Rickenbacker Electric 12-String

Double-bound for Glory
Double-bound for Glory

George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacher founded Electro String in 1931 to manufacture what everyone would soon call “Rickenbacker” guitars. Success with musicians came early. Rick steels were the measure of quality and performance; their tone established the standards. On the other hand, the company’s fully electric bass viols and violins excited segments of the industry, but never sold well. Same story for the novel-but-offbeat Bakelite standard guitars: few players bought them. While it’s true Rickenbacker set the stage for modern electric guitars, after World War II the company languished as others, like Fender, capitalized on them.

F.C. Hall, who was a partner with Fender Sales, knew the market well. When he bought Electro String in 1953, he immediately started remaking it (and soon everyone would call the company “Rickenbacker”). Adolph Rickenbacher had come to guitars with a background in industrial arts. He liked to work with cast aluminum, Bakelite, and stamped metal, which led to many of the company’s early innovations, but also limited its designs. Hall moved the factory toward finely crafted wood, the more traditional guitar material for good reason: it worked better.

The solidbody Combo guitars and 4000 basses followed, but had only limited success. The latter’s neck-through-body would prove to be the other way to make solidbody basses (compared with Fender’s). Though the idea would later sell thousands of Ricks and influence numerous high-end builders, nobody knew that in 1957.

Rickenbacker’s final break with the ’30s (and longest step toward finding a new niche) came when Paul Barth (one of Beauchamp’s friends and employees) left the company and Hall hired master builder Roger Rossmeisl. A German handy with a French curve, he quickly revamped the solidbody line and created the new acoustic/electric Capri Series. In visual terms, Rossmeisl’s guitars were among the most appealing electrics ever produced.

By ’58 Rickenbacker produced both Deluxe and Standard double-cutaway acoustic/electric models.