ALEMBIC
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ALEMBIC
Instruments currently built in Santa Rosa, CA. Previous production was centered in San Francisco, CA. Distribution is handled by Alembic, Inc. of Santa Rosa, CA.
The Alembic company was founded in San Francisco in 1969, primarily to incorporate new ways to clarify and amplify the sound of the rock group the Grateful Dead. The Alembic workshop covered three main areas: a recording studio, PA/sound reinforcement, and guitar electronics. Ron Wickersham was developing a low impedance pickup coupled with active electronics. Up until this point all electronics in production guitars and basses were passive systems. Artists using these "Alembicized" instruments early on include David Crosby (a Guild 12-string), Jack Casady (Guild bass), and Phil Lesh (SG and Guild basses). Both Bob Weir´s and Jerry Garcia's guitars were converted as well. Wickersham found that mounting the active circuitry in the instrument itself gave the player a greater degree of control over his tone than ever before.
The new company turned from customizing existing instruments in 1970 to building new ones in 1971. Founder Ron Wickersham, an electronics expert, was joined by luthier/designer Rick Turner, Bob Matthews (a recording engineer), and Jim Furman (later to start his own Furman Sound Company), among others. When Alembic incorporated in 1970, Wickersham, Turner, and Matthews were the principal shareholders. In addition to running a state-of-the-art 16-track recording studio on Brady Street, Alembic opened a music store in 1971 that sold their own guitars and basses, as well as cabinets (with tie-dyed speaker cloth) and PA gear. Alembic continued to work with the Grateful Dead for taping and PA requirements, and in 1972 also produced a monthly critique column for Guitar Player Magazine (The Alembic Report).
In 1973, Alembic received a distribution offer from the L. D. Heater company, a subsidiary of Norlin. Wickersham and Turner then began tooling up for production in earnest. Turner's choices in exotic woods and laminated bodies gained attention for the craftsmanship involved. The right combination of a new distributor and a new jazz talent named Stanley Clarke actively playing an Alembic bass propelled the company into the spotlight in the mid-1970s.
In 1974, Alembic began to focus on the manufacturing side of their high-end instruments. The company sold off the assets of the recording studio, and sold the music store to Stars Guitars (Stars Guitars' Ron Armstrong later wrote the Product Profile column for Guitar Player Magazine after the Alembic Report was discontinued). Bob Matthews' shares were bought out by Alembic. A new distribution deal was started with Rothchild Musical Instruments (San Francisco) in 1976, after the original L.D. Heater/Norlin distribution deal.
Geoff Gould, an aerospace engineer and bass player, was intrigued by an Alembic-customized bass he saw at a Grateful Dead concert. Assuming that the all-wood construction was a heavy proposition, he fashioned some samples of carbon graphite and presented them to Alembic. An experimental model with a graphite neck was displayed in 1977, and a patent issued in 1978. Gould formed the Modulus Graphite company with other ex-aerospace partners to provide necks for Alembic, and also build necks for Music Man's Cutlass bass model as well as their own Modulus Graphite guitars.
Rick Turner left Alembic in 1978, the same year that Alembic decided to forego future distribution deals and fulfill distribution themselves. As the company expanded, the workshop continued to move, from San Francisco to Cotati to Santa Rosa. In addition to guitar and bass production, the 1980s saw expansion in F2B preamp demand as well as the production of modular-based (no soldering) Activator pickups and active electronics. In 1989 Alembic settled into a larger facility in Santa Rosa, and currently has a twenty-six person staff (company history courtesy Mica and Susan Wickersham, Alembic).
The tops of Alembic instruments are bookmatched and the wood types vary widely, though the most consistently used woods are as follows: bocate, bubinga, cocobolo, figured (bird's eye, burl, flamed, quilted) maple, figured (burl and flame) walnut, flame koa, lacewood, rosewood (and burl rosewood), tulipwood, vermillion, and zebrawood.

From Blue Book Publications:


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