A: The serial number of your guitar will begin with one of the above lettering sequences.Fender Japan usedall of the above lettering sequences for the serial numbering of their guitars and basses over the years, andknowing this first will help you determine the year of manufacture. I got to meet all the players coming through, including young Paco de Lucia and Montoya. The first few were called the Bodine Bass and were promoted in ads as late as December of ’76, but the name quickly changed to the Seagull II or the Seagull Jr. Through a friend living in Tokyo, Rico arranged to have some copies of the Eagle made and imported carrying the B. Rico doesn’t recall exactly who made these guitars, but thinks it may have been the Kasuga factory, one of the primary Japanese suppliers of quality guitars at the time. However, in the interim the decision was made to simply use the B. Rich name, which would henceforth be applied to all B. Rich guitars, regardless of where they were manufactured. Rich began making its own pickups, which it did until the hiatus in 1989. Rich “changed over” to the pointy reverse headstock, Rico laughs. Bernardo Chavez Rico was born in Los Angeles in 1941, actually in East Los Angeles, home to the city’s largely Hispanic population. Eventually, as Bernie joined his dad, it became known as Bernardo’s Guitar Shop. Rico began playing guitar at an early age, as primarily a flamenco and classical guitarist. A., which he did a lot because he liked to go to down to Mexico to see the bullfights. One of these was bassist Bill Bodine, who was playing with Olivia Newton John’s band at the time. Rico set about redesigning the Seagull, giving it two cutaways and no point on the upper horn. Bernie Rico chose this name so as to distinguish these imports from the guitars being made in the U. These were excellent copies with neck-through construction. Ricos ran into legal problems right out of the gate. Since Rico was Bernie’s last name, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that B. Rich would have the right to use the name, which it did. His father, Bernardo Mason Rico, was a guitar-maker, with a shop where he built guitars, vihuelos, requintos, bajo sextos and other instruments for the Mexican-oriented musicians in L. playing in local Latin conjuntos and mariachi orchestras. The Rico shop was originally known as the Valencian Guitar Shop in around 1947, and later as Casa Rico. Fly Like An Eagle The Seagull did well, however, players began complaining about the upper point jabbing them in the chest. Rich over the use of the Rico brand name, and the first shipment of B. Rico guitars was impounded by customs awaiting a decision.Rico with a smile, “when Sabicas said to me, ‘I’m tired of playing, you play! I was very nervous but it is a great memory.” Acoustic apprenticeship Bernie Rico had begun working in his father’s shop as early as 1953 or ’54, building ukuleles out of koa. ” If you’ve ever played uke, you’ll know that phrase. Heater connection, Gibson found out and was not happy. “We were sitting in Denny’s restaurant at 11 PM drinking coffee and designing guitars on napkins. The Bich has been acused of being a copy of a design of guitarmaker Dave Bunker. These guitars eventually became the basis for Rico’s Mason Bernards, and have been resuscitated for the new B. Rico likes to point out, though, that “The Gunslinger was the best guitar I could put out for 9. Another interesting Strat-style guitar from this period was the Outlaw, basically an ST-III with a series of holes drilled through the upper horn, like handles. Innovation In 1987, the Innovator bass also appeared, another guitar which is in the newly revived B. The NJ Series in that catalog included the Warlock, the ST superstrat and the Outlaw, which has become basically a Gunslinger with a reverse headstock.From one perspective, flamenco and heavy metal might seem as far apart as the sun and the moon, but if you think about the hyperbolic emotion involved in both genres, there is a certain spritual connection. Montoya used to compare himself with Sabicas saying ‘I am the box office draw.’ I also studied with the great Mario Escudero for three years, and learned to play with very high action on the guitar, but Sabicas was the main influence. In very late 1976 or early ’77, those names disappeared as well in favor of the Eagle. Rico It was at about the time of the appearance of the Eagle in around ’76 that B. (All imports carry an additional modifier such as N. Series or Platinum which idicate they are made offshore.) As a result of the hassles over the name, these first B. Rico imports are quite rare; only about 150 or so were ever imported before the brand name was abandoned. Strats The following year, 1987, the far more conventional ST-III was unveiled, a Strat-style guitar that came in either humbucker/single/single or twin humbucker configurations and with either bolt-on or neck-through construction. “We never changed over, people just started requesting it, so we made it. Rich catalog produced by Class Axe included the Platinum Ironbird, Bich, Warlock and Virgin guitars and basses.Abstractions aside, however, there’s a more concrete connection between the two forms in the person of Bernie Rico, the man behind some of guitardom’s most flamoyant instruments, B. He and I were like godfather to son.” “I’ll never forget the time,” recalls Mr. Thus, the Eagle was essentially a redesigned version of the original Seagull. Listen to the Mockingbird Things began to evolve quickly from that point on. “The Mockingbird was one of those ‘napkin’ designs,” explains Rico. This was a Strat-style guitar that was known as a professional instrument, with a humbucker and single coils, the angular reverse headstock, an ebony fingerboard with no inlays and 24-frets. Also introduced in 1987 was the Gunslinger, a Strat-style bolt-neck guitar geared toward the fast heavy metal players who only wanted one pickup with a volume control. Rich that cost 99 and a Gunslinger, you won’t find any difference in the neck.” Many of the B. Rich ST-IIIs are relatively ordinary, however, many are quite spectacular, like the quilted maple custom model shown here. No matter what the color of the guitar, the insides of the holes were always black. When we got into the more commercial Strat-shaped guitars, we put it on.” Class Axe In 1987 Rico entered into a marketing agreement with a company from New Jersey called Class Axe which allowed them to market and distribute the Rave, Platinum and NJ Series guitars. The Virgin was sort of a hybrid with a Warlock upper bout and a bell-shaped rounded lower bout designed by Class Axe in conjuction with Moser.
Unlike the auto industry which has specific model years for their products, most specifications for a given Fender instrument model, change little if any, through the lifetime of the model.
Soon thereafter the American Folk Music Boom began, and Rico recalls that his father’s shop made banjos and retrofitted a lot of banjo necks on other brands. Probably only about 300 of these acoustics were built. Di Marzios and Self-Distribution Rico next turned to using Guild humbuckers, but these again required disassembly. I drew a weird curve and said ‘I like that.’ The result was the Mockingbird. This is inaccurate; it’s not a “copy,” however, the idea for the Bich actually began with a Dave Bunker design idea. Rich’s most popular designs, the most commonly seen being versions of the Bich. The largest hole started at around 2″ in diameter and progressively got smaller until the smallest hole on the horn was ? Also in the NJ Series were the ST, Mockingbird, Bich, Ironbird and Warlock which were built in Japan and assembled in California. From 1990 to 1993, Bernie Rico had no control over B. Rich guitars, although he continued to own the name.
“Prior to 1964, we also converted a lot of Martin guitars to 12-strings because Martin didn’t make 12s before ’64.” Rico also remembers building some steel guitars during those early days, as well. Rich name came from Bernie’s friend Bobby, although all the parts were actually just Anglo adaptations of his own family’s names. Electrics In 1968 Rico built his first custom electric solidbody. Rich was able to obtain Gibson pickups, and the earliest Riches used Gibson humbuckers. Finally, in around 1974, Rico called Larry Di Marzio and asked him if he could make four-lead, dual sound humbuckers. The first Mockingbird was a short-scale bass.” Bichin’ Guitars “We were on a roll,” continues Rico. The resulting guitar was a sort of squared off Bunker guitar combined with elements taken from the Eagle. One of the first Biches went to Joe Perry of Aerosmith in October of ’76. Rich guitars were neck-throughs, however, some of the main models were also built with bolt-on necks. Rich Bich was the last new design until the introduction of the Warlock in 1981. In 1988 Rico licensed the Rave and Platinum names to Class Act, and they essentially took over importing, marketing and distributing the foreign-made lines. After almost three decades of continuous guitar-making, the idea of a well-paid vacation without worrying about the rent sounded good, and Rico licensed the B. Rich name to the new outfit for a three year period, during which time American-made B. Mason Bernard However, as with most people devoted to their craft, Bernie Rico’s vacation was short-lived.
