Slash and his custom "Slash Bich". Slash can play any guitar in the world! He chooses to play the custom B.C. Rich "Slash" Bich. Slash and his Bich can be seen all over the world playing with GNR using this custom built masterpiece.
America's First Custom Guitar Shop.
B.C. Rich Beginnings
During the ’80s, the wild shapes of B.C. Rich guitars proved to be the perfect match for the over-the-top theatrics of the burgeoning heavy metal craze. The image of W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless dripping in blood while clutching a B.C. Rich Widow in one hand and a skull in the other was just one of many that catapulted B.C. Rich to being the No. 1 guitar company as metal came to rule the airwaves.
Although B.C. Rich has crafted an identity as a metal guitar company, it actually started as one of the first boutique electric-guitar makers—it was among the first to introduce neck-through-body 24-fret guitars and heelless neck joints. Many respected artists outside the metal community, including studio great Carlos Alomar (David Bowie), pop meister Neil Giraldo (Pat Benatar), and jazz guitarist Robert Conti were proponents of B.C. Rich guitars.
Where It All Began
B.C. Rich’s origin can be traced to Bernardo’s Guitar Shop at 2716 Brooklyn Avenue, in Los Angeles. In the mid ’50s, Bernado Mason Rico purchased the store from the Candelas guitar shop and opened his namesake store. He didn’t work on the guitars himself—he chose to focus on day-to-day operations—but instead hired luthiers from Paracho, Mexico, which is widely regarded as the guitar capital of that country. Rico helped many of these luthiers gain residence and naturalization as citizens of the United States. Rico’s son Bernardo “Bernie” Chavez Rico, an accomplished flamenco guitarist, did become involved with the guitar making, however.
Father and son brought bodies in from Mexico, had them painted and assembled at the shop for mariachi, classical, and folk musicians. By the early ’60s, folk music had become popular and folk artists started bringing in their acoustic steel-string guitars to the shop for repairs. Word spread, and throngs of musicians like Barry McGuire and David Lindley started bringing in Martins and Gibsons for work and daring modifications, such as disassembling a Martin D-18 and putting in a 12-string neck.
The folk boom led to the shop’s production of steel-string acoustics, which featured Brazilian rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and Honduran mahogany necks with Gaboon ebony fingerboards. Although these early guitars were reportedly rated higher than new Martins at the time, they had some minor issues. Because they didn’t have an adjustable truss rod, the guitars were often brought in later to have the fretboard removed and a truss rod installed. They also had very thin spruce tops that sounded nice but were known to crack and move from 1/16" to 1/8" into the soundhole if too much string tension caused the neck to fold into the body. These issues were quickly addressed without question, and problem instruments were repaired or replaced even many years past the one-year warranty.
In 1968, Bernie made his first electric solid body using a Fender neck. This led to his first attempts at guitar production in the form of about ten Les Paul-shaped guitars and basses modeled after the Gibson EB-3. Around 1972, Bernie and an employee named Bob Hall started developing a model they called the Seagull (which has no connection to the Godin Guitars acoustic brand). It was the company’s first production electric guitar. Just about the time Bernie was getting ready to put the Seagull on the market, Bernie brought in Neal Moser to add his State-of-the-art electronics to the Seagull which helped to separate it from all other guitar brands. The Seagull was introduced at the January 1974 NAMM Show. Up to that time, the store’s phone greeting was “Bernardo’s Guitar Shop.” One day, Mal Stich, vice president of B.C. Rich at the time of its ascent, answered the phone with, “B.C. Rich,” and some think that’s the moment the company name changed and it became a full-fledged guitar manufacturer with a mission.
“B.C. Rich’s intention was to make a production-line custom guitar with high quality and craftsmanship that was very expensive for the day,” says Stich. “In 1977, they were $999 retail—and you were paying more than retail if you could actually find one.”
Although, B.C. Rich was often referred to as a custom shop at the time, it wasn’t custom in the conventional sense of the word. “The guitars were handcrafted, but they were still production guitars. People might request special inlays or maybe Bartolini Hi-A pickups instead of DiMarzios, but basically it was a production-line guitar,” explains Stich. The company had facilities in both California and Tijuana, Mexico. All the workers were from Mexico, and both shops freely interchanged parts. For the electric guitars, Bernie would send wood, fretboards, frets, inlays, glues, and other materials over to Mexico, and then drive down once a month to pick up the assembled guitars, which were then painted and finally assembled in L.A. The steel-string acoustics, however, were made right there in L.A.
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