This is an extremely rare guitar, and in many hours of Googling and poring through my many books, I have not been able to find anything about this specific model, which would have been made in Japan between 1984 and 1986.
First a brief history. Bernardo (Bernie) Chavez Rico (pic right) was born in East Los Angeles (home to LA's Hispanic population) in 1941. Growing up in a guitar-oriented culture, Mr. Rico came from a guitar household. His father, Bernardo Mason Rico, was a guitar-maker, with a shop where he built guitars and other instruments for the Mexican-oriented musicians in Los Angeles. Bernie Rico continued at handcrafting beautiful acoustic guitars well into the late 1960s. The B.C. Rico guitar name was modified slightly and then changed to B.C. Rich somewhere around 1967. Rico made only acoustic guitars up until 1968 when Bernie made his first attempt at handcrafting a custom electric solid body. There are probably only about 300 of these pre-1969 acoustics built according to very scarce and limited records.
Bernie Rico's reputation for guitar-crafting excellence spread quickly in the music industry circles and soon legendary players such as The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and even Elvis Presley were requesting Bernie to build them guitars.
Bernie was doing a lot of refinishing and repair work at this time. His assistant working for him at the time suggested he provide more avant-garde styles and colors in his guitar finishes. Since he was riding a lot of motorcycles with fancy paint jobs at the time, this made sense to Bernie and excited him as well. This is where the B.C. Rich tradition of wild finishes first originated. The deep Candy-apple finish on this guitar is a good example!
B.C. 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. Mr. Rico travelled to Japan in late 1983 and toured a number of factories. He felt that Japanese manufacturers were way ahead of most American companies in terms of quality production. The result was the launching of the B.C. Rich NJ Series of copies of the American designs. Many people incorrectly assume that “NJ” stand for New Jersey. This is easy to understand, because later the company headquarters would be in New Jersey. However, the NJ actually stood for Nagoya, Japan. Until 1986, Japanese B.C. Rich NJ Series guitars were built by Tarada and Iida. Tarada currently manufacture the high-end Gretsch Japanese re-issues, while Iida manufacture the high-end Yamaha instruments.
Bernie passed away on the morning of December 3rd, 1999, from a sudden heart attack. He was a pioneer in solid body electric guitars and pioneered the neck-through-body guitar design. The amazing neck/body join on this guitar is detailed below, and can be seen in the 'more pictures' link.
So, to this particular guitar, which is extremely rare.
It is one of the Japan-made NJ series, and the quality is astounding. It is an archtop jazz box with a delightfully extrovert character. Both the front and back are arched (and with a single Florentine cutaway much like a Gibson® ES-175® - the timbers appear to be Spruce on the top, and laminated Maple on the back and sides), and the fretboard is a beautiful piece of Ebony. The bridge is also Ebony. The body is multi-bound front and back, and the fretboard and headstock are fully 3-ply bound. The fretboard has stylised diamond-shape inlays in mother-of-pearl, and the stylised diamond shape is repeated in the stylish (to my eye at least!) sound hole. A stunning aspect of this guitar is the heel-less neck/body join. An absolute work of art, and extremely comfortable to play, giving true access to the upper frets with the Florentine body cutaway. Just look at the join in the 'more pictures' link below!
While the guitar is essentially quite like a stylised or hot-rodded ES-175®, it is much more acoustic in nature. Unplugged, this guitar has much more volume than an ES-175®, and this more 'acoustic' character comes through the amplified sound as well.
It's a very versatile guitar, having both the high-quality humbucker in the neck position (see detailed photo in the 'more pictures' link below) and an acoustic-style active piezo pickup under the bridge saddle. Not only does each pickup have its own volume and tone control, but you can also blend the 2 pickups. Want country-style strummed acoustic sounds? You have it. Fingerpicked acoustic? You have it. Cool Jazz archtop tones? You have it. Blues neck humbucker sounds? You have it. A combination of any of these? You have it!
Action is super low, and this vintage and unique guitar plays superbly well. The neck is divine! It is truly one of the slickest guitars I have ever played in 35 years - and that includes HUNDREDS of guitars! There is a small chip on the edge of the upper bass bout in line with the bridge, but that's it! Not a mark on this stunning guitar. Original frets show no wear, and this super-low-mileage guitar comes with original B C Rich hugh-quality hard-shell case.
The previous owner brought the guitar in from the USA.
You will never see another of these, I am sure. I will be very carefully gigging this versatile guitar until it sells - I love it! Great looks, incredible playability, and fantastic sound.
Sold to Bruce