The Seymour Duncan ’59 is a classic. It’s an idealized representation of THE classic, a Gibson PAF — built to the actual specifications of the original design rather than copying one example of a production original which was built with wide tolerances, not all of which were stellar. These days it’s still the first suggestion when somebody is looking for a classic sounding pickup for their Les Paul. However, it’s not always the first suggestion when somebody is looking for a F-spaced bridge pickup for their hot-rodded SuperStrat. Boy am I glad that this pickup ended up in my hot rod by accident.
To your left you’ll see Franky. I’m sure you know the inspiration behind this one. The body is made of Basswood and was originally from a Fernandes LE-2. Being that the LE-2 was basically Fernandes’s rendition of a 1962 Strat, it took a bit of hacking to install a humbucker in the bridge. The original six-screw trem was also replaced with a Gotoh GE1996T licensed Floyd Rose. The original Rosewood-board neck (which I did stripe up and still have somewhere) was replaced with the one-piece maple Scott Smith/Customwoods neck you see here. And in that hacked-up bridge pickup route (held in by screws straight into the wood and some foam from under a Precision Bass pickup) resides a Seymour Duncan TB59-1b ’59 Trembucker. This pickup really ended up being an accident altogether. It originally was installed in my first guitar, an Ibanez Silver Cadet, in the NECK position when I was a stupid kid and physically broke the original. Then it spent a short amount of time in the bridge of my Ash hardtail Strat, which was missing its neck as I built Franky here. Being that I didn’t have money at the time to buy another pickup, I stole this out of the hardtail. Most suggestions for a guitar like this tend to be on the hotter end of the spectrum, such as a Custom Custom or a ’78 Model (back then known as the Evenly Voiced Harmonics humbucker, which is in the PAF range but still hotter than a ’59), and that’s likely what I would have thought I needed to get, if I had the money at the time.
As I soon found out, though, the ’59 Trembucker was more suited to what I wanted from this guitar than I realized. The ’59 itself doesn’t have the midrange presence that Eddie Van Halen was known for in the days when he used his original Frankenstein. However, that guitar was also made of Ash, while this one is made of Basswood, which has a midrange push all its own. It’s not exactly the same, but if I were looking for exactly the same this guitar would’ve been spec’d differently from headstock to strap peg.
The ’59 in this guitar proves to be quite versatile. It proved that a one-pickup guitar isn’t necessarily a one trick pony.
It has a clear, articulate, vintage voice when played clean.
It takes classic crunch with applomb.
It has a thick, authoritative voice with medium gain without losing clarity.
And it handles the searing heat of high-gain like an Iron Chef in the midst of Battle Ghost Pepper.
Overall, I’d say that the tones that the ’59 Trembucker are capable of in this guitar make it a veritable Swiss Army knife.