Rickenbacker International Corporation is an electric guitar manufacturer, notable for having invented the first electric guitar during the 1930s. All production takes place at its headquarters in Santa Ana, California. Rickenbacker is the largest guitar company to manufacture all of their guitars within the United States.
The company was founded as the Electro String Instrument Corporation by Adolph Rickenbacher and George Beauchamp in 1931 to sell electric “Hawaiian” guitars designed by Beauchamp. They chose the brand name Rickenbacher (later changed to Rickenbacker) for these guitars.

These instruments, nicknamed “frying pans” due to their long necks and circular bodies, are the first solid-bodied electric guitars, though they were not standard guitars, but a lap-steel type. They had huge pickups with a pair of horseshoe magnets that arched over the top of the strings. By the time production ceased in 1939, several thousand frying pans had been produced.

Right from the start, Electro String also sold amplifiers to go along with their electric guitars. A Los Angeles radio manufacturer, Mr. Van Nest, designed the first Electro String production-model amp. Shortly thereafter, design engineer Ralph Robertson was hired to further develop the amplifiers and by the 1940s at least four different Rickenbacker amplifier models were made available. James B. Lansing of the Lansing Manufacturing Company designed the speaker in the Rickenbacker professional model. During the early 1940s, Rickenbacker amps were sometimes repaired by fellow Californian Leo Fender, who would notably go on to start his own famous musical instrument manufacturing business.
Rickenbacher (shortly afterwards changed to ‘Rickenbacker’ to avoid German connotations in light of the world wars, as well as to capitalize on the distant relation between the company owner and WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker) continued to specialize in steel guitars well into the 1950s, but with the rock and roll boom they shifted towards producing standard guitars, both acoustic and electric. In 1956, Rickenbacker introduced two instruments with the “neck through body” construction that was to become a standard feature of the company’s products — the Combo 400 guitar and the model 4000 bass.

In 1958, Rickenbacker introduced its “Capri” series, including the double-cutaway semi-acoustic guitars which would become the famous Rickenbacker 300 Series. In 1963 Rickenbacker developed an electric twelve-string guitar with an innovative headstock design that enabled all twelve machine heads to be fitted onto a standard-length headstock by alternately mounting pairs of machine heads at right-angles to the other. The very first prototype of this 12 string electric guitar originally produced as a “show and tell item” only was ultimately sold in 1963 by then Rickenbacker CEO/Owner F.C. Hall to a persuasive and insistent country and western music Las Vegas entertainer Suzi Parker. The second Ric electric 12 string prototype which was somewhat different was given by F.C. Hall to Beatle George Harrison in February 1964.
During the 1960s, with luck on their side, Rickenbacker would go on to enjoy an incredible endorsement when a couple of Rickenbacker models became permanently intertwined with the sound and look of the most popular band of the 1960s and arguably the most influential band of the 20th century: The Beatles.

In Hamburg 1960, the then-unknown John Lennon bought a 325 Capri, which he used throughout the early days of The Beatles. He eventually had the guitar, which originally sported a natural Alder body wood finish, refurbished in a black finish, a color eventually to be officially known as ‘Jetglo’ by Rickenbacker. Other modifications were made to this guitar as well by Lennon. Lennon went on to use this guitar during The Beatles’ famous 1964 debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

A second 325 model was given to Lennon while in Miami Beach, FL on the same 1964 visit to the US. He used this newer model on The Beatles’ next appearance on The Ed Sullivan show. Confusingly, a third airing of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show featured the formerly mentioned 325 model because the show was pre-recorded during the afternoon of the first show.

Lennon accidentally dropped the second 325 ‘Miami’ model during a 1964 Christmas show, breaking the headstock which made the instrument go hopelessly out of tune every time he played it. While it was being repaired, Rose Morris, who was official UK importer of Rickenbacker at the time , gave Lennon an export version of the 325 called the 1996. This 1996 was later given by Lennon to fellow Beatle and friend, Ringo Starr.

In 1963, George Harrison of The Beatles bought a 425. In February of 1964, while in New York City, F.C. Hall of Rickenbacker gave as a gift to Harrison, the second prototype model OS 360/12 FG electric 12-string Rickenbacker ever made. This instrument became a key part of the Beatles’ sound on A Hard Day’s Night and other Beatles songs through late 1964. This guitar was played by Harrison throughout his life.

In August of 1965 while in Minnesota USA summer concert touring with the Beatles, Harrison was presented with a second model 360/12 FG “New Style” 12-string electric guitar by a local radio station which he toured and recorded with until it was stolen right after their last public concert at the San Francisco, California Giants baseball stadium, Candlestick Park in 1966.

