In 1965 O. W. designed a foot-operated electric bass. Along with his son, Jamie Appleton, he experimented with different tensions, sizes, and lengths of strings until he found the most compact size that would produce the best string bass tone. The unit's 13 strings were all the same length, but different diameters operating under the same tension.
Since O.W. couldn't find a string manufacturer to make the strings for the unit, he designed a string-winding machine, to make his own strings.
The "white keys" were made of maple and the "black keys" were made of black walnut. O.W.'s son, Jamie, made a pickup winding machine, and wound the 13 coils needed. Each string has a guitar machine head for tuning, and the machine was so well designed that, once tuned, it would stay in tune for weeks without re-tuning.
Some models were made C-to-C for people familiar with keyboards, and some F-to-F for orchestra use. In addition to the horizontal model for floor use, the "Tap-A-Bass" was also available with a vertical string case to fit against an upright piano.
Interestingly, O.W. designed and marketed his electric bass pedals ten years before the introduction of the famous Taurus Bass Pedals used by Rush, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and many other bands.
The "Tap-A-Bass" was discontinued in the early 1970s when O.W. sold his music store and moved to Arizona.
The Appleton Tap-A-Bass
The inner workings of the Tap-A-Bass
In 1968 Appleton, with the help of his son Jamie, developed another new guitar model. Its unusual shape was custom made for ease of playing. Its pickup, a totally new and unique design, was mounted under the pickguard. The pickup was designed, built and patented by Jamie Appleton.
Although radical for 1968, Appleton was once again ahead of his time... as this model foretold the unconventional guitar shapes that would be introduced by other manufacturers in the 1980s.
Here is how the guitar was described in Appleton's promotional material: