Thursday, October 15, 2020

Fender's Two Lucite Guitars And A Little Information On Luthier Roger Rossmeisl


Carl Wilson's Lucite Stratocaster

It seems like I’ve alway liked the Beach Boys. It’s too bad that they no longer seem to like each other. When I was a younger guy, I’d pick apart their harmony attempting to duplicate their vocals on my little Tascam four track cassette recorder. 

Beach Boys At A
 School Concert

During the groups early days The Beach Boys favored Fender equipment; Fender Stratocaster, Fender Jaguar, Fender Precision Bass, and Fender amps.

I’ve seen them in concert at least four times and their back wall was comprised usually of Fender Twin Reverb amps. At the start of their career they used Fender Showman amps with outboard Fender Reverb units. 

I recently came across this picture of Carl Wilson playing a very unusual Fender Stratocaster. It’s body was made of Lucite. Apparently Carl received this instrument around 1972. The guitar was designed by Roger Rossmeisl during the time he was employed by Fender. 

Roger Rossmeisl
at Rickenbacker

Rossmeisl's career is most intriguing. You have to use German pronunciation for his name. It has a hard ‘G’ in it. 

His father, Wenzel Rossmeisl, was a well know German jazz guitarist and luthier who created archtop guitars under the brand name Roger back in the 1930’s. Later on the name was used by The EKO company of Italy. 

Rossmeisl with
Wes Montgomery

In 1953 Roger Rossmeisl imigrated to the United States. He took a job with Gibson Guitar, the moved to California where he worked for Rickenbacker. The company still offers guitar designs that were developed by Rossmeisl that include the Rickenbacker 300 series, and Rickenbackers 4000 and 4001 basses. 

He was responsible for putting the ‘German carve’ on Rickenbacker guitars. Semie Mosely, of Mosrite, apprenticed under Rossmeisl. This may account for the ‘German carve’ found on many Mosrite guitars. 

Fender Acoustic Guitars
By 1962 Rossmeisl was hired by Fender where he developed some very unique instruments. His first project was to create a line of Fender acoustic guitars. These included the Fender Palomino, Villager, Malibu, and Newporter. There were also deluxe versions called The Concert, The Shenandoah, and The Kingman. 

All of these guitars were hollow body instruments with the same bolt-on necks found on Fender solid body guitars. The unique feature, sometimes called "the broomstick", was an alumium bar that ran inside the body from the neck block to the heel block. This was added after the first two to three hundred guitars where found to have a stability problem.

Fender Wildwood Guitars
Next Rossmeisl came up with the Fender Wildwood series of acoustic guitars. The ‘wildwood’ was accomplished by injecting dye into live Beech trees, then harvesting the wood, which was then used to make the veneer for backs, sides, and headstock. The Kingman model that was made with the Wildwood finish was later named The Wildwood. 

Fender Coronado Series
 Of Guitar

During this same era, Rossmeisl was tasked with coming up with a thinline hollow body guitar that would compete with Fender’s ES-330-335 series. He designed The Coronado.series, which included two six string models, a 12 string model, and two bass guitars. Some of these guitars were offered with the Wildwood option. 

Fender LTD
and Montego

Rossmeisl also developed two deep hollow body Jazz guitars for Fender. The LTD featured one floating pickup, while the Montego was a twin set-in pickup model. Both instrument featured a Venetian cutaway. The necks had ebony fretboards, and gorgeous headstock with elaborate inlays. The pickguards were made of a special material that came from Italy. 

What was unusual was that the necks were bolt-on necks. Fender was not really set up for this sort of work, so these instruments were essentially made by hand. The process was very labor intensive, and was eventually scrapped. 

One of the last project that Rossmeisl was involved with was making several Rosewood Telecasters. One of these was given to George Harrison. 

Which brings us to Carl Wilson’s Lucite Stratocaster. This too must have been made near the end of Rossmeisl’s tenure at Fender. 

In 1971 he left Fender and by1973 he had returned to Germany where he set up his own shop.

Carl Wilson's Fender
Lucite Stratocaster

Only one Lucite Stratocaster was made as a prototype. I don’t know if it was given to, or purchased by Carl Wilson. Rossmeisl designed it. The extended dual cutaways helped lessen the weight of the body. The guitar featured black anodized parts including the two Seth Lover designed pickups, The neck was topped with a rosewood fretboard that has pearloid fret markers. The headstock was unusual and meant to be used on a newer version of Fender’s Marauder. (The same headstock was eventually used on the Fender Starcaster.) 

The Lucite Stratocaster never made it into production. 

Perhaps more unique was the fact that this was not the first Lucite guitar made by Fender. 

In 1957 Fender executive Don Randall was given the task of building a Fender Stratocaster. that was totally made of Lucite. This translucent one-of-a-kind guitar was meant to be used for educational purposes to show students the inner workings of an electric guitar. 

Dupont Chemicals had invented methyl methacrylate in 1931 and it was used during WWII for airplane windshields, gun turrets, and nose cones. The tradename was Lucite. 

Fender started building the Lucite Stratocaster in 1957, and it took four years to develop, finally coming to fruition in 1961. All of the hardware was gold plated. The guitar weighed 18.8 pounds! 

It was a hit at trade shows, and was seen by thousands of visitors to the science museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Nashville Tennessee Airport. Though it was a crowd pleaser, and it was a fully functional electric guitar, it was just impractical to be used in performance. 

Fender associate Bill Carson took possession of the guitar, and it was un-played for years. It was eventually sold to collector John Sprung, who later sold the guitar to another unidentified collector.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information. 
©UniqueGuitar Publications 2020 (text only)

Unfortunately no videos of Carl Wilson's Lucite Fender Stratocaster or the 1957 Demonstration Fender Stratocaster exist.



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