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Famous for its ringing sustain; treble punch; and solid, underlying bottom end, its distinctive shape is...
The Rickenbacker Company was founded by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp in 1931 in Los Angeles. It was initially called the Electro String Instrument Corporation. This is the company that created what is believed by most musical instrument historians to be the world's first true solid body guitar, the A-22 lap steel. This model was commonly called the "Frying Pan" due to its circular body shape. While it had a round neck shape, it lacked actual frets and was intended to be played "Hawaiian style", with a slide.
The modern Rickenbacker era dates back to 1953, when Adolph Rickenbacker sold the company to F.C. Hall. The Rickenbacker Company is still owned by the Hall family, and still based in Southern California. The new owners began to put more emphasis into building standard "Spanish style" (fretted) electric and acoustic guitars. Rickenbacker also released their first electric bass, the model 4000, in 1957. Designed by Roger Rossmeisl, this bass laid the foundation for all Rickenbacker basses that followed it, and its influence can be clearly seen in the current 4001 and 4003 bass models. Not only did it feature the same "horseshoe" pickup design as the original Frying Pan lap steel guitar, but also the now-famous "cresting wave" double-cutaway body shape and, within a few years of its introduction, the same Mapleglo (natural), Fireglo (red sunburst) and Jetglo (black) finishes that are still available on new instruments today. It also had a rosewood fretboard and the same neck-through-the-body design that Rickenbacker still uses; it was the first bass to feature this type of construction.
Instead of being bolted or glued to the body, the maple neck runs the entire length of the instrument. The two side pieces of maple that comprise the body are then glued to that center piece of wood. This construction method not only has the advantage of greater strength, but it also adds considerably to the instrument's sustain since both ends of the strings are attached to the same piece of wood, as opposed to two separate, but connected pieces. Rickenbacker basses also feature a unique 33.25" scale length. This is slightly shorter than the 34" scale length used on many other basses, and this, along with their fairly narrow and thin neck shape, makes Rickenbacker basses very comfortable and easy to play.
The sound of a Ric bass (as they're commonly called) is distinctive, with a ringing, punchy and bright tone and excellent sustain. Rickenbacker basses are among the most popular models with musicians in a variety of different playing styles. Players who are associated with Rickenbacker basses include John Entwistle (The Who), Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Peter Quaife (The Kinks), Chris Squire (Yes), Lemmy (Motorhead), Geddy Lee (Rush) and Dave Dreiwitz (Ween).