckner stated that they were using models 325, and 425 (George had purchase one on a trip to see his sister in the United States). He advised Hall to get in touch with The Beatles manager, and bring samples of both guitars to the hotel where they would be staying.

(Note:  Rickenbacker guitars with the designation of "25" are short scale models, 20.75". If the designation is "50", these are regular scale, 24.75".)

Brian Epstein - The Beatles manager
So Francis Hall did as suggested and was able to arrange a meeting with the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein before the Beatles had arrived in the United States. His goal was to show the Beatles the different Rickenbacker models that Mr. Buckner suggested, and he also brought along a Rickenbacker prototype guitar 360/12 model, and a left handed model 4001 bass. He met The Beatles on February 8th, 1964.

Hall had set up a special display at the Savoy Hilton hotel in New York City. This display was a showcase for The Beatles, who were in town to play on The Ed Sullivan Show. Although they were staying at the hotel, the Beatles did not see the display in the lobby. Interestingly, Hall also brought Rickenbacker Amplifiers, which he hoped The Beatles might use. He did not know they already had a relationship with Vox,
Hall first offered the twelve string to John Lennon, but Lennon said the guitar would better suit George. Paul McCartney politely declined the bass. But later had second thoughts and was given the 4001 by Rickenbacker. John was later sent a new 325, and about a year after that, a one-of-a-kind 325/12 model.

1964 - Harrison with 360/12

Harrison finally got to see it, and loved it. He remarked.“Straight away I liked that you knew exactly which string was which,” Harrison said, referring to how the guitar’s 12 tuners are grouped in top- and side-mounted pairs on the headstock. “[On some] 12-strings, you spend hours trying to tune it.” (Although, I must admit, Rickenbacker twelve string guitars a a bear to tune.)

Harrison’s first 360/12 was the second Rickenbacker 12-string ever made; its serial number—CM107—dates it to December 1963. The main difference between it and the prototype is how they are strung.

The initial model given to Suzi Alden, featured a conventional 12-string setup, in which the octave string is the first to be struck in each string pair. However on Harrison’s model and all subsequent Rickenbacker 12-strings, the higher octave strings occur second in the string pairs and the lower-pitched string is struck first.

George Harrison's '63 Rickenbacker 360/12
Harrison’s guitar had a flat trapeze tailpiece, triangle inlays, double white pickguards, black control knobs and mono and stereo (Rick-O-Sound) outputs mounted on a chrome plate on the side of the guitar.

The top and back of the body were bound. and were flat, not like  bodies of modern 360/12' which have rounded sides. Ir had more of the 330 shape. The guitar, with its unique, chiming sound, can be heard on "You Can't Do That," the bulk of the A Hard Day’s Night album, “I Call Your Name,” “What You’re Doing”—and several other songs, up to and including “Ticket to Ride.”

Harrison with his second 360/12

Harrison's second 360/12, a 1965 model had more rounded cutaways, and is heard on “If I Needed Someone.” This instrument was given to him from a radio station, before a Beatles concert in Minneapolis.

Roger (Jim) McQuinn
with a 1964 370/12
His prominent use of the instrument in the film A Hard Day's Night led to high demand for Rickenbacker's twelve-string and caught the eye of then Folksinger/guitar/banjo player Roger McGuinn. McQuinn purchased an off the rack Rickenbacker 370/12, which had three pickups instead of two.

The process that Rickenbacker uses to make their instruments is much different than most other guitar manufacturers. The necks extend most of the way though the guitars body, and end at the point were the bridge pickup would be.

A routed 360 body
note the neck channel
Rickenbacker bodies are routed on the interior to allow openings for the "f" hole, and the electronics, but the base of the body is left solid, since the base of the front is sloped.

After the guitar is produced and the neck, and electronics are installed, the back is then added to the instruments body.

Rickenbacker "Toaster"Single Coil Pickup
Though there are cutouts in the guitars top for the pickups electronics, Rickenbacker pickups are mounted on top of the guitars body with black grommets under the screws to protect the body.

And though Rickenbacker guitars are well-made instruments, and superior to many other manufacturers, if you have a Rickenbacker guitar that needs to have a neck angle adjustment, the guitars back must be removed.

What is Rick-O-Sound? Let me briefly explain that little used feature.

Rick-O-Sound Jack

Many of Rickenbacker"s deluxe guitars are equipped with two output jacks. One is a stand monaural output that is found on virtually all electric guitars.

The second input is a stereo output, designed for use with a stereo equipped amplifier, or with a Rick-O-Sound kit. It can be used to produce special effects as well.

This stereo effect is dependent on the choice of pickups. With the neck pickup on, Rick-O-Sound can produce a lush low EQ bass sound.

Rick-O-Sound Adaptor
In the middle position (both pickups on) it produces a mix of highs and lows, mimicking a chorus effect. The easiest way to use this properly,  is with a Ric-O-Sound stereo adapter. There are secondary companies that offer these adapters.

