O’Hagan (born 1942), an affable fellow who speaks with that rising Norwegian lilt typical of MIN-ee-SOA-tuh, had studied music in school, specializing in clarinet, saxophone and piano, and around 1970 was making his living playing and teaching music at retail music stores in the Twin Cities area.In around 1971-72 O’Hagan took a job as a rep for the great musical instrument distributor out of Chicago, Targ and Dinner, and later with a local outfit called Meloway.
“It was working with the banjos,” says Rico, “that taught me what I know about tone and timbre, all tension, with tension hoops in place of struts.” In a way, you can say that Sabicas not only was the main influence on Rico’s guitar playing, but was also the main influence on his guitar making. However, by the mid-’60s many of the customers for guitars were country musicians, and, well, the name “Bernie Rico” just didn’t make it with country players. At the time he was doing a lot of refinishing and repair work. That year a customer came in with a Fender guitar neck and asked Rico to make a body for the neck. Heater, a subsidiary of Norlin (which owned Gibson guitars) in Salem, Oregon. However, since Rich guitars featured such things as coil taps and phase reversal, each Gibson pickup had to be disassembled in order to install four lead wires, a lot of work, needless to say! “No problem,” was Di Marzios response, and from 1974 until 1986 (when B. The first Biches were 10-strings, based on a concept of Neal Moser, who, according to Rico, had been thinking about building a 10-string. There’s a simple if confusing answer: it’s essentially the same as a 12-string but without as many strings…! As early as 1976 or ’77, Rico also began to assemble some American-made economy versions of his guitars. The fingerboard is nicely wide, like you might expect from someone who, well, played flamenco! “This was the only guitar I ever designed at a drafting table, using straight-edges and French curves,” remembers Rico. At first I thought it was the ugliest guitar I’d ever designed,” continues Rico, “but Spenser Sercomb, who was playing in a group called Shark Island, came to my office and saw the design hanging on my wall. Rich six-in-line headstock appeared, debuting on the Warlock bass. Vacation The following year, in 1989, one of the Partners in Class Axe, Randy Waltuch, made Bernie Rico a very generous offer to license the name B. In 1990 Rico began another guitar company called Mason Bernard; Mason was his father’s middle name, and Bernard, of course, was a common name in the Rico family. Rich line included both neck-through and bolt-on guitars in many of the more popular shapes of the past. Rich in 1974, the system was changed to begin with the year of manufacture and three consecutively numbered digits, or XXYYY, with XX being the year (e.g., 78) and YYY the number of guitar.
There, just behind Mary Tyler Moore, cutting the murky waters of Old Muddy with its triangular fin and tell-tale bubbly wake, she spies a swimming Shark. No, it’s just another O’Hagan guitar, making its way home to the headwaters whence it was spawned.
Even though in a printed interview Sammy Hagar once praised his red O’Hagan Flying V (he’s reputed to still own it), O’Hagan guitars are hardly a household word amongst guitar aficionados.
At best, some of you may recall the funky Shark ads that ran in magazines like Guitar Player back around 1981 or so.
Now it’s time to tell the tale of another of those Midwestern guitars of the remarkably fertile late 1970s.