16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars

7th Aug 2009 | 13:05

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
From Lennon to Lemmy and beyond...

The Rickenbacker company's history goes right back to the dawn of the electric guitar, but thanks to a certain successful beat combo from Liverpool, the brand will forever be associated with the sound of the sixties.

While we'd be foolish to ignore John, Paul and George's influence, there are plenty of other stars who have made the distinctive sound of Rickenbacker guitars and basses their own over the years too.

Here are 16 stars who love Rickenbackers...

Next page: John Lennon

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
John Lennon
McCartney and Lennon On the set of the Ed Sullivan Show, 9 February 1964

Lennon purchased his natural finish Rickenbacker Capri 325 in Hamburg in 1960 after his interest in the model was sparked by seeing Jean 'Toots' Thielemans using one with the George Shearing Quintet in 1959.

The modifications soon began, and the large TV-style control knobs were replaced by smaller units from Hofner and Burns. On Lennon's return to Liverpool, the unreliable Kauffman vibrola was replaced with a Bigsby installed on the counter of Hessy's music store.

By December 1962, the most significant part of the guitar's makeover had been carried out: a new black paint job. Only the small matter of taking over the world remained...

Lennon would have two more 325s including a one-of-a-kind 12-string, but his first will always be the most iconic.

Next page: George Harrison

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
George Harrison
The Beatles rehearsing in the Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, 15 February 1964

George was the second Beatle to buy a Rickenbacker, but the 425 that he purchased in Illinois in September 1963 never became a favourite. His second Rickenbacker would change the course of musical history.

Given to George in NYC in February 1964, the second Rickenbacker 12-string ever made was the first to be strung with the octave strings occuring second in the string pairs. From the opening chord of A Hard Day's Night to Ticket To Ride, in Harrison's hands the brand new sound of the electric 12-string became synonymous with the musicial vocabulary of the sixties.

Next page: Roger McGuinn

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Roger McGuinn
The Byrds play UK television show Ready Steady Go in 1965

After George Harrison, Roger McGuinn is arguably the Rickenbacker 12-string's most famous exponent. McGuinn explains his relationship with a guitar that began in the cinema and culminated in the 370/12 RM signature model:

"The Byrds went as a group to see A Hard Day’s Night multiple times and were totally taken with The Beatles. I liked George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 12, but I couldn’t find one that looked like his with the pointy cutaways, so I bought the blonde 360 model.

"I thought it was beautiful, like a golden palomino and the checkerboard binding reminded me of Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. I loved that guitar and played it eight hours a day."

Next page: Pete Townshend

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Pete Townshend
The Who on Ready Steady Go in 1965. Note John Entwistle also playing a Rickenbacker

My Generation, I Can't Explain, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere... Those early Who recordings saw Pete Townshend take Rickenbackers into previously uncharted territory in terms of the sheer ferocity of his playing style.

Townshend owned - and reduced to smithereens - numerous Rickenbackers. His first was likely a Rose Morris 1998 export model purchased in 1964. 1988 saw the release of the limited edition 1998PT signature model.

Next page: Paul McCartney

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Paul McCartney
Onstage with Wings in 1975, McCartney's 4001S sanded back to the bare wood

Macca received his fireglo 4001S at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1964. However, it wasn't until the split Paperback Writer/Rain single was released in 1966 that the unmistakeable warmth of Paul's Rickenbacker would establish itself as a signature sound of The Beatles' experimental period.

Like Lennon's Epiphone Casino, McCartney's 4001S went through three distinct phases, beginning as a factory sunburst, given a psychedelic makeover in 1967 then stripped back to a natural finish at the end of the following year.

Next page: Tom Petty

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Tom Petty
Onstage in 2006 playing an original mid sixties Rose Morris 1997 export model

Both Petty and his Heartbreakers bandmate Mike Campbell are Rickenbacker fans. Petty's 1979 Damn The Torpedoes album cover shoot saw Petty posing with Campbell's 1963 fireglo 620/12.

A Rickenbacker owner since the age of 16, Petty's own signature model, the limited edition 660/12TP, arrived in 1991. Petty still uses the prototype tuned down half a step for live performances of American Girl.

Next page: Chris Squire

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Chris Squire
Onstage in 1977. Yes, that is a cape

Alongside Deep Purple's Roger Glover, Chris Squire was one of a handful of seventies rock bassists who will forever be associated with the Rickenbacker 4001.

This live version of Heart Of The Sunrise has that classic Rickenbacker bass clank in spades.

