Tuesday, May 16, 2017

B.C Rich Guitars

Bernardo C. Rico
One of the most unusual guitars that I ever played was also one of the best guitars I’ve ever played. This was an original B.C. Rich Seagull built back in the mid 1970’s when Bernie Rico and his staff were making them in his Los Angeles shop. That guitar was expensive, but it played and sounded like a dream.

Bernardo Chavez Rico aka Bernie learned about guitars from his father. Bernardo, or Bernie, was an accomplished Flamenco guitarist.

His father, Bernardo Mason Rico had purchased the store from Candelas Brothers guitar shop. The Candelas Guitar store is a legend all to itself. The store was re-christened Bernardo’s Guitar Shop.

Although Bernardo Senior was not a luthier, he was a business man. And he hired luthiers and craftsmen to do the work. It was from these men that Bernie learned his craft. The shop offered Flamenco and Classical guitars along with other stringed instruments.

'71 Rico acoustic
Many of their original guitars were made of bodies imported from Mexico which the workers sanded, finished, stained, and painted before offering them for sale. As the years rolled on, The Folk Music Craze of the early 1960’s changed the focus of the shop from nylon string instruments to steel string acoustic guitars. These were handmade using choice materials such as Brazilian rosewood, Sitka spruce, Honduran mahogany, and ebony.

Around 1968 Bernie made his first electric solid body guitar and topped it with a Fender neck.

1974 Rico Bass
This guitar and subsequent attempts had Les Paul shaped bodies. He also made bass guitars with a design based on the Gibson EB-3.

1974 B.C. Rich Seagull

Within four years Rico and a fellow employee named Bob Hall came up with the original Seagull design. By 1974 this became their first offering. Another employee named Mal Stich, inadvertently answered the phone one day by saying, “B.C. Rich”, instead of “Bernardo’s Guitar Shop”. The name stuck. Bernie Rich’s goal was to make a production line guitar with custom shop quality.


By 1977 the retail price was just under $1000 USD. But they were scarce.

The music store I frequented back in those days had 2 B.C. Rich guitars; the Seagull and the Mockingbird. Both guitars were excellent.

'74 Seagull
Oddly enough the Seagull was based on a wooden toilet seat. The body and neck were made of mahogany with neck-thru construction. The body had an exaggerated cutaway that ended in a sharp point. On the top side of the body between the upper and lower bouts was a sharp point. Rich used a Badass bridge/saddle unit. The guitar had twin humbucking pickups and the electronics were designed by Neal Moser. These included an active preamp, a Varitone control, a phase switch, coil taps, and master volume and tone controls.

'74 Seagull with Gibson pickups

At first the pickups were made by Gibson. This is because B.C. Rich guitars were originally distributed by L.D. Heater, which was a subsidiary of Gibson. This allowed them to obtain Gibson parts. However due the fact that Rich was utilizing coil taps and phase reversal on each model each Gibson pickup needed to be dissembled to be reconfigured to use four wires then put back together.

Eventually Gibson realized their pickups were being used by a competitor and put a halt to the practice.

Later models used Guild pickups, until Rich contacted Larry DiMarzio and asked if his company could produce a four wire model. From that point on B.C. Rich guitars and basses used DiMarzio pickups.

1976 B.C. Rich Eagle
The next instrument was the Eagle, which also had the neck-through-body construction and was made entirely of mahogany.. Early models included the three-on-a-side headstock, an unbound neck with rosewood fret board and inlaid position markers. The Eagle included an onboard preamp with a separate volume control and all the bells and whistles that were to be found on the Seagull. The body was more Strat-like with a double cutaway. Later models were stripped down, with a single humbucking pickup, a six-in-line headstock, and a vibrato unit.

'77 B.C. Rich Advertisement
On some instruments the body was painted with a custom colours. By this time, electric players were simplifying the guitars and relying more on pedal boards. Although the newer Eagle had the same shape, the only built-in effect was the on-board preamp, a switch to activate it, and a separate volume control.

1977 Mockingbird
The BC Rich Mockingbird was based on a shape by a guy named Johnny “Go-Go” Kessel and named by Neal Moser. The double-cutaway shape is like nothing else out there. The guitar was popularized by Joe Perry of Aerosmith. The original models were, once again, neck-through-body, and made of mahogany. The original models were gorgeous and featured twin humbucking pickups with coil tapping capability, and a built-in preamp. The six-on-a-side headstock topped the unbound neck, which had a rosewood fret board with mother of pearl inlays.

1982 Rich Bich
The Rich Bich, was another guitar based on a drawing by Johnny “Go-Go” Kessel and designed by Neal Moser. This guitar was originally offered in 1978 and like the Mockingbird, it was a truly original design. The upper bout featured twin offset pointy cutaways on the instruments neck-through-body. What set the guitar apart was the large V-shaped wedge cut out of the lower section of the guitars bottom nearest the player, The remaining section after this house the larger control section which had a small ovular cutout..

Rich Bich Electronics
Once again the guitar housed an active pre-amp and all the features found on the previously mentioned guitars. Like most of the vintage B.C. Rich guitars, this featured the three-on-a-side tuners, a rosewood neck with mother-of-pearl inlay, a Leo Quan Bad Ass bridge.

1978 Rich Bich 10 string

The reason for the large V shaped cutaway was due to the fact that this guitar was offered as a 10-string model. The wedge was designed to hold four Grover tuning pegs so that the upper four strings had double courses. These four strings had their end pieces strung into 4 metal grommets in the center of the headstock that were then attached to the pegs on the bottom of the guitar.


Bottom view of '78 Rich Bich

This upside-down concept was copied in later years by Steinberger (although his design was much different) and other manufacturers.




Trey Azagthoth Ironbird

The B.C. Rich Ironbird was designed by Joey Rico in 1983. It was in-my-opinion, a heavy metal version of the B.C. Rich Mockingbird. This instrument had a small cutaway on the upper bout and an exagerated, and pointy cutaway on the lower bout. The bottom of the guitar had two offset and pointy terminal points. The headstock was made rosewood. This guitar was popular endorsed by Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel.


Trey Azagthoth's
personal Ironbird
His personal instrument included a Dimarzio X2N in the bridge position, which was the company’s highest output pickup and a Dimarzio twin blade minihumbucker in the neck position. The strings attached to a Floyd Rose tremolo. The original Ironbird had a reverse headstock. The guitar was available with a variety of pickup configurations.





B.C. Rich Acrylic
The B.C. Rich Acrylic guitar was based on the Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar concept. B.C. Rich took a number of their models, including the Mockingbird and the Warlock and used acrylic material for the bodies instead of wood. While the Dan Armstrong model only came in a clear transparent model, the B.C. Rich transparent models had different colours for their guitars. These guitars were manufactured in Korea and did not have all the features of the earlier B.C. Rich models.

An interesting feature of the Acrylic guitars is the neck joint. This was called IT (invisibolt technology) which allowed the neck to be bolted inside the body, to give it the appearance of a neck-through, however the neck was actually a bolt-on type.

BC Rich Warlock prototype
The B.C. Rich Warlock was designed by Bernie Rico in 1981 and based on the Bich. The original model came with a mahogany body and neck, which was topped with a three-on-a-side headstock.

1988 BC Rich Warlock
Some models did have a six-on-a-side reverse headstock. This was later changed to a unique headstock design. The neck was bound on the rosewood fretboard and topped with mother-of-pearl inlays. Some models came with a Floyd Rose Trem system. All came with twin Dimarzio humbuckers.

Warlock II


The Warlock II came out the following year.




BC Rich Wave




The BC Rich Wave guitar was designed by Martin Evans and made for only a brief period of time. It was reminiscent of the Mockingbird, but with exaggerated features such as a small wave-like cutaway on the instruments bottom.




BC Rich Stealth 7


The unique B.C, Rich Stealth guitar was designed by Rick Derringer. It featured twin Dimarzio pickups, a reverse headstock and the usual features found on earlier models. Subsequent production Stealth guitars deleted most of these features and came with only a bridge humbucking pickup.




Widow Bass


The B.C. Rich Widow bass was designed by Blackie Warless. It resembled an insect with its twin symmetrical upper and lower horns. The bottom section of the body needed an additional block section to hold the bridge saddle unit.

Some significant events for the company occurred in 1984.



1984 BC Rich US Series Mockingbird

The Korean connection led to the introduction of the U.S. Series. These were essentially Korean manufactured guitar kits, with bolt-on necks, that were shipped to California for assembly.



Condor



This was the year that the Condor was also introduced. This was a lovely guitar with a flamed maple top on a mahogany body. It was made in Japan.







BC Rich Fat Bob bass and guitar
The bizarre Fat Bob guitar and bass were introduced this same year. This guitar may have been a product of Bernie Rico’s love of motorcycles and motorcycle embellishments, as it resembled the flamed design decals found on hot-rodded motorcycles.