Though somewhat challenging to fret cleanly (the 12 strings are on a conventional width six string neck) the guitar remains very popular because it is still the only way to get the true “12 string Ric” sound, one of rock music’s most distinctive sounds since 1964.

In late 1965 after the Beatles 1965 summer tour, Paul McCartney began to make heavy use of a left handed 1964 4001 FG Rickenbacker bass since its tone was better suited to recording than the lightweight Hofner basses he had used for earlier studio recordings and Beatles’ live performances. The instrument became popular with other bassists influenced by his highly melodic style, as it produces a clear tone even when played high up the neck, its deep cutaways allowing easy access to the higher frets. McCartney predominantly used a Rickenbacker bass until the late 70s during his time with Wings. (He has used varied other basses live and in studio since then, including a return to the use of a Hofner from his Beatle years.)

Perhaps at least partially due to the Beatles’ popularity and their persistent use of the brand, Rickenbackers were quickly adopted by many other 1960s notables, including Mike Pender of The Searchers, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Pete Townshend of The Who, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Al Nichol of The Turtles and Steppenwolf.

As both the British invasion and 1960s came to an end, Rickenbacker guitars fell somewhat out of fashion, however Rickenbacker basses remained highly in favor throughout the 1970s and on. Perhaps as an echo of the past, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rickenbacker guitars experienced a renaissance as many New Wave and jangle pop groups began to use them.

Rickenbacker guitars and basses continue to be very popular to this day with demand persistently and exponentially outstripping new factory supply. Demand is particularly high amongst retro groups who have been influenced by the sound and look of the 1960s.

Current Rickenbacker CEO/Owner John Hall (son of the late Francis C. Hall) remains adamant that these legendary and fabled instruments continue to be manufactured only in the USA under the most exacting of high quality control standards.
Many Rickenbackers — both guitars and basses — are equipped to be compatible with a “Ric-O-Sound” unit via an extra “stereo” output socket, that allows the two pickups (or neck and middle pickup combined/bridge pickup, in the case of three pickup instruments) to be connected to different effects units or amplifiers. Another idiosyncrasy of Rickenbackers is the use of two truss rods (rather than the usual one) to correct twists, as well as curvature, in the neck.

Rickenbacker guitars are noted for their distinctive jangle and chime. They are very trebly instruments and, unlike most electric guitars used in rock and roll, are often played cleanly, without distortion. Because of their tone, the guitars are favored by jangle pop, power pop, and British Invasion-style groups. Though there are exceptions, most hard rock, metal, and punk outfits eschew Rickenbacker guitars because they are not as well suited to tougher, grittier sounds as are other guitars; Rickenbacker basses, however, are a staple of the hard rock genre.

Some of Rickenbacker’s most popular models include the following:

