The Guitar That Nobody Expected To Succeed
Most guitars and accessories for guitar are created in a somewhat iterative process. A prototype is made to fix a particular problem or fill a particular need, and it gets refined as it becomes more successful.
A good example of this is when Gibson created a lighter alternative to its popular but bulky Les Paul model, designing what would become known as the Gibson SG.
Sometimes a guitar model is as successful as expected like the SG, and in other cases, the guitar misses what the audience wants such as the infamous Firebird X, an attempt to create a futuristic flagship that went so well Gibson declared bankruptcy seven years later.
However, sometimes the opposite is true. In at least one case in guitar history, a design was seen by its own creator as destined for failure and yet not only defied all expectations but changed the guitar world as we know it.
Casting A Spell
Born Bernardo Chavez Rico, the man who would become known as B.C. Rich would work with his luthier father on various string instruments before he would move onto electric guitars in the 1970s, inspired by the elaborate paint jobs he painted onto his motorcycles.
The first design he made was the 1972 B.C. Rich Seagull, a design similar to the Gibson SG except with an added cutaway point perfectly designed to dig into your leg if you played sitting down.
Ironically, given the somewhat infamously outlandish model that would make B.C. Rich a success, he also designed the Mockingbird, a guitar that has a cult following akin to Gibson’s Melody Maker due to its incredibly pretty yet stylish design.
However, whilst B.C. Rich’s designs became increasingly outlandish, nothing compared to the introduction of the Warlock in 1981.
Interestingly, it was one of the first electric guitar bodies that Mr Rico ever designed, joking that it was the only guitar he actually designed at a drafting table due to its mix of straight, sharp edges and curves going into straight lines.
He considered it the ugliest guitar he had ever designed and had no plans to ever put it into production. Indeed, it would have never been made were it not for a guitarist working at his shop by the name of Spencer Sercombe.
Mr Sercombe, later of the Glam Metal band Shark Island, eventually convinced Mr Rico to put it into production in 1981, and the B.C. Rich Warlock quickly took off amongst the burgeoning heavy metal community.
Its outlandish, outrageous and ostentatious design was not a weakness or a blight but instead was its selling point, and musicians such as Lita Ford, C.C. DeVille, Mick Mars, and later Kerry King all played B.C. Rich Warlocks at some point in their careers.
Before Slash would become known for his gold-top Gibson Les Paul, he would commonly play a B.C. Rich Warlock as well as later playing a Mockingbird.
Unlike most aspects of Glam Metal, the Warlock managed to endure and many guitarists in the 2000s such as Mick Thomson of Slipknot continue to play it to this day.