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Rickenbacker International Corporation, also known as Rickenbacker, is an electric and bass guitar manufacturer based in Santa Ana, California. In 1932, the company became the world’s first to produce electric guitars and eventually produced a range of electric and bass guitars. Adolph Rickenbacher was born in Switzerland in 1886 and emigrated to the United States with relatives after the death of his parents. Sometime after moving to Los Angeles in 1918, he changed his surname to “Rickenbacker”. During the 1960s, Rickenbacker benefited tremendously when a couple of Rickenbacker guitar models became permanently intertwined with the sound and look of The Beatles.
In Hamburg in 1960, Beatles guitarist John Lennon bought a Rickenbacker 325 Capri, which he used throughout the early days of The Beatles. He eventually had the guitar’s natural alder body refinished in black, and made other modifications including the fitting of a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece and regularly changing the control knobs. Lennon played this guitar for The Beatles’ famous 1964 debut on The Ed Sullivan Show (as well as for their third Sullivan appearance, pre-taped the same day but broadcast two weeks later). During Lennon’s post-Beatles years in New York, this guitar was restored to its original natural wood finish and the cracked gold pickguard replaced with a white one.
Rickenbacker guitars and basses continue to be very popular to this day with demand persistently and exponentially outstripping new factory supply. Demand is particularly high amongst retro groups who have been influenced by the sound and look of the 1960s.