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Other Rare Birds In 1984 several particularly interesting B. The Fat Bob reflected Bernie Rico’s love of motorcycles. I had three of them, one of which was a model called the Fat Bob. These had 24 frets, and at the 24th fret there was a pearl inlay engraved with ‘Conti’.” NJ Series Imports B. Rich had become so successful by the mid-’80s that the company like other American brands such as Dean and Kramer inevitably turned to importing guitars. Rico travelled to Japan in late 1983 and toured a number of factories. This is easy to understand, because later the company headquarters would be in New Jersey. If a guitar has a number of 89321, for example, it was probably built in 1987, but it could be a bit earlier or later. If it hadn’t been for heavy metal, I don’t know what would have happened. We thought it would be cool to make a guitar that had a body shaped like a Harley Davidson gas tank, and that was the Fat Bob. He felt that Japanese manufacturers were way ahead of most American companies in terms of quality production. Still, he thought that selling guitars was a good idea, and decided to go into business for himself.

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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 $799. 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.

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.

We even went over to the local Harley dealership and bought some genuine Harley gas tank caps which we put on the guitars,” recalls Rico. Another rare guitar model was the TS-100/200 which were versions of the Telecaster.

Over the years, only about 35 doubleneck guitars were built. “We never did do Telecasters,” says Rico, “but we should.

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.