In a world of electric instruments dominated by the likes of Fender and Gibson, Rickenbacker has always stood out as being just a little bit different. With their distinctive styling, sound, and feel, Rickenbacker guitars and basses have provided a great alternative for musicians tired of the same old thing. In this article, I'd like to briefly outline the history and progression of the famed Rickenbacker bass line up.
As stated above, Rickenbackers are just a bit different. In particular, Rickenbacker basses are known for their distinctly different sound. With more of a mid rangy cutting sound than Fenders, combined with a rock solid low end, Rickenbacker's were widely adopted by rock musicians, leading to the slogan "Nothing Rocks Like a Rick." The first bass guitars produced by the Rickenbacker company were the 4000 series, which began production in 1964. With their neck though bodies, and distinctive electronics, the 4000 series had incredible sustain and clarity, leading to its adoption by many popular players.
Some of the earliest adopters of the Rickenbacker basses were musicians such as Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, and Roger Waters. As musicians began to recognize this unique Rick sound, many others soon began to adopt the instruments. By the time the 70s came around, Rickenbacker basses were in use by many hard rock groups of the era, who appreciate its solid low end sustain combined with cutting mids and highs. The Rickenbacker was definitely carving a niche for itself in rock history.
As time went on, Rickenbacker continued to introduce new models. The 4000 series has several variations, which are simply numbered incrementally. The 4001, 4003, and 4004 models are still hot sellers today, while special variations such as the eight string 4008 and the hollow-body 4005 also served their place in history. For a while in the 70s and 80s, Rickenbacker made a low cost 3000 series which featured bolt on necks, but these didn't prove popular enough to catch on. The Rickenbacker company is still going strong today, still producing models in the 4000 series.
Even today, the Rickenbacker bass legacy still lives on. Bassists all over the world still like to strap on a Rick, and lay down some solid rock grooves. Though they have not proved popular with the slap/pop bass crowd, Rickenbacker basses will always have their place among those who love to rock. The Rick mystique lives on to this day.