- tube amplifiers
- acoustic guitars
- bass guitars
- electric guitars
- lap steel guitars
Rickenbacker International Corp. has its origins in the Electro String Instrument Corporation, founded in 1931 in Los Angeles. Electro String was an instrument making company established by Adolph Rickenbacker and George D. Beauchamp and they branded their pioneering electric guitars Rickenbacker Electro Instruments. Beauchamp had previously developed a metal-bodied tri-cone resonator guitar design in the 1920s with the help of John and Rudy Dopyera. Their company National enlisted the engineering skills of Adolph Rickenbacker to help manufacture the metal bodies. Around 1928 John and Rudy Dopyera left National company and founded Dobro while selling their National stocks to their brother Louis. George Beauchamp was fired from National and joined with Rickenbacker to found Ro-Pat-In Corporation (which then became Electro String). They began prototyping an electric guitar using Beauchamp's novel pickup design with 2 horseshoe magnets - this became the famous "Frying Pan" guitar. Although their instrument was the first electric guitar other manufacturers were soon competing with similar instruments and by 1935 it became impossible for Electro String to defend against these patent infringements.
Most of these early 1930s Rickenbackers were Hawaiian style lap-steel guitars - the Frying Pan was soon joined by a Bakelite Model B. There were also conventional "Spanish" guitars and the Spanish version of the model B was the forerunner of the modern solid-bodied electric guitar. By 1940 Beauchamp had tired of the instrument business and sold his shares in Electro String to Harold Kinney, Rickenbacker's accountant. Adolph Rickenbacker continued instrument making until 1953 when he sold the company to F.C. Hall, marking the dawn of the modern era of Rickenbacker guitars.
When F.C. Hall took charge in the early 1950s the popularity of lap-steels was beginning to decline, and the Rickenbacker line began to move towards conventional electric guitars. The factory manager Paul Barth designed the Combo 600 and 800 guitars. 1956 saw the introduction of the tulip-bodied model 400 guitar and a solid bodied bass - both with neck though body construction (not seen before on a mass produced guitar or bass).
The popularity of Rickenbacker instruments exploded in the 1960s when the Beatles began using Rickenbacker guitars and basses. The characteristic 12-string Rickenbacker sound became widely used in popular music from the Beatles to the Byrds. These designs from the 1960s are still the most popular Rickenbacker instruments. In 1964 F.C. Hall moved production from Los Angeles to Santa Ana, in Orange County.