Bernardo Chavez Rico was an unlikely character to develop distinctive electric guitars. “Bernie” was an accomplished Flamenco acoustic player. From the early to mid 60s Bernie Rico exclusively constructed Flamenco guitars in Bernardo’s Guitar Shop in Los Angeles, California. Former executive Vice President Mal Stich remarks, “When you walked into Bernardo's the first thing you saw was wall to wall guitars hanging from the ceiling like birthday party balloons. There was a glass counter with strings, picks, guitar parts and accessories. Behind the counter was a window and you could watch the guys making guitars. But, the coolest thing was that there were always Flamenco and Classical players jamming. I remember the Flamenco players firing at each other with riff after riff. Bernie's father, Bernardo Mason Rico, was always sitting in his chair next to the Coca-Cola machine while friends and neighbors, even the postman, stood spellbound listening to the music.”
We are recognizing B.C. Rich’s 40th Anniversary marking 1969 as the year Bernie set out on his first attempt to manufacture electric guitars and basses. It has been recorded that ten basses inspired by the Gibson® EB-3 bass as well as ten matching Les Paul® inspired guitars were handcrafted. Today few of these instruments exist, and it’s rumored that less than the number above were actually finished.
The period around 1972 was very auspicious. The first original guitar design, the Seagull, was handcrafted in Bernardo’s shop.
True to future form, the Seagull was visually distinctive as well as innovative. Its neck-through design (now a hallmark of B.C. Rich) featured a heel-less design – very rare for that time.
Bernie soon hired several talented designers to compliment his very talented craftsmen. Many of the distinctive shapes that would emerge from this expansion have become iconic shapes associated with guitars. Around 1976 came the Mockingbird, and then the further development of the Seagull, the Eagle emerged, and around 1978 came the Bich. Some of the most revered guitar players immediately took to the new direction of B.C. Rich.
With growing success, there was a need for a less expensive mass-produced B.C. Rich guitar. Around 1978 Bernie set up the B.C. Rico brand name to designate guitars that would be imported from Japan. This first attempt was less than successful when the Rico Reed Company sued over the use of the name. Regardless of the outcome, the decision had already been made to use the B.C. Rich name on imported guitars. Only a handful, perhaps a hundred or so B.C. Rico instruments ever made it to the US.
With the early 80s came the Warlock. Almost immediately the hair metal culture of the time took to the Warlock’s edgy and once again, unique shape. The Warlock, while nowhere near the latest shape developed, rounds out the first five classic B.C. Rich shapes.