* 325 – Six-string, short scale guitar used by John Lennon. The 1950s models as well as the current reissue 325C58 model are full hollow bodied. The most famous 325s do not have a sound-hole, most notably, John Lennon’s 1958 and 1964 325s. The current 325C64 reissue (i.e. Ric ‘Miami’) model is semi-hollow bodied exactly as was John Lennon’s original 1964 325 Ric ‘Miami’ model (serial number db122). This makes for notable tonal differences between the 1958 and 1964 325 model.[3]
* 330 – Six-string hollow body with scimitar shaped sound-hole[4]
* 360 – A deluxe version of the 330, with stereo output and bound fretboard with triangle inlays. Earlier models have a 330 body shape, with top and bottom binding (later known as “OS” (Old Style) or “WB” (With Binding)), later models with more rounded body top and horns, and no top binding. [5]
* 360/12 – A twelve-string version of the 360. Rickenbacker touts this model as “The world’s most popular twelve string electric guitar”. Made famous in the ’60s by George Harrison [6] (see 360/12C63 below for exact Harrison replica), (Harrison also had a second 360/12 [7])
* 370/12 – The same as the 360/12, but with a third pickup. This is the Rickenbacker model most associated with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, although his original was a 360/12 with an added third pickup.
* 620, 620/12 & 660/12 – Solid bodied guitars with the “cresting wave” body style. The 660/12 is unique as it is the only production 12 string with a wider neck, and the only standard series guitar with full width inlays and “toaster” pickups standard. Used by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers[8]
* Rose, Morris 1996 – British export version of the 325, distributed by Rose, Morris in the UK, and touted as the “Beatle-Backer”, even though the model was only briefly played by John Lennon, and certainly not the model most associated with him nor the Beatles. Almost all were finished in Fireglo. Rose, Morris 1996 are hard to distinguish from their American counterparts because both varieties had f-shaped sound holes- the domestic version kept this un-Lennonesque feature until the 1980s.
* Rose, Morris 1993 – British export version of 360/12, distributed by Rose, Morris in the UK during the mid 1960s. It was basically a bound 330/12 with an f-hole instead of a slash sound hole. Notably played by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Pete Townshend of The Who.
* 4001 – Rickenbacker’s most popular bass guitar. Famous players include Cliff Burton (Metallica), Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister (Motörhead), Geddy Lee (Rush), Paul McCartney (The Beatles/Wings/solo), Jerry Only (The Misfits), and Chris Squire (Yes).
* 4003 – Visibly similar, but actually an updated version of the 4001, with different truss rods, and no “skunk-stripe”.
* 325c58 – A reissue of the guitar John Lennon originally bought in Hamburg, Germany in 1960, and eventually used on The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show appearance. This guitar is available in both Mapleglo (how Lennon originally got it, and though the body is actually alder), and Jetglo (as it appeared on the Ed Sullivan show). Short scale neck and body, Kauffman vib-rola tailpiece, four oven knobs, three toaster pickups, gold plastic pickguard and nameplate. [9]
* 325c64 – Reissue of John Lennon’s second Rickenbacker. F.C. Hall presented Lennon with a new 325 to replace his road weary one during the group’s first trip to New York City. John used the new guitar on The Beatles second Sullivan appearance and on the group’s subsequent tours and albums. This guitar has an Ac’cent Vibrato and a white plastic pickguard and nameplate.[10]
* 1996 – reissue of the guitar played briefly by John Lennon in late 1964 – known in Rickenbacker advertising of the period as “The Beatle Backer”. It is the same as the 325 except for its f-hole, which came standard on all Rose, Morris hollow body instruments. This instrument is available in Amber Fireglo only. John Lennon received this model after damaging his second 325. This instrument was discontinued in January of 2007.[11]
* 350v63 (or 350/12v63, the twelve-string version) – similar body shape and size to 325c64, but with a 21-fret full-scale neck. A similar instrument, the Model 350, had been available for many years before this model appeared in the 1990s, but the original 350 had hi-gain pickups and a 24-fret neck. (Since the 350 did not exist in 1963, the 350v63 is not an actual reissue.)
* 360/12C63 – While the 360/12, like most of Rickenbacker’s guitars, has been subtly updated throughout the years, the 360/12C63 is designed to be a ‘frozen in time’ replica of the famous prototype 1963 guitar that George Harrison used during the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ period. This guitar replaced the 360/12v64. [12]
* 381v69 (or 381/12v69, the twelve-string version) – reissue of 1969 model 381. Front and back of body have German-style carve, plus checkered binding. Also features stereo output and, on the twelve-string version, a 12-saddle bridge. These models typically feature highly figured maple, and are considered the flagship of the current Rickenbacker line.
* 4001c64 – An accurate replica of the ’64 Fireglo 4001S bass Paul McCartney received from Rickenbacker in 1965, and subsequently began using on “Rubber Soul”. Paul’s was a lefty with a right-handed neck; the current issue of the bass comes in right-handed with a left-handed neck, and left-handed with a right-handed neck. This bass replaced the discontinued 4001v63.
* 4001c64s – Designed as a replica of Paul McCartney’s ’64 4001S bass in its current state: The upper horn has been sanded down, the paint has been stripped to the bare maple, and there is a zero fret.
* 5002v58 – soliodbody electric mandolin, originally issued in 1958. Featuring one “toaster” pickup, a gold pickguard, and a miniaturized Rickenbacker nameplate (the only change from the original issue, which had a lap-steel-type nameplate), the 5002v58 is an oft overlooked model in the Rickenbacker family, and is seeing a rise in popularity in Americana rock groups.
* 230 Hamburg – Six string solid body electric. These guitars adopted the body style of the 430. They had special design RIC single coil pickups, and later RIC humbuckers. The single coils used a battery-less active circuitry. These guitars were in production from 1984 until the early 90’s.
