The story goes that Ben Hall, son of recently retired company president John, and grandson of Francis Hall who led the firm during its ’60s heyday, posted a pic on the Rickenbacker Guitars’ Facebook page back in May 2021.
It was of a metallic purple 330 model (Hall called it “Grape Jelly”) with black hardware. It transpired that he had commissioned a small run for the home market. UK distributor Rosetti saw the post, loved the idea and ordered its own limited run of 25. They renamed the colour Midnight Purple, and a real showstopper it is, too.
Rather than coming out with new models every year, Rickenbacker likes to augment its small and well established line with special editions such as this. And since they are harder to come by than hen’s teeth, it’s hardly surprising that they fly off the shelves.
Of course, the 330 is among the company’s best known and most popular models, so it is ripe for this kind of experimentation.
Our particular 330 follows most of the model’s well-documented construction techniques, including the semi-acoustic ‘crescent moon cutaway’ body carved from maple with ‘cat’s eye’ soundhole, a three-ply neck of maple and walnut, an idiosyncratic two-tier pickguard, and a five-control layout, including the mysterious ‘blend’ switch (which acts on the neck pickup only, in order to balance it against the bridge pickup’s volume and tone).
However, this limited run eschews the usual lacquered rosewood fingerboard for one in Richlite, the man-made ebony material that’s become a widely accepted alternative.
This 330 also comes with the company’s beefier Hi-Gain single-coil pickups, and not the legendary Toaster models that created the wonderful ’60s jangle of Pete Townshend, George Harrison and Roger McGuinn.
Instead, we get the similarly toned but heartier chime of Peter Buck and Johnny Marr. Note, too, that the regular nickel hardware and white double pickguards are replaced with mean-looking black, and the effect is pretty spectacular.
Moving away from those classic colours of yesteryear might have the purists up in arms, but not everyone lives in the past. Could this be your new Rickenbacker?
- With thanks to Sound Affects for the loan of this stunning guitar.