Fireglo, Serial number GI4142.
The flat-top 12-string guitar was a foundation of the folk music movement of the early ‘60s. This inspired Rickenbacker to manufacture an electric 12-string in 1963. Although other companies had made earlier attempts (Gibson and Danelectro), the Rickenbacker 12-string electric became the most sought after because of its association with George Harrison of the Beatles.
Musician, inventor James E. Gross was intrigued by the electric 12- string and decided to put his imagination to work on improving it. Gross had been born in Lafayette Indiana in 1931, and began playing music professionally at a very young age. He was distinguished as a performer and band leader in the Chicago area for many years. He became well-known for playing unique double neck banjos, and combining comedy with exploding light shows and robots. Gross approached Rickenbacker’s owner F.C. Hall in 1966 with his practical, easy to install converter device. This “converter comb” could turn a 12-string into a 6-string (or any number in-between). When the converter was engaged it pulled strings down away from the player’s right hand, leaving only the desired number of strings to be picked. Gross demonstrated the converter at the July 1966 NAMM show. A licensing agreement was signed in August, and the guitars went into production by winter.
The guitars produced were the 336/12, the 366/12, and the 456/12. The original Rickenbacker advertisement copy read: “Now, one instrument – the most versatile guitar ever made – ends the need for carrying extra guitars. By means of an exclusive, patented converter on the brilliant Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, any combination of strings can be played.”
The 1967 366/12 pictured was James Gross’ personal guitar. It has most of the features associated with classic Deluxe Rickenbacker models of the’60s. These include: a bound maple neck, gloss finished rosewood fingerboard with large triangle shaped inlays, two “toaster” single coil pickups, maple body with checker board binding on the back, slash soundhole, and “R” tailpiece. This example is finished in Rickenbacker’s most popular color, Fireglo. The main differences between it and a regular 360/12 are the chrome converter comb, and the extra pickguard under it, extending across all twelve strings.