Not all Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitars are the same. Important changes to some key features prior to 1973, make these earlier models the most coveted for collectors.
In 1963 the bridge with under string mutes was added and became a standard feature of the 4001 model. In 1965, black plastic seven-sided knobs with silver tops replaced all black Bakelite knobs and Mapleglo was offered as the first optional finish to Fireglo. Things would remain stable with the 4001 for a period of 4 years until the end of the ‘60s brought more changes.
In 1969 the headstock was shortened, and the 9th dot inlay position marker was added in between the 18th and 19th frets. But the most significant change in 1969 came when Rickenbacker made the Ric-O-Sound standard instead of optional.
The Rickenbacker 4001 is my favorite bass guitar. It has unique features that separate it from all other Rickenbacker bass guitars and from all other manufacturers.
The 4001 was first produced in 1961 as the Deluxe model of the 4000 which was debuted in 1957. As the Deluxe model, the 4001 added a neck pickup to give greater tonal flexibility and greater bass response. Additionally, the 4001 had different inlays, bound Padouk fingerboard, triangle inlays, separate volume and tone controls, mono-output, and truss rods that adjust at the head.
Originally this bass was only available in a Fireglo finish. In later years, the 4001 would become available in a variety of finishes including Jetglo, Mapleglo, Autumnglo, Burgundyglo and Azureglo.
1971 Horseshoe Pickup Cover
In 1971, a high gain single coil pickup and cover replaced the iconic horseshoe bridge pickup. Additionally, Grover sealed back machine heads replaced Schaller open back machine heads.
In 1972, Maple headstock wings replaced contrasting walnut headstock wings and the well known center walnut stripe running the length of the instrument was introduced. It was also in 1972 that the clear plastic finger rest was eliminated from production.
1973 and ’74 became years of significant change for the 4001 model. In 1973 Schaller BMC chrome open back machine heads replaced Grover sealed back machine heads, the pickguard was shortened by moving back from bridge pickup surround while the large bridge pickup surround was made smaller and more rectangular. However, most notable was the discontinuation of the 4001’s Checkerboard binding and crushed pearl inlays. The 4001’s new binding was solid white and inlays became smaller and made of pearloid resin.
Change continued in 1974 with the discontinuation of the Toaster pickup in favor of a high gain neck single-coil pickup. Additionally, the gap in center raised lip of bridge was eliminated, the neck pickup was moved 1/2 inch closer toward the bridge pickup and the pickguard shortened 1/2 inch on all 4001 models.
The Rickenbacker 4001 would not see anymore significant changes until it was discontinued in 1983 and replaced by an almost identical bass guitar using the 4003 model number.
Pre '73 Checkerboard Binding
Post '73 High-gain Pickup
A Brief History Of The Rickenbacker 4001
Finger Rest (Pre 1972)
Crushed Pearl Inlays
Front Row L to R: 1972 Burgundy Glo, 1970 22 Fret Fire Glo, 22 1970 Fret Maple Glo, 1972 Jet Glo
Back Row L to R: 1975 Autum Glo, 1973 Fire Glo, 1981 Jet Glo
Center Walnut "Skunk" Stripe
Introduced in 1972
Pre- 1972 Grovers
Pre-1973 Toaster Pickup
1970 Birdseye Maple Fireglo