90 years ago, Rickenbacker launched the world’s first commercially available electric guitar following the introduction of the game-changing ‘horseshoe’ pickup in 1931. And though much has changed over the years in terms of technology and musical styles, the basic principle of the electric guitar remains the same to this day.
It was a watershed moment for the music industry and pop culture as a whole. Over the decades, Rickenbacker continued to evolve their designs, producing a huge range of instruments including acoustic guitars, jazz guitars, semi-hollowbodies, solidbodies, bass guitars, laps steels, pedal steels, amplifiers and more.
Now, for the first time ever, Rickenbacker’s conclusive history has been captured in fine photographic detail, from the earliest days of the 1930s up to the turn of the millennium.
Created by the Kelly brothers – author Martin Kelly and photographer Paul Kelly – Rickenbacker Guitars: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo provides readers with a full and detailed account of Rickenbacker guitar evolution that is finally rendered accessible by an easy-to-follow chronological layout.
Much like their previous book, The Golden Age of Fender: 1946-1970 (opens in new tab) (Cassell Illustrated), The Kelly brothers’ quest to nail the ultimate history of Rickenbacker took them on a journey around the world photographing collections of rare instruments and conducting countless hours of interview.
The result is indeed “definitive,” according to Rickenbacker Chairman and CEO John Hall. A family-run business for many years, his father – F.C. Hall – acquired the firm from Adolph Rickenbacher in 1953 at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll.
Celebrating the launch of Rickenbacker Guitars: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo, a special exhibition is being held at Shapero Rare Books (opens in new tab) in London. Earlier this month, Guitar Player caught up with Hall at a Q&A event held at the prestigious Mayfair bookshop.
“It was a big undertaking for Martin and Paul Kelly,” Hall told us. “Naturally, I was careful about who I would permit access to. The project was initially arranged via Alan Rogan. (The late Alan Rogan was a respected guitar collector/expert who famously worked as Pete Townshend’s guitar tech.)
"He was the one who came to me and said, ‘John, I know these guys. Do you want to do a book? I think they’d be good.’ So I felt comfortable that Martin and Paul were the right people to do the job.
“There’s some amazing information in the book. It fleshed out a lot of details, including some of the stories I knew.”
One such story included in the new Rickenbacker book concerns a young John Lennon who, in 1960, stumbled across what would later be revealed as the first Capri model ever made. Needless to say, the young Beatle’s purchase was a turning point in guitar history.
This truly remarkable tale that bounces back and forth across the pond is told in authoritative detail along with many others in Rickenbacker Guitars: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo (opens in new tab).
Other influential electric guitar players and a bassists featured in the Kelly brothers’ new book include Pete Townshend, Roger McGuinn, Brian Jones, Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Dee Dee Ramone, Paul Weller, Peter Buck, Johnny Marr, Susanna Hoffs, Chris Squire, Lemmy, Geddy Lee and others.
You can order a copy of Rickenbacker Guitars: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo directly from Phantom Books here (opens in new tab).
Rod Brakes is a music writer with an expertise in all things guitar-related. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a journalist covering artists, industry pros and gear includes writing hundreds of articles and features for the likes of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar, as well as contributions for specialist books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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