Aluminum?

In California in the early 1970s, two men met to discuss methods of increasing the sustain of an electric guitar. Travis Bean and Gary Kramer decided to construct an instrument with a metal neck... aluminum, to be precise. And in 1974, Travis Bean Guitars, Inc., was founded.

This new guitar design had many advantages. The metal neck would never warp, never need adjustments and be practically unbreakable. Additionally, just as they intended, it had great sustain.

The guitars immediately made waves in the electric guitar marketplace. Kramer says that at their first NAMM Show they took orders for $75,000 worth of guitars. Unfortunately, just as sales increased, the partners broke up. Gary Kramer quit in 1975, and by 1976 he was marketing his own aluminum neck guitars under the brand Kramer Guitars.

So, in 1976 two different American guitar manufacturers were making solid-body electric guitars with aluminum necks.

And what no one realized was that O.W. Appleton was doing that over 20 years earlier!

 

The APP2 Guitar

Just as Leo Fender developed the Stratocaster to improve upon his original model, the Telecaster, O.W. Appleton decided to fine-tune his original APP guitar. In the mid-1950s he built the APP2.

In his quest for more sustain, Appleton decided to craft a neck out of metal. He made a mold pattern and cast the neck out of solid aluminum.

The new APP2 featured a double-cutaway body, and two DeArmond pickups with separate outputs.

Twenty years later Travis Bean's guitar company went out of business because he was never able to resolve the weight issue with his metal-necked guitars. Appleton, however, accepted the fact that his guitar was going to be heavy, so he also designed a stand to hold it. The top of the stand had wing-bolts that screwed into nuts mounted in the back of the guitar.

Since his guitar was going to be stand-mounted, O.W. decided that he would control the guitar's volume and tone from the stand. The APP2 has no controls. The guitar's stand contained a volume pedal and three foot-operated switches (actually headlight dimmer switches) which "provided a wide range of tones by using resonant, hi-pass and lo-pass filters."

To recap: Not only did O.W. Appleton anticipate the design of the Les Paul a decade before Gibson did, he also built an aluminum-necked guitar two decades before the Travis Bean and Kramer companies. And the guitar's stand could arguably be called the world's first pedalboard. Furthermore, the APP2 was designed to be run in stereo. For comparison, Gretsch did not introduce a stereo guitar until 1958. Gibson's first stereo guitar was the 1959 ES-355. Rickenbacker first used their stereo "Rick-O-Sound" feature in 1960. And last but not least, the APP2's double-cutaway body was carved several years before Gibson introduced their first double-cutaway solid-body.

 

 


The APP2 Guitar with aluminum neck.
On the back were captive nuts to mount the guitar on a stand.




The APP2 Guitar
A beveled edge for comfortable holding - two outputs for stereo play.




The APP2 Guitar neck joint