Rickenbacker Frying Pan

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Rickenbacker Frying Pan
Type Hawaiian guitar
Manufacturer Rickenbacker ; United States
production 1932-1950s
Construction and materials
Scale length 22.4 inches (569 mm)
Body Cast aluminum
neck Cast aluminum
Fingerboard Cast aluminum, 24  frets
Mechanics 3 × left, 3 × right; open
Footbridge / bridge One-piece bridge made of cast aluminum
Pickups and Electronics

1 × " Horseshoe "

Tone control passive 1 × volume

The Rickenbacker Frying Pan (official model names A-22 and A-25, later also Rickenbacker Electro ) is a lap steel guitar model introduced in 1932 by the American musical instrument manufacturer Rickenbacker . The Frying Pan is like all Hawaiian guitars played while seated; the instrument is placed horizontally across the thighs of the player and played exclusively as a slide guitar . When it was launched, the Frying Pan was the first series-produced electrically amplifiable guitar model ( electric guitar ). The neck , " fingerboard " and body of the first production version of the guitar are made from a single cast aluminum workpiece . Their first unofficial and later adopted by Rickenbacker model name she received because both the material and the outline of the guitar neck and a small, circular body removed to a frying pan ( English : frying pan ) remember. The Rickenbacker Frying Pan was produced until the 1950s.


The Hawaiian guitarist Sam Ku West (1907–1930) with a resonator lap steel

The playing technique of the Hawaiian guitar was developed in the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century. The guitarists of the Pacific island initially used acoustic guitars with a wooden body. They replaced their gut strings with steel ones, tuned the strings to an open mood and laid the instruments flat on their thighs (English: lap steel ) to play while sitting . With the left hand the guitarists slid a metal stick (like the back of a knife blade or - ascribed to Joseph Kekuku - that of a comb), soon with a steel bar (hence also steel guitar ), on the fingerboard over the guitar strings and thus changed their pitch, the fingers of the right hand plucked the strings, usually with finger picks . At the beginning of the 20th century, when Hawaii had been annexed by the United States, Hawaiian music and especially the Hawaiian guitar became very popular in the USA; Hawaiian music groups went on tour in the States and the first sound recordings of Hawaiian music were made.

A disadvantage of this playing technique in Hawaiian bands and in recording studios was the low volume of the acoustic guitar with its wooden body. The first attempt to remedy this deficiency was to develop guitars with a hollow metal neck. But only the practice of building guitars entirely out of metal, developed in the 1920s, resulted in a significant gain in volume. In 1927 the American steel guitarist George Beauchamp invented the resonator guitar together with the banjo maker John Dopyera . The aluminum funnel built into its metal body made the steel guitar even louder. At the same time as the development of the resonator guitar, Beauchamp was researching ways to amplify the Hawaiian guitar electrically.

The development of the frying pan

US patent drawing for the 1937 Frying Pan
The maple wood prototype of the Rickenbacker Frying Pan from 1931 in an exhibition case

Beauchamp had been experimenting with musical instrument maker Paul Barth at National Guitars in Los Angeles since 1925 with the possibilities of electrical amplification. By the middle of 1931 they had completed the first operational prototype of an electromagnetic pickup . Another National employee, Harry Watson, built a lap steel guitar from a single piece of maple wood , on which the prototype could be tested. Due to the use of two horseshoe magnets for the pickup, it was nicknamed "Horseshoe pickup".

Also in the mid-1920s, Adolph Rickenbacher , a US-American born in Switzerland, developed a process in his Rickenbacker Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles with which components for guitars could easily be punched out of metal and plastic. After Rickenbacker got to know George Beauchamp, the largest customer for the components manufactured by Rickenbacker became National.

At the initiative of Beauchamp, the other prototypes of the instrument were given an aluminum body and neck; Rickenbacker supplied the components for this. These pre-production models were initially called Electro Hawaiian and catalog numbers A-22 and A-25.

Towards the end of 1931, Rickenbacker, Beauchamp and Barth jointly founded the Ro-Pat-In company in order to manufacture and market their electric lap steel guitar in series. Series production of the Electro Hawaiian began in mid-1932, and Beauchamp and Barth were no longer working for National.

The first Frying Pan models , including an electric guitar amplifier, cost US $ 175. In the first year of production, Ro-Pat-In was only able to sell 13 units, and in the following year 95 instruments. In 1935, the company, which is now in could Electro String Instruments had been renamed, over 1,200 pieces of now as Rickenbacker Electro designated Lap steel settle -Guitar. In addition to the metal model, Rickenbacker brought out a variant of the Frying Pan with a body and neck made of Bakelite and a screwed-on neck, which was also a market success. The lettering on the headstock of the instruments was shortened to Rickenbacker (occasionally also to Rickenbacher ).

In 1934, George Beauchamp filed a patent application for the Frying Pan with the US Patent Office . Although the instrument was already on the market and had been selling with increasing success for two years, the office doubted that such a device could even be used as a musical instrument. To prove this, Adolph Rickenbacker had several guitarists demonstrate the instrument at the patent office in Washington, DC . The patent for the Frying Pan was finally granted in August 1937.


  • Tony Bacon: Guitar classics - all models and manufacturers . Premio Verlag 2007, ISBN 978-3-86706-050-9 .
  • Manfred Nabinger: Electro-Hula - In the beginning there was Hawaiian music . In: Stromgitarren , special issue of the guitar & bass magazine on the history of the electric guitar, MM-Musik-Media-Verlag, Ulm 2004, p. 52 ff.
  • Manfred Nabinger: Frying pan & Hawaiian shirt - Rickenbacker Frying Pan & Gibson EH-150 . In: Stromgitarren , special issue of the guitar & bass magazine on the history of the electric guitar, MM-Musik-Media-Verlag, Ulm 2004, p. 122 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Kosche: Wire up the sound so that they can hear you playing! - Article in: Electric guitars, p. 43
  2. a b c Manfred Nabinger: Elektro-Hula, p. 52 ff.
  3. a b c Tony Bacon, Dave Hunter: Totally Guitar - the definitive Guide (English),
    Guitar Encyclopedia . Backbeat Books, London 2004, ISBN 1-871547-81-4 , pp. 550 f.
  4. a b c Nabinger: Frying pan & Hawaiian shirt . In: Electric guitars, p. 123
  5. Bacon: Guitar Classics, pp. 54–55
  6. Carlo May: Vintage Guitars and Their Stories . Therein: Chapter Rickenbackers Glanzstück, p. 76 ff. MM-Musik-Media-Verlag, Ulm 1994, ISBN 3-927954-10-1 .
  7. Manfred Nabinger: Elektro-Hula, p. 54
  8. "Although the Frying Pan was already on the market, two successive patent examiners questioned whether the instrument was 'operative'." ( Memento of the original from May 26, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , quoted from the Smithsonian Lemelson Center. - "Although the Frying Pan was already on the market, two patent examiners questioned, one after the other, that the instrument would 'work'." @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / invention.smithsonian.org