* 250 El Dorado – Deluxe version of the 230, featuring a bound body.
* 260 – Deluxe version of the 230, including maple fingerboard, bound body, and single-ply pickguard. Equipped with RIC humbuckers.
* 331 – The Rickenbacker Light Show Guitars, were made in the early 1970’s. These models incorporated a color organ into the body, wherein multi-coulored lights flashed underneath translucent pickguards covering the face of the guitar.
* 360WB and 360/12 WB- The Double bound versions of the 360 and 360/12, with the “old,” pointed body style and modern pickups, number of frets and bound soundhole.
* 362/12- Double Neck six string and twelve string hollow-body guitar with deluxe features.
* 370/12RM – Roger McGuinn signature model from the early 1990’s. This model accurately reflected the appointments of McGuinn’s 370/12 from his years with the Byrds, and came with an optional internal compressor to recreate the “jangle sound” of the Byrds recordings (previously achieved by using extreme outboard compression). LImited Edition of 1000.
* 380L- 360 style hollowbody with oil finished walnut body, humbucking pickups (with option of a Piezo pickup system) and wide maple fretboard.
* 425 – Six string solid body electric, as played briefly by George Harrison. These guitars were among Rickenbacker’s less expensive, and featured the “cresting wave” body shape along with a large pickguard, neck-through body construction, combination bridge/tailpiece and one toaster pickup. In production from the early 60’s to the late 70’s.
* 430 – Six string solid body, designed in part with Forrest White, formerly of Fender. The Fender influence is obvious, as this guitar features a bolt on neck and a simplified, stripped down styling reminiscent of the Fender Telecaster. Later, the 200 series guitars would adopt the same body style. These guitars were introduced in the early 70’s and dropped in the early 80’s.
* 450 – Two pickup version of the 425 as played by as played by Paul Collins of Paul Collins’ Beat, and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick.]]
* 450/12 – Twelve-string version of the 450 as played by singer and rhythm guitarist Mike Pender of British invasion band The Searchers, who recorded the hit songs Needles & Pins and When You Walk In The Room, and Dave Wakeling of The English Beat who played a left hand model of the 450/12.
* 460 – Deluxe version of the 450 (bound body and triangle inlays).
* 480 – Six-string solid body guitar with the body stylings of the 4000 series basses. These guitars had dot inlays, a bound neck, dual higain pickups, and a contoured body. Produced from 1973 to 1983.
* 481 – Like the 480, except it had a bound body and triangle pearl inlays. The most striking feature, however, was the slanted frets/bridge/pickups/nut, supposedly “matching natural finger angle” and enabling easier playing. This guitar also had special design Rickenbacker humbucking pickups, which never appeared in another Rickenbacker instrument. Produced from 1973 to 1983. Main instrument of Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno.
* 4001CS – Chris Squire Signature Model. Featured a creme finish, walnut headstock wings, square heel, and vintage type pickups, and a signature pickguard. Very similar to the 4001V63 model, production was limited to 1000 basses.
* 4001V63 – reproduction of the export RM1999 that were made famous by the Kinks, Roger Waters, Chris Squire and Paul McCartney.
* 4003s5 – Five-string bass, discontinued 2004. Shared the body style of the 4003s.
* 4003s8 – Eight-string bass discontinued 2004. Shared the body style of the 4003s.
* 4003 SPC Blackstar – Limited Edition bass as used by Smithereens bassist Mike Mesaros. Featured an all black body and painted maple fretboard with white microdot inlays, and black hardware. Production was limited to 200 basses.
* 4003 SPC Tuxedo – Limited Edition bass, featured all white body with painted maple neck, black microdot inlays, and black hardware. Production was approx 120 instruments constructed in two runs. The Tuxedo was also produced as a guitar: The 360 Tuxedo included both 6 and 12 string models.
* 4003 SPC Redneck – Limited Edition bass, featured all red body with painted maple neck, black microdot inlays, and black hardware. Production was approx 38 instruments, 11 of which are thought to be 8 string models.
* 4003 Shadow – Limited Edition bass, featured all black body, checkerboard binding, and black dot “S” type neck with binding, and black hardware. The Shadow was produced for Guitar Center’s 50th store opening, production limited to 50 instruments.
* 4005 – This bass was introduced in 1965, and adapted the new-style 360 body in a hollowbody bass. Two toaster pickups (later hi-gain), single-tier pickguard, 5th knob, bound soundhole, triangle inlays. In production until 1983.
* 4005WB – This shared the same shape as the 4005, except it was double bound, and had a flat top. Comparable to an “old-style” 360, or a 360WB. Very few were made in comparison to the regular 4005. In production until 1983.
* 4080 – This bass, introduced in the late seventies, was a doubleneck guitar consisting a 4-string bass on the top neck and a 6-string guitar on the bottom.
* 4080/12 – Another doubleneck bass/guitar with the inclusion of a twelve string guitar in place of the 6 string found on the 4080. Geddy Lee of Rush had one specifically constructed for him, excluding the treble pick-up cover. It can be heard on the live Rush album Exit…Stage Left on the songs “A Passage to Bangkok” and “Xanadu”.
Rickenbacker has produced many colors that are often unique to their company. The colors’ names usually have official abbreviations such as ‘JG’ which stands for ‘Jetglo’ (black). Rickenbacker often produces a ‘color of the year’ which is only made available for a limited time. Many colors have been produced over the years though there are three that are perhaps the most well known due to their quite lengthy runs; ‘Fireglo’, the company’s longest running color option, has been made available every year since 1958, with Jetglo and Mapleglo right behind, being made available every year since 1959. Since Rickenbackers are hand-sprayed, thus left to the judgment of the professional sprayer, shading can vary slightly from one guitar to the next. However, even the most extreme differences in shading are quite minimal.

