“The Wave was the finest bass I’ve ever designed,” says Rico, “in terms of thickness and width and how it was laid out. Even though neck-through production never surpassed about 2200 guitars a year, as the ’80s progressed the serial numbers continued to get ahead of the actual year. The one-pickup Eagle shown here is 85366 from between late 1980 to sometime in 1981.The mass was spread out over a wider area and it had great harmonic overtones.” Very few of these guitars were ever made. By 1981 the numbers were about four years ahead, and this gap remained fairly constant until Rico stopped making B. The white Mockingbird shown here is 87688 from 1983.

USA Squiers were made for less than a year spanning 19 before production of Squiers went back to Mexico.

This was a period when Made in Japan Squiers had stopped and then they moved Squiers to Mexico, but there was a fire in the Mexican factory which disrupted things for a few months in which Fender USA made the Squiers.

This is characteristic of many of his guitars to this day. It was Troiano who first used the active electronics which became common on B. ’ Someone would say, ‘Well, take a little off there,’ and we would.” Since most B. Rich guitars were handmade, especially the neck-throughs, the production work involved a lot of handcarving, which was frequently done by skilled Mexican woodcarvers. Ironbird Following the Warlock was the radically angular Ironbird appeared in around 1983, a guitar favored by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Basic components of these bolt-neck guitars were made overseas and shipped to California where fretting, final assembly and finishing took place. All had diamond inlays except for the Biches and Mockingbird Supreme with clouds, and the Stealth which had no inlays. While they were in Tokyo, there was a tremendous shift upward in the value of the Yen, severely cutting into the profitability of manufacturing in Japan. Colors were transparent red, blue, tangerine, purple or emerald green, or goldtop. Acoustics Again As of early 1995, Bernie Rico had returned to his old affection for acoustics and added a new acoustic guitar to his line, the B-41C, a single cutaway guitar loaded with abalone trim, a project which has the luthier quite enthusiastic. By 1980 the serial numbers had gotten to about two to three years ahead.

This hand-crafted element explains why so many variations often exist between the same models of early B. Riding the Waves Rico’s next guitar was the Wave, also introduced in 1983. Most had the standard three-and-three headstock with pearl R logo; the Warlock and Stealth had the reversed six-in-line head, wile the Ironbird had the early angular six-in-line headstock. Rico turned to Westheimer and asked if he, meaning Cort (of which Westheimer was part owner), would make the B. A bass documented to have been purchased (not necessarily made) in 1980 bore the serial number 82595.

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.

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.

Widow Another guitar from this era was the Widow, sometimes called the “spider” guitar, which was basically designed for Blackie Lawless. The Condor was basically an upscale Eagle with a 1″ thick carved flamed maple top and mahogany body (this guitar is offered today as the Eagle Archtop). Anyhow, as a tribute to Conti whom I never actually met in person I designed an archtop jazz guitar with neck-through construction and heelless neck joint. Many people incorrectly assume that “NJ” stand for New Jersey. 335s and Diamonds Two other imported guitars from this time which you might encounter include the 335 Standard, as you might guess a thinline acoustic-electric, and the Diamond Series, which were basically acoustic guitars with a diamond-shaped soundhole and built-in pickup made by Tarada. These still follow the same XXYYY dating scheme, but there was no particular order to thier application. Rich guitars,” reflects Rico on the past, “is that they got branded as ‘heavy metal’ guitars early on and that’s what made them so successful. Rich didn’t have a niche until someone said, ‘heavy metal.’ “What really gets me, though,” continues Rico, “is that they’re always known for their weird shapes, not the thought and quality that went into the shape of the neck or the quality painting.” Maybe now, with B. Rich guitars back in the hands of flamenco guitarist Bernie Rico and staging a comeback, and with renewed interest in the older B.

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.

Stealth Bomber Also in 1983 the Stealth was introduced, a guitar basically designed by Rick Derringer. Bolt-neck guitars are less precise for the usual reasons.

“This was the only guitar I ever made where someone came to me with a design and said, “Can you make this for me? This is relatively rare, as well, with only between 150 and 175 ever having been produced. Rich NJ Series guitars were built by Masan Tarada and Iida. Production Series Again, as with other major American manufacturers, Rico also sooned turned to Korea as a source for budget models. The serial number is stamped on a neck plate, and like every other company, when the guitar was being finished, someone grabbed a plate out of the box and put it on.

For example * "KC97" = made by Cor-Tek (Cort) in 1997. KC and KV serial number prefixes are usually used on Crafted in Korea Squiers.