Rock Hall welcomes 1934 Rickenbacker to its collection as very first electric guitar


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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, acquired an early prized piece of music memorabilia on Wednesday that helped inspire a powerful new American art form and reshape global pop culture.

It’s an original Rickenbacker Frying Pan A-25 lap steel guitar, the very first electric guitar, believed to have been built in 1934.

“This is now currently the oldest electric guitar in our museum,” Andy Leach, senior director of museum and archival collections at the Rock Hall, told Fox News Digital.

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The Rickenbacker Frying Pan put the power of electrified music in the hands of ordinary people and, with the electric guitars that followed, inspired the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon in the United States in the 1950s. The energetic American music soon swept over the world and dominated global pop culture for more than half a century.

The guitar is on a long-term loan to the Rock Hall by husband-and-wife Indiana University anthropologists and stringed-instrument collectors Nicholas Toth and Dr. Kathy Schick.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator Andy Leach (center) accepts a 1934 Rickenbacker Frying Pan A-25 from husband-and-wife stringed-instrument collectors, musicians and Indiana University professors Nicholas Toth and Dr. Kathy Schick. The Rickenbacker Frying Pan is the first electric guitar and helped usher in the rock ‘n’ roll era.
(Nicholas Toth/Dr. Kathy Schick)

“We’ve had stone tools and meteorites on display at museums before, but this is our first guitar,” said Toth.

“So this is totally exciting for us. We’re thrilled.”

Their prized guitar is older even than the most ancient rock ‘n’ roll dinosaurs still roaming the Earth and playing music today.

Icons such as Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney were all born in the 1940s.

The earliest models of the Rickenbacker Frying Pan, the first electric guitar, were labeled Rickenbacher, before inventor Adolph Rickenbacker Americanized his name.

The earliest models of the Rickenbacker Frying Pan, the first electric guitar, were labeled Rickenbacher, before inventor Adolph Rickenbacker Americanized his name.
(Nicholas Toth)

The Toth’s Rickenbacker is so old that the label attached to it says Richenbacher — which is how guitar-maker Adolph Rickenbacher spelled his name before Americanizing it for professional purposes.

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The entrepreneur was also hoping to capitalize on the then-popularity of his cousin, American World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, rock history experts have noted.

It was dubbed the Frying Pan because the body resembled a round cast-iron pan with a long handle.

The Rickenbacker Frying pan was the first guitar to boast an electromagnetic pick-up that turned the vibration of strings into electric pulses — which could be not amplified in ways other guitars could not.

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Rickenbacker and partner George Beauchamp filed the patent for the “electrical stringed musical instrument” in 1934 and received it in 1937.

It was dubbed the Frying Pan because the body resembled a round cast-iron pan with a long handle.

John Lennon played his prized 1958 Rickenbacker 325 when The Beatles first performed on

John Lennon played his prized 1958 Rickenbacker 325 when The Beatles first performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show’ on Feb. 9, 1964, from CBS’s Studio 50 in New York City. Three of the four band members are shown above — (from left) George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.
(CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Rickenbacker guitars were favored by many of the earliest rock stars.

John Lennon played his prized 1958 Rickenbacker 325 when The Beatles wowed America on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964.

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Collectors Toth and Schick said they acquired the Rickenbacker Frying Pan several years ago from friend George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars in Nashville.

The Rock Hall has not yet determined where or when the guitar will be displayed.

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