This exquisite Rickenbacker is not only an iconic-sounding guitar; it is a custom-ordered specimen from an fascinating period in Rickenbacker's history.
The Rickenbacker company has experienced two major "booms" throughout its long, storied history. The first one came in the mid-60's, vis-à-vis The Beatles and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. Both groups, especially The Byrds, made extensive use of Rickenbacker's then-new model - their electric 12-string. In fact, George Harrison was given the second 12-string the company ever produced (the first went to Las Vegas cabaret singer Suzi Arden). The electric 12-string proved to be the perfect foil to the burgeoning folk-rock movement, and Rickenbacker's 360/12 was the one to have.
The second boom came in the mid-70's, but this time, the demand was for the company's ubiquitous 4001 bass, utilized to great effect by Chris Squire of Yes and Geddy Lee from Rush.
By the time the early 80's rolled around, however, the landscape was shifting in popular music and instrument choice followed suit. Syntheizers, locking vibrato units, and headless guitars had become the must-haves for professional musicians. For Rickenbacker, a notoriously stodgily-run company, business was slow.
Circa 1980, Rickenbacker catalogues suddenly listed checkered binding as an option on their guitars. Checkered binding (actually purfling) is a handsome feature that had been a mainstay on nearly all deluxe Rickenbacker instruments in the 60's and phased out across the board circa 1973 (though it did make an appearance on the "rare-as-hen's-teeth" 4002 bass in 1976).
A handful of guitars like the one featured here have surfaced in recent years - standard 360/12WB (double-bound) models, inexplicably with checkered binding instead of the standard single strip of white binding commonly found on this model. All were made between 1980 and 1984, and feature other ultra-cool features, like X-bracing (eliminated circa 1985), 7" fingerboard radii (changed to 10" soon after), Kluson tuners (exchanged for Schallers circa 1985), and nameplates denoting the model name - note the "MODEL 360" text at the bottom of the Rickenbacker logo.
(Photos © John Biscuti, July 2014)