Next page: Paul Weller

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Paul Weller
Weller and Foxton rocking Ricks on the In The City single sleeve

Owing a huge debt to Pete Townshend both sonically and aesthetically, the young Weller made the bite and snarl of a Rickenbacker 330's bridge pickup through a driven AC30 a signature of The Jam's sound.

Why a Rickenbacker? "The first attraction was the look, because I liked Pete Townshend on the early Who stuff. When I got an advance from the record company I went out and bought as many Rickenbackers as I could."

Next page: Lemmy

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Lemmy Kilmister
Onstage in 2008 with his 4004LK signature bass

Lemmy's growling bass tone is one of the most instantly-recognisable in rock. Murder One, his modified 100-watt Marshall Super Bass head, plays no small part in the equation, as does his Rickenbacker.

A Rickenbacker devotee for decades, the Motörhead frontman's patronage was rewarded in 2001 with a limited edition, hand-carved signature model, the 4004LK.

Next page: Peter Buck

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Peter Buck
REM performing at The Rat in Boston in 1983. Bassist Mike Mills is also sporting a Rickenbacker, while Buck plays his less frequently sighted 330

Rickenbacker fan Peter Buck once said of his jetglo 360: "I've used my black 360 Rick on every record we've ever done. It's my main guitar; I bought it new, beat it up, splattered blood on it and now it's MY guitar. You play a guitar for ten years and it's almost part of you."

The guitar he values above all others was stolen in 2008, but happily it was returned anonymously just days later. REM just wouldn't be the same without it.

Next page: Johnny Marr

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Johnny Marr
A '60s 370 owned by Johnny Marr, photographed in his studio in 2009

If Peter Buck was representing Rickenbacker jangle stateside in the eighties, then Johnny Marr of The Smiths was doing the same for the UK.

Despite its appearance in the This Charming Man video, Marr's 1983 jetglo 330 wasn't used to record the famous intro riff, instead a 1952 Telecaster was Marr's six string of choice.

Marr says of the 330: "I got it from A1 Repairs on Oxford Road in Manchester and it was my main guitar at all the early gigs. It's the sound of the riff on What Difference Does It Make and Reel Around The Fountain, all of the first album and on other albums too. I still use it now."

Next page: Susanna Hoffs

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Susanna Hoffs
Recording a radio session in 2009

Bangles star Susanna Hoffs was awarded a limited edition signature Rickenbacker in 1988.

The 350SH is one of the best-looking of all Rickenbackers, with a perfect balance of black, chrome and checkerboard binding. An HB-1 humbucker in the bridge position adds extra muscle to that characteristic Rickenbacker jangle.

Next page: John Kay

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
John Kay
Onstage with Steppenwolf and his signature 381JK in 2004

Steppenwolf's John Kay is best known for hits like Born To Be Wild and The Pusher. Back in the late sixties he played a 381, but in 1988, a signature model was announced, incorporating some interesting electronics.

The 1988 catalogue boasts: "The instrument features two HB-1's, Rickenbacker's newly designed humbucking pickup, active and passive modes, lead phase switch and a four position rotary switch which offers various combinations of single coil and humbucking pickup configurations. The guitar offers stereo and monaural outputs."

Next page: Mani

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Gary 'Mani' Mounfield
Playing a 3001 onstage with Primal Scream

As one half of the most fluid and outrageously funky rhythm sections in the history of British guitar bands, Mani's iconic Stone Roses era bass was a semi-hollow Rickenbacker 4005 customised with a Jackson Pollock-influenced paint job courtesy of guitarist John Squire.

Fast-forward to the late nineties onwards and Mani's basslines would become a central part of Primal Scream's sound, played on a rare seventies 3001 model.

Next page: Thom Yorke

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Thom Yorke
The Radiohead frontman onstage with a fireglo 330

Although Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien used to be synonymous with the 360 - he also had a hybrid custom model with a Rickenbacker body and Gibson neck known as 'plank' - these days he seems to favour Stratocasters and ES-335s.

However, in recent years frontman Thom Yorke appears to have taken over as the band's resident Rick-head, with a 330 his weapon of choice.

Next page: Serge Pizzorno

16 Rickenbacker guitar and bass stars
Serge Pizzorno
The 481 is unusual for its slanted frets and humbucking pickups and was produced between 1973-1984

Kasabian guitarist and songwriter Pizzorno took one of the least-fashionable guitars from the Rickenbacker catalogue - the slanted fret 481 that shares the body outline of the 4000 bass - and made it his own.

Before Serge, you could pick up 481s and its standard fret sister model the 480 for peanuts on eBay. Not so anymore...

Share this Article

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version