This guitar had an odd triangular shape, with a single Dimarzio pickup, a six-on-a-side headstock, and a Floyd-Rose tremolo.

Mel Stich
It was in 1984 that Mel Stich left the company. The following year Neal Moser left.

In 1987 Bernie Rich entered into an agreement with Randy Watuch’s company called Class Axe. This allowed Class Axe to market and distribute some of Rich’s guitar lines, thus leading to some foreign made models.

By 1989 Rich had turned over all of the licensing rights.

That year B.C. Rich guitars moved from California to New Jersey. The guys that were working at the L.A. shop continued to make handmade guitars under the logo LPC Guitars. This venture failed.

BC Rich Virgin Guitars and Basses
Though the majority of Class Axe made B.C. Rich guitars were outsourced, the company did produce The Virgin, which was handmade. Dealers and customers were begging for handmade products.

In 1993 Bernie Rico returned to making handmade guitars when the licensing agreement ran out. Ed Roman of Roman Guitars of Las Vegas purchased the left over stock from Class Axe.

He relocated the shop to Hesperia California.

By 1995 Bernie returned to making acoustic guitars, including the B-41C.

The Ignitor




In 1995 the Ignitor and the V were added to the line up.







1998 Victor Smith Commemoritive

In 1998 the Exclusive, the Victor Smith Commemorative Model, and the Beast were added.

The following year, B.C, Rich added a seven string version of the Warlock.

On December 3rd of 1999, Bernie Rico died of a heart attack.

The company was taken over  to his son Bernie Jr. Under his direction control of the company, B.C. Rich, was sold given to the Hanser Music Group in 2001. They began making guitars under the Rico Jr. name.

Bernie Rico Jr.
Bernie Rico Jr is still involved with some current B.C. Rich custom-shop guitars. In 2014, JAM Industries of Quebec Canada took over Hanser Incorporated, aka Davitt and Hanser.

Asian manufactured B.C. Rich guitars are still being distributed by Davitt and Hanser, as a subsidiary of JAM Industries.

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)






Friday, April 28, 2017

Allan Holdsworth; Jazz Fusion Guitarist Passes Away at Age 70 - His Guitars

Allan Holdsworth
I’ve been reading Guitar Player magazine since the mid mid-1970’s. I can recall that at some point later in that decade, a British guitarist named Allan Holdsworth wrote a monthly column with tips on playing guitar.

Holdworth passed away on April 15th of this year at age 70 of a heart attack.



Alan Holdsworth 1946-2017

Though Allan Holdsworth played a number of different styles of music, he will always be best known as the foremost jazz fusion guitarist.



Frank Zappa once hailed him as “one of the most interesting guitar players on the planet”, while Robben Ford compared his guitar work to that of saxaphonist John Coltrane.

Indeed Holdsworth's style utilized complex chordal progressions and intense solos reminiscent of horn or saxophone lines.

Young Allan Holdsworth
Back in 1969 Allan Holdsworth put together a group called Igginbottom that recorded an album.  By 1971 Holdsworth had moved on to an improvisational band called Sunship. In subsequent years he recorded with a number of different obscure bands. In 1973 Holdsworth recorded a live album for a BBC radio concert as part of a group called Tempest. Amazingly this album sat dormant for years until it was finally released in 2005.

The New Tony Willaims Lifetime
Holdsworth went on to work with the well-known group Soft Machine and later with The New Tony Williams Lifetime band. By 1979 Holdsworth was tired of being the guitarist in the band and went on to pursue a solo career.

It was in the early 1980's when Holdsworth relocated to Southern California. Here he set up his own recording studio in San Diego and named it The Brewery.


Frank Gambale and Allan Holdsworth
By 1990 he was once again performing and partnered with well known fusion guitarist Frank Gambale. The duo recorded one LP.

Allan Holdworth had a distinctive knowledge of music, voicings, and chord structure. His use of finger-picked chords and of effects such as delay, chorus, and reverb make his music stand out. One would suspect that he had an education in guitar, music performance, and music theory, but Holdsworth was entirely self taught.

Through the years Allan Holdsworth was in demand by many different guitar manufacturers to demo and represent their instruments.

Holdsworth playing a Gibson SG



Early in his career his main instrument was a Gibson SG.





