|1966 Rickenbacker 360/12|
The Rickenbacker company was started by Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp.
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.
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.
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|
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|
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|
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 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
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|
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.
This is a very noticeable and unique feature on Rickenbacker 12 string guitars.
|John Hall - CEO of 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|
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 pickups
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|
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|
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
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
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|
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.
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.
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|
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|
|Rickenbacker 331/12 Light Show|
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.
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|
|Rickenbacker 360/12V64 reissue|
Although Rickenbacker makes several models of 12 string guitars, it was the Rickenbacker 360/12 that started it all.