Rickenbacker began its life in 1931. It was formed in Los Angeles by Adolph Rickenbacker and George D. Beauchamp, and started life as the snappily named Electro String Instrument Corporation. The purpose was clear; the brand would focus on making high quality stringed instruments with the latest in electric components.
This dedication made an indelible impression on popular music, starting with jazz musicians of the the 30s, then on into the 60s, and the birth of pop music. Rickenbacker guitars are still highly regarded, and played by major bands and artists today. There is, however, something about the Swinging Sixties that seems to be inextricably linked to these guitars, and their sound could almost be the voice for the era's young generation.
The 1960s was, of course,saw the beginnings of a pop movement that began with the birth of the teenager in the previous decade. It was now stronger, more vibrant, and took rock'n'roll into a brand new direction. Arguably, it was The Beatles that brought about the surge in this new pop sound, although there were many other bands who reinforced the relevance of British music across the globe.
You can hear Rickenbacker guitars from Liverpool to LA
Taking the influences from US rock'n'roll, blues and folk, the British Invasion had a very definite sound. Band such as The Beatles and The Who were powered by Rickenbacker, with guitars that had a signature 'jangly' tone. Around the same time, American bands were also discovering this unique sound, employing it in their own unique ways. The Byrds found the Rickenbacker guitar sound ideal for their own folk pop tunes, and The Beach Boys surf sound really benefited from the unmistakable twang of these instruments.
As music changed with the years, and the harder rock sounds of the 70s began to take shape, the Rickenbacker could be heard less and less in popular music. Saying that, it wasn't all together ignored. With the right effects and distortion, Rickenbackers to certainly fight in their own corner for crunch, but it wasn't until the 80s that the instrument found favour again, from two very different places.
Although there are many bands to this day that are influenced by the 60s sound, but it was the 80s and 90s that seemed to really absorb the memorable styles of the era. In the eighties, bands such as REM and The Bangles were clearly influenced by the breezy jangle of The Byrds. In the nineties, the Britpop scene captured much of the musical style of the music coming from the UK from years before. Notable for employing Rickenbackers to achieve this replication of sixties pop were The Stone Roses and Oasis.
Rickenbacker guitars are just as popular today, as more bands have found ways to achieve incredible sounds from these remarkable instruments, carrying on the legacy of sixties.
- By DeLerkim (Flickr: 330 Bigsby) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Peterborough Music lets guitarists create their own 60s sounds with the Rickenbacker guitars.