Holdsworth playing his Stratocaster


Later in that decade he switched to a customized Fender Stratocaster that used humbuckers instead of single coil pickups.




Playing an Ibanez AH-10



By 1984 Ibanez recruited him to work in conjunction with them to develop two sem-hollow body guitars that were known as the AH-10 and the AH-20.






Holdsworth with his Steinberger Guitar
Three years later he was associated with Ned Steinberger’s well known instrument. In fact Holdworth assisted Steinberger in developing the GL2TA-AH headless model.


Holdsworth playing a Bill Delap guitar


Following this he began playing headless guitars made by luthier Bill Delap.





With his Carvin HH model

More recently Allan Holdswoth struck up a deal with Carvin guitars to use their model H2 exclusively. Several other Carvin models sprung from the orginal headless Holdworth model. These included an extended range baritone model, the semi-hollow H2 and H1. By 1999 Carvin came out with the “HF2 Fatboy, which Holdsworth endorsed.




Holdsworth with Synthaxe
One of the instruments that Allan Holdsworth is most famous for is the SynAxe. This instrument sort of resembles a guitar, but is actually a midi-controller.  Holdworth eventually stopped using this instrument in concert, due to its need for frequent repairs.

Aside from being an incredible and gifted guitarist, Allan Holdsworth was an afficianado of beer and cycling.  His favourite beer was New English cask ale. He even took his fondness for the clear amber drink to the next step by inventing a product called The Fizzbuster; designed to put a better head on a glass of beer.

Allan Holdsworth with his family
Holdsworth was a father and a grandfather.  He is survived by his two daughters, son, and grandson.

His fans were in shock from his passing and put together a Go-Fund-Me page which paid for his funeral expenses.





Monday, April 24, 2017

J. Geils - Gone at age 71 - A Guitar Retrospective

J. Geils


J. Gelis was the leader of what was perhaps the preeminent band to come out of the Boston rock scene in the 1970’s.




The J. Geils Band

His group started up In Worcester, Massachusetts in 1967 and by 1970 the band had released their first album. By the 1980’s The J. Geils Band had a string of chart topping hits, including Centerfold, Love Stinks, Come Back, and Freeze-Frame.

While Peter Wolf stood out as the lead singer and front man, J.Geils was the guitarist and the name behind the band. .

You're Gettin' Even,
While I'm Gettin' Odd



The bands final album, Your Gettin’ Even, While I’m Gettin’ Odd, was released in 1984. The following year the band officially split.




1999 Reunion Concert



The group reunited for a reunion show in 1999. However in 2012 Geils filed a lawsuit against the band for conspiring to go on tour without him and unlawfully using the band’s trademarked name.


Bluestime - J. Geils and Magic Dick

After leaving the band Jay Geils remained a busy musician in the Boston area. In the mid 1990’s he put together a band called Bluestime along with The J. Geils Band harmonica player, “Magic” Dick Salwitz.


New Guitar Summit -
Geils,Beaudoin, and Robilard

By the next decade he remained active as a Jazz guitarist and recorded three solo albums. J. Geils was part of the New Guitar Summit along with Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin.


Geils - KTR Motorsport Shop
As a young man, Geils attended the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and studied mechanical engineering. He parlayed that knowledge into restoring, collecting, driving, and racing sports cars.

Geils even started the KTR European Motorports Shop in a garage in Carlisle, Massachusetts which serviced vintage Italian sports cars; especially Ferraris and Maseratis. He eventually sold the business in 1996. But he remained active in the vintage car community, attending shows and displaying some of his personal automobiles.

John Warren Geils was born February 20th, 1946.

J. Geils 1946 - 2017

He was found dead in his home on April 11th of this year when police responded to a well-being call. He died of natural causes at the age of 71.


Aside from collecting automobiles, Jay had a wonderful collection of vintage guitars and amplifiers.

Modified '58 Flying V




During the years with The J. Geils Band he could be seen playing a Les Paul, a Fender Stratocater, or even a Gibson Flying Vee.






J. Geils with Gibson ES-335
In later years he performed with a Gibson ES-335, or some of his hollow body archtop jazz guitars.

His taste in archtop guitars was influenced by his love and admiration for the guitarists that he believed changed the way we played guitar; Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, and B.B. King.


He sought out the instruments similar to the ones that they played.

1936 Gibson ES-150
For Charlie Christian this included purchasing a Gibson ES-150 with the single coil pickup unit that came to be known as "The Charlie Christian" pickup.