“It was working with the banjos,” says Rico, “that taught me what I know about tone and timbre, all tension, with tension hoops in place of struts.” In a way, you can say that Sabicas not only was the main influence on Rico’s guitar playing, but was also the main influence on his guitar making. However, by the mid-’60s many of the customers for guitars were country musicians, and, well, the name “Bernie Rico” just didn’t make it with country players. At the time he was doing a lot of refinishing and repair work. That year a customer came in with a Fender guitar neck and asked Rico to make a body for the neck. Heater, a subsidiary of Norlin (which owned Gibson guitars) in Salem, Oregon. However, since Rich guitars featured such things as coil taps and phase reversal, each Gibson pickup had to be disassembled in order to install four lead wires, a lot of work, needless to say! “No problem,” was Di Marzios response, and from 1974 until 1986 (when B. The first Biches were 10-strings, based on a concept of Neal Moser, who, according to Rico, had been thinking about building a 10-string. There’s a simple if confusing answer: it’s essentially the same as a 12-string but without as many strings…! As early as 1976 or ’77, Rico also began to assemble some American-made economy versions of his guitars. The fingerboard is nicely wide, like you might expect from someone who, well, played flamenco! “This was the only guitar I ever designed at a drafting table, using straight-edges and French curves,” remembers Rico. At first I thought it was the ugliest guitar I’d ever designed,” continues Rico, “but Spenser Sercomb, who was playing in a group called Shark Island, came to my office and saw the design hanging on my wall. Rich six-in-line headstock appeared, debuting on the Warlock bass. Vacation The following year, in 1989, one of the Partners in Class Axe, Randy Waltuch, made Bernie Rico a very generous offer to license the name B. In 1990 Rico began another guitar company called Mason Bernard; Mason was his father’s middle name, and Bernard, of course, was a common name in the Rico family. Rich line included both neck-through and bolt-on guitars in many of the more popular shapes of the past. Rich in 1974, the system was changed to begin with the year of manufacture and three consecutively numbered digits, or XXYYY, with XX being the year (e.g., 78) and YYY the number of guitar.
One day Sabicas took Rico aside and told him, “My son, I want to play a guitar you made for me.” Bernie Rico made his first guitar for Sabicas. As it happened, ironically enough, Rico had a friend named Bobby Rich who had adopted an Hispanic stage name, Roberto Rico. He had an assistant working for him who suggested that he start getting more avant guarde in his finishes. “I remember I had to go over to Hollywood to get advice about how to wire the guitar once it was built,” recalls Rico. Rico recalls sitting around with other guitar makers, including Rick Turner of Alembic fame, discussing the potential merits of neck-through construction. Basically you get the octave differentials and tonal contrast of the bass wound/plain pairs combined with two single strings (versus unison pairs on a 12-string) for treble lead work. Rich designs, including the Bich, were pretty much collaborative efforts. One of these was the Son of a Rich, which was basically a bolt-neck Bich. ‘When are you going to make that guitar,’ he asked? Soon Lita Ford got one, and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue got a Warlock bass, and the model took off. Prior to 1981, all headstocks were the assymetrical three-and-three design. Rich continued to make acoustic guitars using highly skilled Mexican craftsmen until 1982, when Rico’s head craftsman died. Raves and Platinums Soon thereafter Rico engaged a different Korean factory to begin producing the down-market Rave and Platinum Series guitars, this time, unlike the U. Mason Bernard guitars were basically conventional Strat-type guitars, based on the previous B. Rich Assassin model, with the standard Superstrat humbucker/single/single pickup arrangement. Rich name reverted back to Bernie Rico, and he was happily again at work at his drill press making B. Rich guitars, which began to be offered in the Fall of 1994. Back were the Eagle, Mockingbird, Bich, Warlock, Assassin, Ironbird, Gunslinger and ST guitars, plus the Eagle, Mockingbird, Bich and Innovator basses. Rich guitar was stamped “Proto,” beginning in 1972, and subsequent guitars were consecutively numbered beginning 001, 002, etc. Thus, the first guitar of 1974 would have been numbered 74000, followed by 74001, etc.