Greco started making Ricky copies in the sixties along with a few other Japanese brands for the same reason they made other popular US copies. American guitars were very expensive in Japan and they needed more guitars as the guitar boom hit in the mid sixties. Some examples, like the early Greco versions were primitive copies with bolt on necks and hollow laminated bodies. But they weren’t really any competition, quality wise, to the real thing.
By the late sixties some manufacturers were making more accurate copies using proper construction techniques with set necks and more Ricky sounding pickups. And by the seventies the Fujigen and Matsumoku factories were turning Ric copies that were really starting to impressive.
Of course, Rickenbacker has always been in a class of their own for quality construction. Their methods of building guitars was always very different to other manufacturers and making something close for a cheaper price was always going to be a challenge for Japanese manufacturers.
While early versions were made more like a Danelectro using a hollow frame with a top and back glued on, by the late sixties and early seventies Greco they were making them like Rickenbacker where they hollow out a piece of solid maple from the back and then glue a solid piece of timber on to complete the hollow, or chambered body.
This Greco is made in exactly the same fashion and uses nice solid pieces of maple routed from the back although not with the same internal contours and frames. Real Rickenbackers have their neck set with a long “tongue” all the way back to the bridge pickup (on most hollow models) whereas these are a more traditional set neck although still with the tongue, or tenon going back under the neck pickup. Obviously the Ric way of doing it is stronger, but is also more time consuming and expensive.
This Greco RG 850 is essentially a double bound Rickenbacker 330 style guitar, with mono output and block inlays. It is finished in gloss black, or Jetglo in Ricky speak.
The neck is set with the same slightly later sixties rounded neck heel (not square-ish like early versions) but it doesn’t have the five piece neck with the dark stripe down the centre and on the headstock like the original. It is instead a one piece hard maple neck with a thick rosewood fretboard but only with one truss rod, not the dual rods used by Rickenbacker. The inlays are triangular plastic pearl and the fretboard is bound. The board is finished in the same urethane as the body & neck, and like an original Ricky.
It has a 21 fret neck which finishes flush with the body, like all pre 70’s Rickys and has the small (often re-issued) sixties headstock with that famous curved trussrod cover.
The pickups are exact copies of Hi Gains and sound (not surprisingly) like the real deal.
The bridge is also an exact copy and works just like the original with full adjustment for height, intonation and angle.
The tailpiece on this one is actually period correct to the originals, and it was definitely a later addition post factory. The original Greco tailpiece that came on this guitar is in the case. That tailpiece, which is a very Rickenbacker thing, has a stylised “G” instead of an “R”. Also in the case is a nice new truss rod cover which may or may not be a genuine Rickenbacker.
The dual scratchplates are a straight copy as well as the electronics controls and layout with volume and tone for each pickup, plus a blend control.
One very appealing feature of this guitar is that the nut width is 1 11/16”, which is rather wider than most standard Rickenbacker nuts. It feels much more comfortable if you are used to Fender or Gibson nut widths.
Also, this neck has a D profile and has a much flatter radius than any vintage Ricky. It feels great to play and sports a medium low action with no dead spots anywhere up the neck. Lots of fret life left. Original Greco tuners are solid.
Rickenbacker have spent many years trying to stop these copies, and with good reason. While most copies don’t even come close to a real Ricky, these Grecos are the closest you’ll find.
Comes in a later hard shell case in good condition.