By using just the bridge pickup, the player achieves a bright and full ringing lead tone. There are many variations, but few players utilize this feature.

The Beatles use of Rickenbacker guitars lead to rapid growth for this small California based manufacturer.

1965 Rickenbacker 370/12
Bands and musicians from both sides of the Atlantic loved the bell-like sound the Rickenbacker 360/12 produced. Roger McGuinn found a model 370/12 at a music store. This guitar featured three pickup, and custom wiring. He still plays that guitar in his concerts.

The Who's Peter Townshend, Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty, Steppenwolf's John Kay, and many other well-known 1960s guitarists became faithful Rickenbacker users. What had been a six-week waiting period from the factory for some models became a six-month (or longer) waiting period in the mid 1960s and can remain so today.

This rapid growth in demand led to changes in the company. Before 1964 all Rickenbacker guitars had been made at the original Electro String factory in Los Angeles. That year Hall moved his company over a six month period to Santa Ana, California, in nearby Orange County. Despite the disruption in production during the transition, the new factory had increased production capacity. During this same period, the distributor Radio-Tele changed names to Rickenbacker, Inc., thus adopting the name people had used all along anyway.

Rickenbacker 366/12 Convertible
The company went on to make some unusual variation on the model 360. The model 366/12 Convertible was equipped with a large comb-like device. By using a lever it grabbed the upper register strings pulling them downward, so the twelve string guitar was now a six string.

Rickenbacker 331/12 Light Show
The Rickenbacker 331 came as a twelve string model of the 330/12, but with a twist. It is more often referred to as The Light Show Guitar. The top of the body featured some plastic panels, and it was equipped with a frequency modulated internal lighting system

The flashing began when the player hit the strings: yellow for treble notes, red for mid-range, and blue for bass.

Though it was the first, the 360/12 is not the companies best selling 12 string. That distinction belongs to the model 330/12.

1965 Rickenbacker Rose Morris
 330/12 aka model 1993

The model 330 six string became popular with British players such as Peter Weller, and Pete Townsend, so Rickenbacker introduced a 12 string model. Rickenbacker sold this in the U.K. as model 1993/12. It dd not have stereo wiring.

1966 450/12

Around 1965 Rickenbacker introduced the solid body 450/12 string guitar. This guitar had a smaller body, which is sometimes called the "crest" shaped, as in crest of a wave. It came with twin Rickenbacker toaster pickups, and  a bridge/saddle tailpiece. The strings attached to the bridges backside. There was no blender knob on this guitar. The pickups are not mounted on the top of the guitar. This guitar did not feature stereo wiring. The earliest models had a glued on neck. Later ones had the neck through the body.

1987 Rickenbacker 620/12

Another solid body Rickenbacker 12 string guitar is the model 620/12. A prototype of this instrument was first made as the Rickenbacker 625/12 in 1963. Mike Campbell, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers acquired this guitar, and used it through his career. 

There are several differences between the 450 and the 620 models. The finish is much better on the 620/12, the pickups are mounted on top of the body, and the guitar features a Rickenbacker "R" trapeze tailpiece.

1991 Rickenbacker 620/12 Tom Petty model
Petty eventually got a 620/12, and Rickenbacker took note, and offered the 620/12TP, Tom Petty model. This model comes with the old style version of the trapeze tailpiece. Rickenbacker also made the 660/12TP, which had a deluxe finish.

Rickenbacker 360/12V64 reissue

Although Rickenbacker makes several models of 12 string guitars, it was the Rickenbacker 360/12 that started it all.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Christmas Wish Book

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan 1964
The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964. Although I was just a kid, I’d been listening to rock music for several years before on the local AM radio stations. Most of the artists I liked played guitar. When The Beatles showed up, that did it for me. I had to have a guitar.

1960 Wish Book

And every Christmas, The Wish Book aka the catalog showed up in our mail. We received three or four of these from different stores. I turned right to the guitar section and read each description with fascination.

1960's Harmony Guitar catalog

Wow that Harmony flat top was made of seasoned wood! It had to be great!

1963-64 Fender Catalog

Later on, I was able to send away to different companies for their catalogs. I wish I still had them.

Let’s go back to those days and review some of the guitars, and amplifiers available years ago. Check out the prices too.

Silvertone guitars sold by Sears
Straight out of the Sears catalog are all of these Silvertone instruments. The two hollow bodies and the two solidbody guitar on the lower right were made by Harmony Guitars. The two teal solidbody guitars on the upper right were made by the Kay Guitar Company. Silvertone was the brand name that Sears had put on their radios, and televisions.

Sears Silvertone guitars and amplifiers
They applied it to their musical instruments. Sears contracted with several different manufacturers to produce guitars, and amplifiers, and then badged them with their own brand. All of these guitars were made by Kay, with the exception of the second one on the top row, which is a Danelectro guitar. The amplifiers on the page were made by National.

