RICKENBACKER’S EXPLOSION popularity in the 1960s came courtesy of an unlikely and convoluted combination of circumstances: a British band selling aU.S.-made guitar back to the American audience, all thanks to an admittedly oddball model originally purchased in Germany. But while anything the Beatles laid their hands made for an easy ride in the marketing department, the Rickenbacker 325 and its brethren proved to have a lot going for them in their own right.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Rickenbacker was born in the late ’50s or early ’60s, given the way its guitars hit the scene with John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles, the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn and the Who’s Pete Townshend, among others. In fact, this manufacturer’s origins extend back to the very dawn of the electric guitar. Rickenbacker evolved from a team of inventors and manufacturers who originally worked together at National in the 1920s, trying to make guitars louder using resonator cones, before amplification became the obvious way forward. They included George Beauchamp and Paul Barth, who in 1931developed what is widely considered the first successful magnetic pickup for guitar. With help from Harry Watson and Adolph Rickenbacker, they put this “horseshoe pickup” — so-called for its U-shaped magnets— on a rudimentary maple solid body guitar. Dubbed the “frying pan” for its shape, this was the first of a line of solid Spanish and Hawaiian guitars made from both wood and bakelite that would carry the Rickenbacker(and sometimes Rickenbacher) brand name that fronted Beauchamp, Barth and Rickenbacker's Electro String Company.
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