Here is a vintage 1946 Rickenbacher D16 Double 8-string Neck Lap Steel owned and used by Leon McAuliffe of the Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. An absolutely incredible article of Western Swing history, this example was owned and played by steel guitar pioneer Leon McAuliffe. He is a very important historical figure in the context of modern country music, and will forever be remembered as the composer of “Steel Guitar Rag,” easily the most famous Western Swing instrumental of all time. He will live on in the famous words of Bob Wills during the intro to the steel guitar standard, whereby he exclaims, “Take it away Leon!” as painted directly onto his Fender Quad steel. Not only was Leon McAuliffe a steel guitar hero, he evolved from his tenure with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys to become a masterful bandleader in his own right. An undeniable country music icon, Leon McAuliffe’s contribution has helped build the foundation upon which modern country music stands, without which it most certainly wouldn’t be the same. A very apropos quote that indicates just how important and legendary Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were to the development of both Country music and Rock’n’Roll, was expressed by Leo Fender when asked if he ever had the chance to meet Jimi Hendrix, whereby he replied, “No, but I got to meet Bob Wills!”
Approximately 5 years ago, Leon’s widow sold a small collection of his personal instruments used on tour and in the studio, including: his ’50 Fender Broadcaster, (2) Fender Quad lap steels, a Ric D16 and his plaque given to him to commemorate his induction into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. All of the Fender instruments were given to him by Leo Fender himself, and as pictured below, McAuliffe was an official Fender endorsee.
While McAuliffe had mentioned Bob Wills buying him a Rickenbacher lap steel upon his entry into the Texas Playboys, this example is most likely not the same one. However, his main complaint with regard to his original Ric lap steel was non-graduated necks, so clearly this model would have been to his liking.