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date: 13 November 2019


  • Tony Bacon


American manufacturer of electric bass guitars, six-string electric guitars, preamps, and related accessories, located in Santa Rosa, California. The recording engineer and Ampex designer Ron Wickersham and his wife, the painter Susan Frates, began the company in 1969 as a consulting firm to improve performance and recording audio quality for such bands as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby Stills Nash & Young. They soon moved to premises in San Francisco and while continuing to provide audio services to touring bands, opened a repair facility, recording studio, and retail store. The firm then turned to providing new components for guitars and basses, designing new pickups, and remodelling instruments. Alembic electronics and pickups were first installed in David Crosby’s 12-string Guild guitar and Phil Lesh’s (Grateful Dead) psychedelic SG bass; next, Lesh’s and Jack Casady’s (Jefferson Airplane) hollow-body basses were retrofitted with new low-impedance pickups and ‘active electronics’, a system that uses a built-in preamp to boost the volume and widen the frequency range. Alembic also renovated Bobby Weir’s and Jerry Garcia’s guitars. This work led the firm, which included Owsley (‘The Bear’) Stanley, the guitar builder Rick Turner, and designer Geoff Gould, to produce its own Standard Series I and II electric guitars and basses, promoted from the mid-1970s by the bassist Stanley Clarke, among other well-known performers....

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