Every pickup tells a story, from the hands of those who made it to the hands of those who play it, all the way through to the fans who love the music that it makes. Our vintage pickups are built on these stories. Every one of our vintage humbucker models has a history of its own, traceable to particular significant pickups we’ve examined, measured, modified or crafted. Here are some of those stories.
The ’59 Model is one of our most popular pickups – a versatile ’50s-style humbucker with classic tone and attitude. Seymour based this pickup’s coil wind on the humbuckers in Jeff Beck’s 1959 Les Paul. When we started out as a company in the late 70s, more and more guitarists were playing .009 and .010 gauge strings which tended to sound thin and weak with Alnico 2 magnets. So to meet the demands and adapt to modern times, Alnico 5 magnets were used to compensate for the lighter string gauges. But the coil wind itself is straight from Jeff Beck’s ’59 Les Paul.
The Whole Lotta Humbucker started life as a conversation with our UK distributor on the possibility of a regional exclusive to celebrate Seymour’s time working at the Fender Soundhouse in London. We asked Seymour if he had a specific humbucker wind or mod that he would have done back then that would exemplify this time in his life. He shrugged and said “I don’t know, we could probably do what I used to do for Jimmy Page.” The rest is humbucker history. The Whole Lotta Humbucker takes off from that classic ’59 voicing but overwound to be meatier-sounding, but its essence comes out of the ’59 model. Interest in this pickup was so high that we eventually made it available worldwide.
Right before he passed, humbucker inventor Seth Lover bequeathed the actual patent application drawings for the humbucker to Seymour. The SH-55 Seth Lover is built 100 percent as a Patent Applied For pickup was intended to be built; no more, no less. It’s the only correct model available. And we use the Leesona pickup machine that we bought from auction when Gibson moved out of Kalamazoo back in the 80s. It doesn’t get any more authentic than a pickup wound to the actual patented specs on the very machine that made them in the ‘50s.
Billy Gibbons’ favorite Les Paul, Pearly Gates, is so valuable to him that he didn’t want to take it on the road any more. So he came to Seymour and asked “I want my touring Les Pauls to sound like the Pearly Gates; is there anything you can do?” Seymour took those pickups and analyzed them for gauss strength, DC resistance and more. He realized that, much like a lot of P.A.F pickups, they were wound out of spec. They were wound to be a little hotter than they should have been, and the pitch of the way they were wound favored more of a top-end sizzle. That’s the Pearly Gates: lots of bite, crunch and body.
Ever since Appetite for Destruction, Slash has always recorded using Alnico II Pro pickups in his Derrig Les Paul replica, a 12-pound monster. As he was getting his signature Les Pauls made, he found that they didn’t have as fat a sound, due to factors like weight relief and different materials or wood densities. He wasn’t getting the same tone live that he was getting from his records, so when it became time to discuss doing something special, we took the Alnico II Pro as a base line and made it overwound to the point where his current Les Pauls sounded exactly like his Derrig Les Paul. These pickups in a Les Paul-style guitar is as close as you’ll get to what recorded Appetite For Destruction.