Rickenbacker… and why you should care


by Tim from Tym Guitars.

The current climate of big name guitar builders using the term “Custom shop” to make what used to be the standard item because the standard item has slipped in quality so drastically is rampant in today’s guitar world. Players who know what they want or more commonly get told what they want have to spend so much money to get a “good” guitar in amongst offerings by these companies selling cheaper and cheaper offshore built clones of their tried and tested products.

It should be refreshing to find a manufacturer who has never had to introduce a custom shop, a non US made budget model or been run into the ground by accountants only to be bought by a fan who brings the company back from near bankruptcy to start fresh and make a great product so they can run it back into the ground. Rickenbacker has never done any of this and stands alone in the electric guitar manufacturers of the USA as a result. The same family has owned them since 1953, operating out of the same factory since 1964, using the same or similar tooling and materials for the last 56 years, and yet, you can buy a vintage Ric for less than a quarter of the price of the equivalent year Fender or Gibson, and the Ric is better made……… then and today.

. ricky_body

In the mid 50’s, new company president F.C. Hall asked a very talented German guitar designer and builder to design a new line of electric guitars for his company. Roger Rossmeisl was a true genius and designed a futuristic guitar that the market wasn’t ready for, and in some ways, still isn’t. To players who still think the Fender Tele, Strat or Gibson Les Paul is the panicle of electric guitar design the bizarre solid and semi solid Rics were, and still are far too radical in looks and sound to take seriously.

It took the biggest band ever to make sure Rickenbacker would live on forever. Their fate was set in concrete when the Beatles started enthusiastically using several different models of the Rossmeisl designed Rics. Rickenbacker, like Grestch would have to take on new staff to handle the rush of orders for their product after the fab four were seen on national US TV using their product. Ric have nearly always made “re-issues” of the guitars used by John, Paul and George as the biggest ambassadors of their product as well as making signature models for players like Pete Townshend, Roger McGuinn, John Fogerty, Lemmy and John Kay.


Rickenbacker were always ahead of the times. They were key players in developing the magnetic string pick up, the solid body guitar, the vibrato and the amplifier. Their early solid bodies were constructed like no one else. Their semi solid guitars were unique in design and construction and their neck through basses were revolutionary in 1957 using a horse shoe pick up that some bass players say are still the best sounding bass pick up EVER made.


Despite all of this, Rics are still largely undervalued in the guitar world, or, more likely, other makes are drastically over valued. Weather it’s their stunning looks, or their unique sound that primarily turns most conservative players off is hard to tell but one thing is for sure. They have been consistently better made, using better materials and have a better “heritage” than any other USA made electric guitar on the market today.

*guitarnerd note: If after this you are keen on Rickies but can’t really afford one at the moment, maybe try tracking down a 70’s Greco copy.
They are AMAZING replicas of the classic Ricky models and are very affordable.