Silvertone Danelectro
Guitar/amp in case

It is a fact that Danelectro sold most of their guitars and amplifiers through mail order retail companies such as Sears.

Sears Danelectro bass

This Silvertone, model 57 1444L bass guitar caught the attention of my best friend, and he purchased it for $99.00 in 1965.

I recently saw this same bass at a local music store with the price tag of $800.00.

Danelectro Silvertone Bass amplifier

About six month later my friend had saved up enough money to purchase the matching Danelectro-made Silvertone model 1483 bass amp. This amp pumped 23 watts into a single 12" Jensen speaker.

Silvertone Twin Twelve amplifier
One of the most popular Sears Silvertone amplifiers was what most of us referred to as the "Twin Twelver", although it's actual designation was Model 1484. It was made by Danelectro of Neptune, New Jersey.

It was much less expensive than a comprable Fender amplifier.

The Danelectro speaker cabinets were made with a compartment in the bottom to store the head for transportation.

Silvertone model 1472

For those on a budget, Silvertone offered the model 1472, also made by Danelectro. This pumped 10 watts into a 12" Jensen speaker.

The Montgomery Ward Company used the brand name Airline for its electronic and music products. They used a number of "jobbers" or companies for their guitars and amplifiers, such as National, Valco, Supro, Harmony, Kay,  All of these guitars were sold by Wards under the Airline brand.

Two Valco made Airline guitars.
The one circled is
Jack White's 1964 Hutto Airline model
Perhaps the most interesting guitar out of their catalog was the Valco made fiberglass models, which they referred to as "Res-o-glass" for its supposed resonance. There is an interesting history of  National, Valco, and Supro. This was a company started by the Dopyera brothers of Dobro fame. Jack White played the JB Hutto model that was first manufactured in 1959.

1954 Montgomery Ward catalog

Another one of the more unusual guitars that Montgomery Wards offered under the Airline brand was the Kay Thin Twin.

Jimmy Reed with Kay Thin Twin

The Kay Thin Twin was the model played by guitarist Jimmy Reed. You can see it in this 1954 company catalog. Most of the other guitars and amps on this page were made by National.

Western Auto catalog
A company that has probably been long forgotten was Western Auto. They were very popular in the 1950's and 1960's, and sold guitars and amplifiers under the Truetone brand. The guitars and amplifiers were made by the Kay Company of Chicago.

Western Auto Speed Demon

One of my favorite Kay-made guitars sold by Western Auto was the three pickup Jazz King aka the Speed Demon. It came with distinctive Kay single coil pickups. Each pickup had its own volume and tone control. Some models came with the Truetone decal, while others came with the Western Auto "W" logo.

1962 Kay guitar catalog

One of the most popular guitars in the 1960's was the Kay Vanguard, you can view it in the lower left corner.

Kay Vanguard - two versions
 under the Truetone brand

This guitar came with one or two pickups, and a fixed bridge with an aluminum bridge cover. The price for the one pickup model was only $44.95, which was a big factor in the instruments popularity. These were sold by Western Auto, Sears, and under the Old Kraftsman brand for Spiegel.

Kay Value Leader

Another popular model made by Kay was called The Value Leader. It was sold through several different catalog companies under different brand names, as well as under the Kay brand.

Kay Value Leader guitars

The Les Paul shaped guitar came with a fixed wooden bridge, a rectangular aluminum pickguard, a trapeze bridge, and one, two, or three pickups. The single pickup model sold for $69.95, the two pickup model sold for $87.95, while the three pickup version was $99.95. The pickups were low output to decrease feed back.

1965-66 Fender Catalog

Although Fender guitars were only sold through authorized dealers, you could obtain a Fender catalog from a dealer or directly from the company.

1966 Baldwin Advertisement

The new kid on the scene in 1966 was Baldwin guitars and amplifiers. Baldwin had recently acquired Burns of London guitars, and the rights to Kustom amplifiers. Some of the original Baldwin guitars were still labeled as "Burns", so Baldwin put their logo on top of the Burns logo.

1966 Spiegle catalog

The Joseph Speigel Company was a Chicago based business specializing in direct mail order sales. They sold guitars that were made by Kay Guitars of Chicago under the Old Kraftman brand.

1966 Carvin Catalog
Another company that was offering guitars in the mid 1960's was The Carvin Company of California. I recall sending for this catalog. It may have cost 50 cents. It was very interesting, and it came with a separate price list written on a typewriter. Years later I learned that the bodies of these early Carvin guitar were made by the California based company, but the necks, pickups, and electronics were made by Hofner of Germany. Later on Carvin manufactured their own parts.

So sit back and check out these old catalogs. Dog-ear the pages for your selections, and make a wish. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
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