History of BC Rich Guitars
BC Rich are a company specialising in angular and extreme guitar shapes best suited for heavy metal music. The company was started in around 1966 making acoustics and flamenco guitars. The founder, Bernardo Chavez Rico, made BC Rich’s first electric in 1969, but not with the extreme styling of later efforts, as there was no market for shapes like BC Rich would eventually make yet. In 1971 Rico’s first original design was launched, the Seagull. This guitar gave a subtle indication as to Rico’s future direction, with some small points on the single-cutaway body, and was quite successful.
The Seagull, and many of the future BC Rich guitars, was a neck-through design, which meant that the neck ran the entire length of the guitar, and the body consisted of two “wings” glued to each side of the neck. A similar design to the Seagull is the Eagle, from the mid-1970s. This has two pointed and curved cutaways and is still available.
The first extreme BC Rich designs were the Mockingbird and Bich, launched in 1976. When the first Biches came out, the guitar was only available as a ten-string model. It had a very extreme body shape for the time, with two short pointed horns on the top half and a very unusual bottom half with several cutaways. During his tenure in Metallica, Dave Mustaine used a Bich. The Mockingbird was slightly more restrained, with a shape slightly resembling a curvier and pointier Gibson Explorer. Over the years since its launch the Mockingbird has been very popular, with Slash of Guns N’Roses and Craig Chaquico among its famous users. In 1981 one of BC Rich’s most famous models was launched- the Warlock. This guitar is vaguely X-shaped and has two small, pointed cutaways which resemble horns. The guitar was originally less pointy when launched and over the years the shape has been slightly altered. The Warlock has been used by Lita Ford, Mick Thomson, Robb Flynn of Machine Head and Kerry King of Slayer. Another early-1980s BC Rich design is the Ironbird, used by Paul Stanley of KISS. All these guitars are still available.
BC Rich have also dabbled in making conventionally shaped guitars, including the EMI, Blaster, Warpig and Gunslinger models. These, however, have never been as successful as the more “metal-style” models.
In the late 1980s Bernardo Chavez Rico wanted to take a break from making guitars and licensed all the models to Class Axe, an American company who tarnished BC Rich’s reputation in the guitar market by making the guitars out of plywood and putting the guitars together very badly, with mistakes made in the shapes, construction, sanding and painting of the guitars. Rico then bought back the right to BC Rich guitars and resumed production in his California factory.
The 1990s and 2000s saw a new crop of threateningly-named models even pointier than the 1980s models. These included the Zombie, Draco, Ignitor, Beast (designed by death metal band Deicide’s guitarist Brian Hoffman), Warbeast (a mixture of Beast and Warlock).
BC Rich are also known for their endorsement deals with several important and respected hard rock and metal artists including Kerry King of Slayer (whose signature model is V-shaped and has extensive tribal graphic work over the body- he also has a signature model based on the Warlock), the late Chuck Schuldiner of Death (when Schuldiner died of cancer in 2001 BC Rich introduced a tribute model based on his preferred guitar, the BC Rich Stealth), Paul Stanley of KISS, and Paolo Gregoletto, bassist in Trivium.