Rickenbacker Electro Spanish Solid Body Electric Guitar (1935)

Rickenbacker  Electro Spanish Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1935)

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Item # 3799
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Rickenbacker Electro Spanish Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1935), made in Los Angeles, serial # B 88, polished black finish, molded Bakelite body and neck, original black tolex hard shell case.

This is a very nice example of one of the most historically interesting American guitars ever built: the Rickenbacker Electro Spanish, the first commercially important electric standard guitar. Introduced in 1935 at the same time as the famed Bakelite Model B Electro Hawaiian Guitar, the Electro Spanish Guitar was not nearly as successful and only in limited production for a few years. Rickenbacker offered several wooden-bodied Spanish electrics during the same era but this is their most radical, earliest, and purest attempt at a solid-body fully electric Spanish guitar, issued well before there was a market for such an instrument.

The plain Electro Spanish was followed several years later by the even more radical Vibrola Spanish, essentially the same guitar with an internal motorized vibrato device. Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman was the inventor of this system, and interestingly the Fender Broadcaster designed a few years after Kauffman's partnership with Fender carries on several features of the Electro-Spanish guitar including the bolt-on neck (considered an easily replaceable part), the through-body stringing, and the bridge-mounted steel-guitar position pickup. The Electro-Spanish can be seen as the progenitor of the entire California family of solid-body guitars to come.

This guitar is a particularly early version dating to the introductory year with a serial number in the first series, a single octagonal volume knob, and output jack on the bass side. The molded black Bakelite body has five cavities covered by decorative chrome plates and a solid aluminum bridge. The strings run through the body and emerge from a molded block just behind the bridge. The horseshoe magnet pickup wraps over the strings and has the famed pre-war 1-1/2" wide magnets; the mounting bracket is the first variation and has no patent markings at all.

Patent number 1881229 is molded in raised letters on the body below the bridge. The round-profile detachable neck joins the body at the fourteenth fret, has twenty-three integral molded fret ridges, and an integral nut and is bolted on by two large screws. Tuners are original chrome-plated strip Grovers with metal buttons. The metal nameplate screwed to the headstock carries the company logo with the old-style spelling "Rickenbacher Electro, Los Angeles".

The Electro-Spanish is far rarer than the more familiar Hawaiian variation, which uses some of the same components but a different body and neck. Few players today have ever even handled one. While some of the design features now seem awkward (especially the molded Bakelite frets and the short steel-guitar like scale length), the astounding thing about this little guitar is how good it sounds. The heavy Bakelite body and horseshoe magnet pickup combine to produce an extremely powerful singing tone familiar to steel guitarists who still prize the Bakelite Hawaiian guitar, but virtually unique in a Spanish guitar.

Although today primarily seen as a museum-grade collector's piece, this Electro-Spanish Guitar is also a wonderful musical instrument, albeit an eccentric one. This example includes an extremely rare deluxe model original rectangular case, with a deep red plush lining and formed inserts surrounding the guitar.
Overall length is 32 7/16 in. (82.4 cm.), 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).

This is an all original and relatively clean example; apart from some scuffing through the chrome on the plate near the fingerboard, there not a lot of wear. The very tips of the Bakelite fingerboard show a repaired crack; this is very cleanly done and well polished out, so only noticeable on close inspection. Structurally and cosmetically, this is a lovely early example of a very historic guitar. Excellent Condition.