Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 42
uitar history is littered with "better ideas,"
some of which stayed around, went nowhere, or went somewhere before landing in
the boneyard to be occasionally reincarnated.
A great example is the aluminum neck on this
'78 Travis Bean TB1000S.
The Travis Bean
BY MICHAEL WRIGHT
THE DIFFERENT STRUMMER
Travis Bean guitars were one of the great
ideas of the '70s that promised to revolutionize electric guitars, found a moment in the
sun, then drifted into legend. They were
not, however, the first guitars to explore
aluminum as a way to create a stiffer, bettersustaining neck.
Technically speaking, the first aluminum necks were part of the all-aluminum
Rickenbacker Electro A-22 lap steel (a.k.a.
"frying pan") invented in 1931 by George
Beauchamp of National String Instrument
Corp., maker of resonator guitars with
hollow metal necks. National wasn't interested in manufacturing electric guitars, so
Beauchamp teamed with the company's
cone supplier, Adolph Rickenbacher.
Hawaiian music was popular in Europe during the 1930s, so it's possible
Beauchamp's idea crossed the pond.
Aluminum necks appear almost
simultaneously on guitars made
in Italy by Wandré Pioli, and in
France by the Jacobacci Brothers.
Pioli (1926-2004), who had a colorful
life as a performance artist/designer,
began making guitars in 1957. It's not
certain when he started using an aluminum frame on his necks, but at some
point his had an aluminum core with a
plastic back and rosewood fingerboards.
In the early '60s, Wandrés came to the
U.S. branded as Noble guitars for Chicago
accordionist Don Noble.
Vincenzo Jacobacci was a luthier from
Catania, Sicily (a big guitar-making center), who, with the rise of fascism, left for
Paris and in 1925 opened his own guitar,
mandolin, and banjo shop. His sons, Roger
and André, joined the shop and took over
operations after World War II. In the mid
'50s, the Jacobaccis were awarded a contract
to supply guitars to music retailer Major
Conn. In '58, they filed for a patent on
carved aluminum necks and in '59 their
first aluminum-necked solidbody, the
Major Ohio, debuted with bodies possibly
sourced from Levin in Sweden. These were
never exported to the U.S. and probably
had no influence on later guitar makers.