Frying pan (guitar)
|Manufacturer||Ro-Pat-In Company (later renamed to Rickenbacker)|
|Body type||Cast aluminum|
|Pickup(s)||One Rickenbacker horse-shoe magnet pickup|
The "frying pan" was the first electric lap steel guitar ever produced, and the very first electric guitar. George Beauchamp created the instrument in 1931, and it was subsequently manufactured by Rickenbacker Electro. The instrument—officially the Rickenbacker Electro A-22—earned its nickname because its circular body and long neck make it resemble a frying pan.
It was designed to cash in on the popularity of Hawaiian music in the 1930s. The instrument was made of cast aluminum, and featured a pickup that incorporated a pair of horseshoe magnets that arched over the strings. Beauchamp and machinist Adolph Rickenbacker began selling the Frying Pan in 1932, but Beauchamp was not awarded a patent for his idea until 1937, which allowed other guitar companies to produce electric guitars in the same period.
In the 1930s, Hawaiian music enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States. However, Hawaiian music featured the guitar as the main melodic instrument, and the volume of acoustic guitars was insufficient for large audiences. Beauchamp, an enthusiast and player of Hawaiian music, mounted a magnetic pickup on his acoustic steel guitar to produce an electrical signal that was electronically amplified to drive a loudspeaker, producing a much louder sound. After discovering that his system produced copious amounts of unwanted feedback from sympathetic vibration of the guitar's body, Beauchamp reasoned that acoustic properties were actually undesirable in an electric instrument.
Beauchamp had helped develop the Dobro resonator guitar, and co-founded the National String Instrument Corporation. Through these businesses, he was acquainted with Rickenbacker, who owned the machine company that manufactured the aluminum resonators and brass bodies for the instruments. With Rickenbacker's help, Beauchamp designed a lap steel guitar with a solid aluminum body and neck. Rickenbacker produced the instruments from 1932 to 1939.
- "ELECTRICAL STRINGED MUSICAL G. D. BEAUCHAMP et al" Google Patents, accessed June 14, 2011.