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Rickenbacker is the first company to have made an electric guitar. The semi acoustic guitars by Rickenbacker became famous in the 1960´s due to the Beatles. In the 1970´s the Rickenbacker bass also came to fame. The company was founded as the Electro String Instrument Corporation by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp in 1931 to sell electric "Hawaiian" guitars designed by Beauchamp. They chose the brand name Rickenbacker (later changed to Rickenbacker) for these guitars. They specialized in the production of Hawaiian guitars till in the late 1950´s.

In 1956 Rickenbacker introduced 2 new instruments with a new “neck through body” construction that soon became a trademark for the company. The guitars were the Combo 400 guitar and the bass Rickenbacker 4000.

In 1958 Rickenbacker launched the „Capri“series to the market, including a semi acoustic model with a double cutaway, from witch the famous Rickenbacker 300 series would later evolve. In 1960 a unknown John Lennon purchased a Rickenbacker 325 Capri in Hamburg and played it continuously throughout the early Beatles days.

In 1963 his band mate George Harrison bought a Rickenbacker, although he still mainly played his Gretsch Country Gent. In 1964 Rickenbacker developed a 12 string guitar, the second one that was made, was given to George Harrison. He was so thrilled by the great sound and playability of the 360/12 that he played it through out the 1964/1965 sessions.

The first Rickenbacker E-bass was the model 4000, followed by that the very successful range 4001 to 4003 (1961 – today) in the 70´s and 80´s these basses were, alongside with Fender, the dominate rock music instruments on the market. Many Rickenbacker guitars and basses feature the “Rick-o-sound”. A stereo plug socket opens the opportunity to have the pickups hooked up with different amps or effects.
The Rickenbacker guitars soon become very popular with 60´s rock musicians such as:
John Lennon and George Harrison from the Beatles, Roger McGuinn from the Birds and Pete Townshend from The Who. In the early 70´s the guitars came out of fashion, but the basses were still very popular. Paul McCartney played his spezial lefthanded Rickenbacker bass until the 1980´s. Later on in time guitarists such as : Tom Petty, Paul Weller from The Jam, Johnny Marr from The Smiths, Marty Wilson-Piper from The Church, Brix Smith from The Fall, Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles discovered there love for the Rickenbacker instruments. The best know Rickenbacker bassists include artists Mike Rutherford from Genesis, Chris Squire from Yes, Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead, Roger Glover from Deep Purple, Hellmut Hattler from Kraan, Cliff Burton from Metallica, Joey DeMaio from Manowar and Paul McCartney.