This is a vintage 1937 Rickenbacher (Rickenbacker) Electro Spanish Model B electric guitar (Pat No. 1881229). This particular 100% all original example, serial number B695, is in very excellent all original condition. Historically significant enough to warrant being displayed in the Smithsonian, the Electro Spanish Model B is widely considered to be the first production electric solidbody guitar.
Introduced in 1935, this model was the precursor and grandfather to all solid-body Spanish-style electric guitars. It would be tragic to imagine the world without the creation for this ever-important instrument: perhaps no Les Paul, no Telecaster, no Stratocaster, no Jimi Hendrix, no Beatles, no Rock’n’Roll as we know it!
Though parts of it are hollow, that is solely in the interest of reducing weight. In design, the Electro Spanish functions as a solid-body guitar, virtually eliminating the acoustic feedback that plagued early hollow-body electrics. Made of Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, it has polished stainless-steel cavity covers, a detachable neck, and a large horseshoe pickup.
Yes, as mentioned, this example is 100% all original; the tuning machines, the pickup, the potentiometer, the large knob, the cloth wiring and the hardware. There are two small screws missing from the 5 polished covers, but otherwise every part remains intact and original.
While the guitar was originally thought to have a warp-proof bakelite neck, most have since developed relief curvature. That also happens to be the case with this guitar. While it is bowed, the guitar is still playable with normal gauge strings. There is also a slight ground hum that is eliminated when touching the pickup. This issue would be easily remedied with 10 minutes and a solder gun.
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. This model B has a longer scale length and a round neck, and was designed with the intention of using it as a normal Spanish-style guitar, as opposed to, on your lap like all other Ric steels. It is also more practical and simple than the Vibrola model, which commonly does not work properly.
Few players, collectors and dealers today have ever even handled one. While some of the design features now seem awkward (especially the molded bakelite frets, the short (albeit longer than a lap steel) scale length, the single volume knob and the odd placement of the 1/4″ input jack; 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.