Rick Neilson Guitars

Joanne With Rick Neilson

Ed with Rick's 5 necked Hamer in 1985

Rick Neilson actually took this photo


Rick's Custom Hamer Model


Lower Priced Model


The first time I became aware of the existence of the 12-String Bass was when I pulled out the sleeve from Cheap Trick's latest release at the time Heaven Tonight (circa 1978). The black and white photo contained on the sleeve was full sized and showed each member of the band with their respective instruments. Rick Neilson with a small armada of guitars strapped on his shoulder, Robin Zander with his trusty Rickenbacker, Bun E. Carlos with a cigarette and a pair of drumsticks and finally Tom Petersson with the first ever 12-String Bass. (color version from the same photo session shown below) I remember staring at it wondering what the hell was that thing? As I was an aspiring bass player I was fascinated with this new instrument. Upon listening to the entire album I was amazed at the tone the 12-String Bass put forth. I remember looking into how I could get one, but once I found out it was priced at around $2000.00 the dream died right there on the spot for this 17 year old high school student. Soon after "at Budokan" was released and I found myself drawn to the sound of the 12-String Bass once again.

Twenty years later I broke down and purchased my very first 12-String Bass not unlike the one Tom Petersson used back then. A custom order Hamer B12S short scale 12-String Bass. The story of how this bass came to be is easily traced to the early days of Cheap Trick and a mailman named Paul Hamer.

Apparently the 12-String Bass was a regular topic of conversation between Paul Hamer and Tom Petersson back when Cheap Trick was still a bar band. It was during those early years that Tom Petersson hit on his instrumental trademark. Tom's idea just came from being in a small 3 - piece band with the need to make it sound full without getting another musician to join the band. Tom turned to the then new Hamer Guitars to help him turn his radical conception into reality. Rick Neilsen had become friendly with company founder Paul Hamer during the early 70's, when Hamer was still a mailman in Philadelphia. Since Hamer was building Rick Neilsen's trademark guitars, it was natural for them to build Tom's 12-String Bass as well.

Hamer would not commit to building a full 12-String Bass at first because they felt it would not work. They were worried about the amount of tension on the neck due to the 12 strings. Instead they started with a 10 String Bass - 3G's 3D's (one fundamental w/ two octave strings) 2A's and 2'E's (one fundamental w/ one octave string). Once built, Hamer felt it would prove the design/ concept to be unfeasible and they would then remove the 2 extra octave strings and build Tom an 8-string bass. But when the 10-string worked just fine, they realized Tom was right, and that they should have made the 12-String Bass all along. The Hamer Quad Bass was born! The world's first 12-String Bass guitar.  



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   The "12-Knob" Quads  

"We went ahead with the 12-string bass and we wanted to make it stereo, and Tom asked if we could make it Quadra-Phonic, and we said sure. So we built it with a pickup for each of the groups of strings. They were special coiled pickups that looked like half Strat pickups. We asked Seymour Duncan to build a pickup with four outputs and we built a control box on the top portion of the body like a little mixing console / board. When we were designing it Tom would say 'Can I have a volume control for each pickup?' and we would say 'Sure, how about a tone control for each one too?'  Then Tom would say 'OK, but can you make it so I can pan them?' and 'How about we put a little mixing board on it?' The crazier we could make it, the more outrageous the better! Each group of strings had its own pickup, volume, treble boost and cut, bass boost and cut and a switch to select the frequency the EQ worked at.  That bass ended up being refinished a few times. It went from a blonde/ natural to an emerald green to finally black..."  Jol Dantzig - 2001


The "Original" 1978 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # Unknown
Submitted by Jol Dantzig on July 25, 2001

This was the very first 12-string bass made.  It was owned by and made for Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick and was first heard on the song Heaven Tonight on the Cheap Trick album of the same name.  It's distinctive sound was made famous on Cheap Tricks best selling album At Budokan.




1979 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # 0139

This bass was custom made for John Entwistle of the band The Who.  Its current whereabouts are unknown, as it was previously sold in 1988 and not auctioned off with Entwistle's other basses after his death. It was also previously not able to be located for the book done on Entwistle's collection years earlier and a different Hamer 12-string bass photo was substituted. Factory records list a completion date of January 25, 1979. It is a Standard (Explorer shape) with a sunburst finish, bound body and a custom-configured dot inlay rosewood neck.

QuadEntwistleFullsm.jpg HamerEntwistleQuadwmSm.jpg



1979 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # 0143

Shown here in these photos without strings. This bass was made in the natural finish with the dot inlay neck. It has a Bartolini pickup. Note that the switch and two knobs below the pickups have been moved closer to the edge of the body relative to the original Quad bass. This bass and # 0144 were also completed by Hamer in late January of 1979.




1979 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # 0144

Owned by Jon Maye. This bass has been modified from its original state by  the addition of a different bridge saddle assembly with 12 saddles and the string arrangement has been changed to the "Inverted" (root on top) configuration. Hamer made this bass with a Bartolini pickup. It is the sunburst finish with the dot inlay neck. The neck on this bass is an extreme "V" shape.

Photos submitted exclusively for 12Stringbass.COM August 2002 by Jon Maye

  The "8-Knob" Quads 

After the initial group of Quad basses were made Hamer considerably simplified their quadraphonic electronics circuitry. The quad electronics were redesigned from a 12-knob / 8 switch format to an 8-knob / 4 switch arrangement, and the switches were also moved from below the knobs to above them. Only three of these "8-knob" Quad basses have been documented.


1980 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # 0378

This bass was made in the cherry transparent finish. It has star inlays on the 5th and 12th positions.



Photos submitted exclusively to 12StringBass.COM by Peter Fung




 1981 Hamer Quad Bass - Serial # 0426

Thanks to Nitebob of the Hamer Fan Club for the excellent photo of his beautiful '59 Burst Quad Bass.
 Hamer records date the completion date on this bass to January 2, 1981.






"At the absolute most only ten Quads were ever made. They were such a pain in the ass to build and it was a hard enough sell being it was a 12-string bass. To this day I'll show bass players the 12-string and they'll say 'Wow, it's so much easier to play than I thought it would be!' They just don't view it as a viable instrument and let alone with the Quad it was kind of over the top. The Quad feature really wasn't that useful. It was interesting when you played it alone. You could put the G string in the left channel and the E string in the right channel and the others in the middle, but there are other ways of doing that now." Jol Dantzig - 2001



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