Rickenbacker's marketing department couldn't have hoped for a more appropriate endorsee for its latest "Signature" project than Tom Petty, who together with Heartbreakers' guitarist Mike Campbell joined forces with the company to produce this extremely handsome - and practical - variant of the 'sixties 620/12 solid in the early 'nineties.
In December 1963, Rickenbacker produced a prototype 12-string based on its 6-string model 625. That instrument is owned by Mike Campbell to this day, and Petty can be seen posing with it on the cover of his "Damn The Torpedoes" album from 1979. When approached by Rickenbacker for suggestions, they took the 620/12 as their template and made some basic improvements.
They started by increasing the width of the neck from 15/8" at the nut to 1¾", a comfortable size for twelve strings, and retained the pearl triangular "DeLuxe" fingerboard inlays. The simple, flat trapeze-style tail-piece was re-introduced for the first time since the fall of 1964, when the abominable "R"-casting made its debut. These guys obviously wanted no more re-stringing woes! An adjustable twelve-saddle bridge, originally designed for Roger McGuinn's Limited Edition guitar in 1988, was installed, making accurate intonation a possibility at last. The pickups were of the vintage-style "toaster top" variety, though better balanced output-wise between bridge and neck, and the circuit was mono; no Rick-O-Sound stereo wiring offered, nor necessary.
The gold-coloured Lucite badge and pick-guards (complete with a silk-screen of Petty's autograph), are a throw-back to Rickenbacker's 'fifties heritage, and make a cool contrast with the traditional Fireglo sunburst finish. The all-maple neck and body are made from finely-selected timbers, and this one is just smothered with attractive birds'-eyes. The coup de grâce comes in the form of the body binding, which features the famous black/white chequer-board style previously hidden away at the back of the 360-style hollow-bodies, and the tops of the rarely-seen "F"-series models. Certainly among the prettiest guitars ever made, the Petty is player-friendly with a great sound, and every inch pure Rickenbacker.
This guitar belongs to my good friend Steve Hogarth, who was delighted to find that its factory authentification document was stamped on his birthday! I'm thrilled to be "looking after it" for him. To see/hear it in action, schlep along to one of the h-Band gigs coming up this month, or buy a copy of our fabbo live CD Live Body/Live Spirit available from www.stevehogarth.com or on the tour.
Recording debut: Really Like (Steve Hogarth, spring 1996)
Features on: Ice Cream Genius sessions (Steve Hogarth, 1996); "Live Body/Live Spirit" (h-Band, August 2001); Brother Nature (Mitch Friedman, 2002)