Of the many items Dave Gregory could boast about given his decorated career and discography, one that shone through most in his hour with Dan & Mick was a passion for twelve-string Rickenbackers. For most, this style of instrument is underutilized or misunderstood. Similarly, Rickenbacker is an iconic and classic band yet few have personal experience or perspective on the emergence and innovation of their designs.
For Dave, however, Rickenbacker twelves were a constant on his musical journey and, in the course of this relationship, he has become something of a Rickenbacker armchair historian. So what is it about these instruments that is so unique, endlessly inspiring, and truly boutique? Here are four Rickenbacker facts Dave shared that you probably didn’t know.
Rickenbacker Twelve-Strings Commonly Come with Built In Stereo Outs
As Dave demoed both his solid-body and semi-hollow twelve string Rickenbackers, he noted one unique but rarely used design appointment. “This guitar [1976 Rickenbacker 360/12] is stereo wired, with the Rick-O-Sound option…that routes the two pickups to two separate amps should you ever need that.” To extend the versatility and performance value of this feature, Dave noted how many such early designs also came with an accompanying pedal that allowed players to switch from stereo to mono with the click of a switch. While this concept is rather unique and rare, Dave confessed, “I’ve never actually used this and only go for the mono socket!”
Rickenbacker Twelve-Strings have a Proprietary Perpendicular Tuning Head Configuration
If you’ve ever played a twelve-string, you know that tuning is a bit of a task. Part of the challenge is that with all those strings, real estate between the twelve tuning pegs is at a premium. If their inline, it’s easy to confuse strings, making things out of tune rather than in. To solve this dilemma, Dave shared how Rickenbackers have alternating orientations of tuning pegs, with six set in the normal vertical positon and six offset on a horizontal axis. The solution not only enhances accessibility but improves stability.
Rickenbacker Tone and Toaster Top Pickups
Almost every element of a Rickenbacker is unique and in some way contributes to their bright, chimey, UK sound. Yet there is one item that plays a massive role in establishing this sound. As Dave highlighted in his telling the tale of George Harrison’s early 1960s Rickenbacker twelves, the “toaster top” pickups are key. These pickups are named such for their single coil or humbucking designs from the late-1950s to mid-1960s that feature two exposed black strips within the chrome covers that looks, well, toaster-esque. As Dave reflected, “these basically define that chimey Rickenbacker thing that we all know and love.” These designs were replaced by a “high-gain” style pickup, as Dave recollected, “I gather the bosses at Rickenbacker never cared for the sound of the Toasters! Apparently, they wanted something to match the Gibson humbucker and had a more powerful output.”
Signature Rickenbacker Body Designs by Roger Rossmeisl
As Dave recounted his long love affair with Rickenbackers, he commented on how their attraction is both sonic and visual. “They just look cool.” As the shape and body style of Rickenbackers evolved over the years, however, many of their arresting contours and unforgettable curves were established by the in house luthier and designer Roger Rossmeisl. One example of his contributions was what became known as the “German carve,” where the edges of the instrument body were beveled slightly deeper to give a dimension and terrain to the body quite unlike any other. “The story of Roger is still to be told in full. He was such an obscure character and backroom woodworker. He designed so many of these shapes but never fully received the recognition…but apparently he was quite colorful!”
Whether you’re a fan of twelve-string Rickenbackers in the style of George Harrison, Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, or the guest spot on TPS, Dave Gregory, the sound and style of these designs are unforgettable. The recipe to their design, however, was all about the many little things that made for a truly one-of-a-kind sound.
Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: 1964 Rickenbacker Model 1993, 1976 Rickenbacker 360/12, Rickenbacker 660/12, 1963 Fender Stratocaster, 1964 Gibson ES-335, Danelectro 59X12, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster.
Pedals: Jim Dunlop CryBaby BB535 Wah, Sonic Research ST-300 Tuner Mini, Dallas Arbiter Rangemaster, Dinosaural Opticompressor, Electro-Harmonix Soul Food, Boss DS-1, Chicago Stompworks The Double Dave, 1974 Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, Custom Burns Buzz Around Clone, Strymon Lex, Strymon El Capistan, Strymon Flint.
Amps: Matchless C-30 Head and 1×12 cab with Celestion Vintage 30 speaker.