He owned this guitar as well as a Gibson ES-250 with a Charlie Christian pickup, just like the guitar Christian used later in his career. In the picture you can also see an ES-150 tenor guitar. These are paired with Gibson EH-150 and EH-185 amplifiers. He parted with the Gibson ES-250.

1939 Gibson L-5
Part of the Geils' collection includes a Gibson L-5 that was previously owned by jazz guitarist Howard Alden.

Stromberg Deluxe
Geils owned a few Stromberg instruments that were made in his beloved city of Boston. One of these came with a Charlie Christian pickup, although the pickup was not original to the guitar.




Geils Archtop Collection

In fact Geil's collection of archtop guitars represented each of the major builders of archtop guitars.



Geils Archtop Collection


These included a Gretsch Synchromatic, an Epiphone Emperor, a D'Angelico New Yorker, a Gibson Super 400, and the Stromberg archtops.


1950's Fender Deluxe Amplifier


Geils also collected amplifiers. He states that he wanted to get the sound similar to what his guitar triumvirate of Christian, Walker, and King used to get "their sound".


Jay even owned an early 1950's Fender TV panel Deluxe amp that was decorated with the same wording as the one that B. B. King had used as a young man.

Jay got his love of Jazz music from his father, who encouraged him and exposed him to well known Jazz acts by taking him concerts when Jay was a child. As a boy Geils played trumpet up until he was almost out of high school. At this point he took up the guitar.

Geils' '60's ES-345



In 1967 Geils had purchased a 1960’s Gibson ES-345 after seeing B.B. King in concert playing an ES-335 through a Fender Super Reverb.






Geils with 1956 Les Paul
Upon hearing Eric Clapton playing with Mike Bloomfield, Geil set his sights on acquiring  a Gibson Les Paul. He found a 1956 Les Paul Custom at a New York city music store. This guitar  had an alnico and a P-90 pickup. Shortly after purchasing this guitar the J. Geils Blues Band was formed and the group started out by playing local gigs.

J. Geils with 1959 Les Paul
It was at one of these events he ran into a kid that wanted to sell his 1959 Les Paul Standard. The guitar needed a standard tailpiece, and someone had tried to varnish it with a brush. Despite its appearance, Geils spotted a treasure and offered to swap his ‘56 Les Paul Custom for that guitar. He took the guitar to a tech that scraped away the varnish, found the requisite parts, and took the covers off of the PAF pickups. He played this guitar on most of the J. Geils Band Records.

J. Geils with a Fender Stratocaster


During that era he also purchased a Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster and a Martin D-28 for use in the studio.







Geils' '58 Flying V
He also found a 1958 Gibson Flying V and got it by trading a Gibson ES-350 and a National Steel guitar. He took the Flying V on the road to play in concerts.

During his band years he purchased a 1958 Gibson Cherry Les Paul and put it to use. Geils later sold this guitar for three times what he originally paid for the guitar. The 1959 Les Paul is still part of the Geils' collection.

Ampeg Gemin II



As for amplifiers, his first amp was an Ampeg Gemini  II.







Late 1950's Gibson GA-40


During the early J. Geils Band recordings, he played through a tweed Gibson GA-40.







Fender Bandmaster Reverb



On the road he played through a pair on Fender Bandmaster Reverb amps, each with a cabinet housing two Electro-Voice SRO’s.






MusicMan RD112-100


During the final days of the band he was using a 100 watt Music Man amplifier.






KTR European Motorsports
As stated before, after leaving the J. Geils Band, Jay immersed himself in restoring classic Italian sports cars  opening his own shop; the KTR European Motorsports Shop.

Eventually he came back to the guitar, but this time as a Jazz player.

J.Geils and Gerry Beaudoin

He ran into guitarist Gerry Beaudoin, a notable jazz player, who invited him to join him on one of his regular gigs. This lead to his career as a Jazz guitarist.




Geils at a jazz gig with ES-250

He utilized several of the guitars in his collection at his jazz gigs, including the Howard Alden L-5 and his Gibson ES-250. He usually played through different Fender combo amplifiers.




J. Geils and Tennie Komar
in front of Jay's 1961 Ferrari.
Geils lead a most interesting life and his career revolved around the things he loved. Jay was a very dear friend to one of my childhood friends, Tennie Komar. Jay certainly left his mark on the world. Though his first love was playing Jazz guitar, he will always be remembered by most for his work in the J. Geils Band.

Please click on the links under the pictures to find the sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)