Founded in 1887 by luthier Karl Hofner, the company became the largest manufacturer of stringed instruments in its native country Germany. Karl’s two sons joined the company around 1920 and their strong reputation spread worldwide. WWII took its toll and set back the brand, yet Hofner rebuilt itself stronger than ever. They opened new factories in western Germany in 1950, that eventually led to the launch of their 500/1 violin bass. The unique shape of the violin bass would go on to become Hofner’s signature design, and help establish the brand’s historical significance.
Up through the 1960s, Hofner instruments were sold through Selmer and regarded as extremely solid instruments for beginning guitarists. Eric Clapton learned to play on a Hofner acoustic guitar. Other notable artists who played the violin bass include Keith Richards, Mark Knopfler, and members of the Beatles.
In fact, Hofner’s fame is often attributed to the Beatles. Paul McCartney played the 500/1 bass, referred to today as the “Beatle bass”, playing it throughout his career. It was the instrument he played during the famous rooftop performance in 1969. George Harrison and John Lennon also played Hofner instruments. Beatles fans will find historically accurate models available today in the Hofner Vintage line at Guitar Center.
Hofner was sold to longtime general manager Klaus Scholler in 2005 who has maintained the company’s well-respected prominence in the music industry. Hofner continues to craft an outstanding array of models from their Germany-based operations including the violin bass and series like the Hofner Icon and Vintage that give players the authentic look and feel of their instruments from the ‘50s and ‘60s.