BC Rich Electric Guitars...
The Bad Years
BC Rich electric guitars
were definitely on a roll in the 1980s. They became known for high quality, innovation and
were higly popular with the Heavy Metal stars of the period.
The First Problem...
As BC Rich guitars grew in popularity and demand, Rico wanted to start mass producing much less expensive guitars
to market to a much wider audience. His strategy was to have the new guitars made in Japan and marketed in the States.
This caused a couple of problems. The first problem that arose was that Rico wanted to call the guitars BC Rico instead of BC Rich in order to distinguish them from the higher quality USA made
guitars. However, the Rico reed company sued over the name infringement and Bernie was forced to give the Japanese guitars
the BC Rich name.
The Japanese made guitars were given the designation the NJ Series for their place of manufacture, Nagoya, Japan. The early Rico and NJ
series were originally a neck-thru-body design and were of high quality. Unfortunately, the neck-thru-body design
was replaced by a bolt-on neck design, quality was not perceived to be as high as that of the USA models and BC Rich electric guitars began gaining the reputation of being a beginner's instrument
rather than a high quality professional's tool. Things were about to get even worse.
In the late 1980's Bernie decided to take a break from guitar production and licensed the production of
BC Rich electric guitars to a company called Class Axe. Class Axe was somewhat less than a class act. They produced
guitars at a fraction of the cost of other companies. This, of course, meant extremely low quality.
Class Axe used glued and
layered plywood along with other generic lumber yard woods for the guitar bodies. Naturally, the inferior materials
meant inferior tone, sustain and general sound quality. Among the list of major complaints, aside from the obvious use of
cheaper woods, was general poor workmanship, which included bad sanding, shaping, paint jobs, hardware, and fret wire installation.
This, of course, resulted in flimsy construcion, cheap looks, poor balance and poor playability.
BC Rich's reputation was instantly marred and practically ruined. It would take a long time for BC Rich to overcome this. The contrast
in quality between the Class Axe produced guitars and the original BC Rich guitars led to the perception that the Class Axe
guitars were cheap knockoffs or underground bootlegs that had been foisted on unknowing dealers. Naturally, this led to even more
damage to the reputation of BC Rich electric guitars. BC Rich practically disappeared into obscurity until the late 1990's.
When Rico was made aware of what was going on, he bought back the rights to BC Rich electric guitars and resumed production in
his California facility and began the arduous task of rebuilding BC Rich's reputation. As a side note, I personally wouldn't even touch
a BC Rich until recent years. That isn't the case now. The late 1990's saw the production issues resolved, the quality of the instruments
restored to professional standards and BC Rich regaining its reputation as a manufacturer of high quality instruments.
The late 1990's and 2000's saw the return of the high quality Heavy Metal beasts that BC Rich electric guitars originally were.
The shapes became even edgier and more radical with the creation of guitars such as the Zombie, Draco, Igniter, Beast(designed by
death metal band Deicide's guitarist Brian Hoffman),Warbeast(a mixture of Beast and Warlock). I personally own one of the first
Warbeasts, the WMD Warbeast, produced. It's a great guitar, lauded by Guitar World's Paul Riario as
...the archtype for future serious metal guitar designs
High praise, indeed.
BC Rich is now known for many innovations and advancements. In my opinion, one of their best achievements is in the
sonic department. For the imported models, BC Rich uses pickups of their own design, known as B.D.S.M.(Broad Dynamic
Sonically Matched). Since late in 2006, BC Rich has used Rockfield pickups(believe me, they rock - my WMD Warbeast is
a roaring Metal MONSTER).
One thing that definitely makes the sound of BC Rich guitars is that they take great care to
match the pickups to the guitar's design, whichever model they're placed. Either way, the bad years are gone and BC Rich electric guitars
flat out ROCK!! On the next page, you'll find a list of the current BC Rich lineup. Enjoy!