A Mexican immigrant, his father Bernardo worked a variety of jobs upon coming to the US. An entrepreneur at heart, he eventually started up various businesses, including at one point, a couple of chili restaurants.
In 1946, and knowing next to nothing about guitars, his father purchased a small guitar shop in California. Changing the name to Bernardo's Valencian Guitar Shop, this was where the young Bernie Jr. spent most of his youth, learning about guitar building and repairs.
In the 50's the shop was building acoustic guitars on a custom basis. Taking the helm of the business, Bernie Jr. was soon also building a line of classical guitars in Mexico, based on designs originated by Ramirez guitars of Spain.
A die-hard flamenco enthusiast whose interests lay solely in nylon-stringed guitars , Rico eventually bit the bullet due to flagging sales, and started custom-building solidbody electrics that were copies of Les Pauls, Stratocasters and Telecasters in 1969. The first BC Rich original design, the Seagull, appeared in 1971.
With the help of Neal Moser, whom Rico hired as guitar designer, the company started producing many more original models. Moser was the designer behind the now-famous (infamous?) Bich, Eagle, Ironbird, Warlock and Mockingbird models.
The 10-string Bich shown in the pic featured 4 extra strings, which essentially doubled up the high E, B, G and D strings (the E and B were tuned in unison while the G and D were doubled an octave higher) for a 12-string type sound. The extra strings were anchored through eyelets in the headstock and tuned by tuning pegs mounted into a cutaway on the lower bout of the body.
Moser also came up with the names of some of the models --the Mockingbird was so named because it could emulate the tones of other big-brand guitars, thanks to its elaborate switching circuitry.
The company's provocative designs were only outdone by their controversial -- some would say downright sexist -- marketing campaigns. One of which, an advertisement featuring the lower half of a scantily-clad woman posing with a BC Rich Bich, drew a fair amount of flak from feminist groups in the '80s. The ad was also made available as a poster for $3.00, and according to Rico, several tens of thousands of these posters were sold.
Another point of controversy was the company's use of the term 'Bich' for one of its (guitar) models.
According to Rico, "We didn't even mean it in a feminist sense. It's just that whenever anybody says something is good, they say 'It's a bitch'. So we decided to use 'bitch,' meaning a 'great thing,' but spelt without the 't.'"
Bernie Rico passed away in 1999. His son and successor, Bernie Rico Jr., started Bernie Rico Jr. Guitars to carry on his father's legacy.
Neal Moser and I met on the USA Handmades site, he was hired to do the electronics, which he was doing elsewhere, and Bernie had no experience with electrical circuits, Neal also did all setups on guitars he worked on during the 70s, the Bich was named after the jewelry for Rich Bitch, done in joking fashion, not related to guitars at all, but inspired Neal, because of the hour glass guitar body shapeReplyDelete
Very interesting -- thanks for this. It's always nice to get a little extra insider info!ReplyDelete
"Moser was the designer behind the now-famous (infamous?) Bich, Eagle, Ironbird, Warlock and Mockingbird models."ReplyDelete
Bich and Virgin - Neal Moser
Seagull - Bernie Rico Snr
Seagull II and Eagle - Bernie Rico Snr and Neal Moser
Warlock - Bernie Rico Snr
Ironbird - Joey Rico
Mockingbird - Johnny Go Go
Wave - Martyn Evans
Widow - Blackie Lawless
Beast - Brian Hoffman
Stealth - Rick Derringer
ST III - Dave Williams and Ross Jennings
Gunslinger - Dan Lawrence and Glen Matezel
Looks like you know your Bich's! Thanks for this. Care to cite your sources?ReplyDelete
I have a question to which I've had no answer in 9 years of asking. I found a Bich in a whole in the wall music shop for about $125. There were some small details on the guitar which I have not seen on ANY other. First off the guitar has a bolt on neck and a "Bronze Series" headstock. The most intriguing thing would be the tremelo. It has what I call a 6 point tremelo like what you would see on a Fender Strat. The electronics were laid out like a Les Paul. The original paint was black with a red outlining pin stripe and it had a shadow of what was once a Fender logo on the headstock. I spoke to several people at B.C. Rich who, at best, could only tell me it was either a prototype or a forgery. Please Help!!!!!ReplyDelete
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Hiya, there were other guitar factories copying BC Rich just as BCR had done starting out, their success was so great, so judging from what I've seen before, I'd say an import copy also modified by it's owner/sDelete
Spencer Sercombe of the Arcadia band The Sharks / Shark Island has been noted in the past as the true designer of the BC Rich Wave, Warlock, and the one-of-a-kind BC Rich Lightning Bolt guitar which never made production.ReplyDelete
To answer a few queries Lorne is the source (Whats Up Lorne) The Bronze Bich is a cheap production Bich not to be confused with a handmade. The Warlock was Bernie Ricos redesign of the Bich (look at the two side by side and you will see the similarities) so he could stop paying Neal the royalties.ReplyDelete
Lorne is obviously biased somehow and completely mistaken. For those of us who were actually there, Neal did most of the designs. One of the flawed examples: the Stealth was designed FOR Rick Derringer, not BY Rick Derringer. Rick is a small guy and wanted something to match his stature but still look rocking. The correct items are the Ironbird and Beast. Neal had left BCR by then. The Ironbird is just an angular "metal" knock-off of the Mockingbird.ReplyDelete
Spencer has the only glow-in-the-dark, removable headstock lightning bolt guitar ever commissioned, hence its nickname the "Burner Bolt."
Neal left in 1985, both the Warlock and Ironbird came BEFORE that time. So, there are still inaccuracies that Neal could clear up if he'd written his book he had intended before going back to guitar building/sellingDelete
I have the poster of the rich bich and one hell of a hot lower female body.;-)ReplyDelete