Current available colors:

* Fireglo (FG) – a sunburst color; deep dark red that fades into a lighter maple center (available 1958-2007)
* Jetglo (JG) – black (available 1959-2007)
* Mapleglo (MG) – Natural (available 1959-2007)
* Midnight Blue (MID) – Dark blue

* Translucent Blue (TB)(non-standard, only available for 4004 Cheyenne II model)
* Translucent Green (TG) (non-standard, only available for 4004 Cheyenne II model)
* Translucent Red (TR) (non-standard, only available for 4004 Cheyenne II model)
* Walnut Oil Finish (WAL)(non-standard, only available for 650 series)

Color of the year (COY):

* 2000: Sea Green
* 2001: Desert Gold
* 2002: Burgundy
* 2003: Montezuma Brown
* 2004: Montezuma Brown & Blueboy
* 2005: Blueburst (BBR)
* 2006: Amber Fireglo (AFG)

Retired/Unavailable colors:

* Amber Fireglo (2006 COY) (besides pre-orders)
* Autumnglo (available 1956-1970)
* Azureglo (available 1969-1985)
* Blond (available 1954-1957)
* Blueboy (2004 COY)
* Blueburst (BBR) (2005 COY)
* Brown (available 1954-1957)
* Burgundy (available 1963-1984, 1999-2000, & 2002 COY)
* Desert Gold (2001 COY)
* Green (available 1954-1957)
* Jet-Black (available 1954-1957)
* Midnight Blue (MID) (available 1985-2007)
* Montezuma Brown (2003 COY)
* Natural (available 1957-1959)
* Red (available 1985-1999)
* Ruby (available 1980-1984)
* Sea Green (2000 COY)
* Silver (1980-1984)
* Turquoise-Blue(available 1954-1957)
* Turquoise (available 1991-2003)
* Walnut (available 1973-1985)
* White (available 1957 & 1970-1999)

Colors available by year:

  • 1954-1955: Blond, Turquoise-Blue, Jet-Black, Brown & Green
  • 1956: Blond, Turquoise-Blue, Jet-Black, Brown, Green & Autumnglo
  • 1957: Blond, Turquoise-Blue, Jet-Black, Brown, Green, Autumnglo, Natural & White
  • 1958: Natural, Autumnglo & Fireglo
  • 1959: Natural, Autumnglo, Fireglo, Jetglo & Mapleglo
  • 1960-1962: Autumnglo, Fireglo, Jetglo & Mapleglo
  • 1963-1968: Autumnglo, Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo & Burgundy
  • 1969: Autumnglo, Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy & Azureglo
  • 1970: Autumnglo, Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy, Azureglo & White
  • 1971-1972: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy, Azureglo & White
  • 1973-1979: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy, Azureglo, White & Walnut
  • 1980-1984: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy, Azureglo, White, Walnut, Ruby & Silver
  • 1985: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Azureglo, White, Walnut, Red & Midnight Blue
  • 1986-1990: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, White, Walnut, Red & Midnight Blue
  • 1991-1995: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, White, Walnut, Red, Midnight Blue & Turquoise
  • 1996-1998: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, White, Red, Midnight Blue & Torquoise
  • 1999: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, White, Red, Midnight Blue, Torquoise & Burgundy
  • 2000: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue, Torquoise, Burgundy & Sea Green
  • 2001: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue, Torquoise & Desert Gold
  • 2002: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Burgundy, Midnight Blue & Torquoise
  • 2003: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue, Torquoise & Montezuma Brown
  • 2004: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue, Montezuma Brown & Blue Boy
  • 2005: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue & Blueburst
  • 2006: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue & Amber Fireglo
  • 2007: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo & Midnight Blue

Rickenbacker 1971 Model 331 lightshow

Rickenbacker 1959 Model 360f, Mapleglo

Rickenbacker 1968 Model 375, Mapleglo

Rickenbacker 1958 Model 360 capri

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