Rickenbacker 325

A Pop Icon and His Beloved Axe
Rickenbacker 325
1964 Rickenbacker 325: VG Archive.


  • In 1962, the Ac’cent Vibrato replaced the original Rick’s standard Kauffman unit, which was derived from a nearly 30-year-old design – and notorious for taking the guitar out of tune.
  • The acrylic control plate hosts two volume controls, two tone, and a blend, plus a pickup selector switch. The plastic knobs were also used on Fender Mustang guitars and basses.
  • Rickenbacker took the scratchplate a step further with its two-tiered approach. Early ones were clear acrylic painted (from behind) with metallic gold lacquer, later were white plastic. CHECK! Look at the colors of the truss rod cover and the pickguard. If they don’t match, something has been changed. Collectors call the twin-plastic-insert  units “Toaster-top” pickups. They were standard on virtually all models throughout the 1960s.
  • Collectors call the twin-plastic-insert  units “Toaster-top” pickups. They were standard on virtually all models throughout the 1960s.
  • Although all 325s are at least semi-hollow, most had no soundhole, while some had a characteristic catseye opening. By ’64, an f-hole was standard and the guitar was called the 325S. In England it was called the model 1996.
  • The first 325s had bodies of alder. By the time this guitar was made, Rickenbacker had switched to heavier maple bodies. All measured 123/4″ wide
  • Rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot position marker inlays.
  • The 325 has a ridiculously short scale – just 21″, qualifying it as a 3/4-sized guitar.
  • Individual closed-back Kluson Deluxe tuners with metal buttons were used on most Rickenbackers from this period.
  • By the late 1950s, the oversized pointy-topped logo plates were doing double duty as truss rod covers.
John Lennon photo: David Redfern/Redferns.

As Played By

  • John Lennon
  • John Fogerty
  • Roger McGuinn
  • Any Beatle tribute band worth its salt.

Further Facts

  • Rickenbacker serial numbers are stamped on the jack plate. The first of a two-letter prefix indicates year (starting with A in ’61), the second letter designates month. The digits following it are production numbers.
  • Rickenbacker model numbers describe their layout, features, and appointments. In the case of the 325, the 3 designates it as a semi-hollowbody style, the 2 denotes its 3/4 scale, and 5 indicated it was equipped with a vibrato tailpiece.tailpiece.

Rickenbacker’s model 325 was introduced in 1958 – three years after the all-solidbody Combo series, 25 years after the Electro Spanish/Model B, and just in time to launch the brand to superstar status in the electric guitar realm. But it had a bit of help.

Rickenbacker’s Capri line, which included all models numbered 310 through 375, was designed by Roger Rossmeisl with the intention of dressing up the company’s product line. Capris were semi-hollow thinlines with the uniquely identifiable “extreme cutaway body” and on some models, a “slash”/catseye sound hole. This, company president F.C. Hall theorized, would lend a touch of class that was lacking in its non-archtop electrics. And with its list price of $249.50, the 325 was in good company with Gibson’s Les Paul and Fender’s Stratocaster. But it might have been doomed to obscurity had it not been for the love of a Beatle.

One day in 1960, John Lennon walked into a music shop in Hamburg, Germany, and found the diminutive Rickenbacker. It must have seemed like the Holy Grail – a stylish, sturdy, well-made guitar from a respected U.S. company. After all, the Beatles were on a constant quest to find serviceable substitutes for the European instruments with which they’d been saddled. And its odd 3/4-scale neck was even more of a draw – the short, slim, profile allowed for much lower string action than the Höfner he had been playing. Remember, Lennon was not a big guy. If you look at old pictures of him playing the 325, the guitar looks perfectly to scale with his body. But if somebody closer to average size picks up a 325, it looks more like a baritone uke!

Rickenbacker had a way with words when it came to naming its finishes. They called this dark red sunburst Fireglo, while the more traditional brown sunburst was Autumnglo. Natural and black finishes were spruced up with the names Mapleglo and Jetglo.

Still, Lennon was smitten with the guitar and soon discovered that it perfectly suited his rhythm guitar style and his young band’s needs. Thus, the 325 was his preferred electric from 1960 until ’66. Lennon eventually came to own three more 325s, plus a custom-made 12-string.

For its part, Rickenbacker was equally tickled with the arrangement. While a short-scale guitar might not have been everybody’s cup of tea, the opportunity to put its guitars in the hands of a Beatle brought the company more exposure than all the advertising in the world. And while the 325 never sold in the numbers that its makers had originally hoped, Lennon’s very conspicuous allegiance ensured that it survived the 1960s, and that Rickenbacker flourished.

Thanks to Jim Rhoads (Rhoads Music), Nate Westgor (Willie’s American Guitars), Buzzy Levine (Lark St. Music), Albert Molinaro (Guitars R Us), and Richard Smith.

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2005 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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