Adolph Rickenbacker Biography

Diagrams of Rickenbacker Lap-steel Guitar Design From 1934

Adolph Rickenbacker (1 April 1886 – March 1976) was a Swiss-American today remembered as one of the co-founders of the Rickenbacker guitar, and one of the key people that were responsible for the creation and adoption of electric guitars that managed to change the shape and sound of the modern music industry altogether. His most famous guitar was popularly named “Frying Pan” guitar, which was the first electric guitar ever to be made and sold commercially. Over 2700 of them were produced and sold.

He was born in Basel, Switzerland under the name Adolf Rickenbacker. After his parents had died, he emigrated to the United States with his relatives in 1891, finding his home in Wisconsin and later in California. In the late 1920s, he established his music instrument manufacturer business creating metal bodies for the National String Instrument Corporation, a guitar company that was popular for their resonator guitars, resonator ukuleles, and resonator mandolins.

During those years he met and became friends with George Beauchamp and Paul Barth, who all helped him in 1931 to establish “Ro-Pat-In Company”, with a goal to manufacture and sell Hawaiian lap guitars. First models of soft-bodied electric guitars that they made were branded as Rickenbackers, and they featured single electric pickup with steel cover that arched over the strings. They managed to create over 2700 of them between 1931 and 1939. Adolph Rickenbacker continued working on guitar production until 1953 when he decided to sell his company to Francis Cary Hall, who was later responsible for the popularization of electric guitars in rock music in Southern California.

Adolph Rickenbacker died in Orange County, California in 1976 at the age of 89.