Celebrating MJ’s 40th Anniversary at Seymour Duncan

Last Updated on August 10th, 2023

Maricela “MJ” Juarez never applied for a job at Seymour Duncan. One day in 1983, six years after the company was founded, a neighbor asked MJ for a ride to an interview at the still-young Seymour Duncan company. She obliged and put her name down as a personal reference.

Later that night, she was surprised to take a call from the hiring manager, who offered her a job. “I didn’t apply,” she said. “Okay, well, do you want a job?” the hiring manager replied.

After talking it over with her mother—who was thrilled to babysit MJ’s newborn during the day—MJ decided to give Seymour Duncan a shot. And we’re so glad she did.

Like most non-guitarists, MJ didn’t know what pickups were when she started. “I would have thought a pickup truck,” she told Premier Guitar in a recent interview. But that didn’t stop her from grabbing the attention of Seymour himself, who was impressed with her detailed notes. She was a quick learner and skilled worker, driven in no small part by her desire to someday meet her favorite rock star, Peter Frampton, after Seymour confirmed that he knew Frampton personally.

40 years later, MJ’s pickups are some of the most sought-after in the world. She’s designed and built pickups for legendary guitarists including Pete Anderson, Steve Miller and yes, Peter Frampton.

To celebrate her 40th anniversary Seymour Duncan, MJ had an incredible idea: to release three sets of signature pickups via the custom shop for three outstanding artists. It only made sense that the queen of the custom shop should choose a few of her favorites. She settled on a Stratocaster set for Steve Miller, a Telecaster set for Pete Anderson and two Humbuckers for, of course, Peter Frampton.


Pete Anderson’s “Working Class” Tele® Set

Having performed with Dwight Yoakam, Roy Orbison, Jackson Browne, Buck Owens, k.d. Lang and more, it’s safe to say that Pete Anderson is an expert in country guitar. And, as everyone knows, country guitar is all about Telecasters.

A recreation of the pickups found in his beloved ‘59 Telecaster, Pete Anderson’s “Working Class” Tele® set achieves that pitch-perfect Tele tone via Alnico 5 magnets and a vintage output wind. Of course, you don’t want your vintage-style pickups to look brand new, so we aged the Working Class Tele set to ensure they look as good as they sound.

And they sound amazing—Pete was “very, very happy” with the Working Class Tele set the first time he heard them. Like he’s done with countless other sets wound for him by MJ, he expressed his gratitude by gifting her a nice bottle of wine.


Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive Humbucker” Set

While Peter Frampton isn’t the only reason MJ agreed to work at Seymour Duncan, he’s one of the reasons why she wanted to be the best of the best. She was appointed manager of the Custom Shop by Seymour himself in 1992, and soon after, she wound her first set of humbuckers for Peter Frampton.

“Peter inspired me back in the day,” MJ told us. “I used to listen to Frampton Comes Alive and I fell in love with him and his tone—it was mainly his tone—and it inspired me to give him the best when I recreated [his original] pickups.”

Featuring Alnico 2 magnets and a vintage output, Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” Humbucker set is closely based on that first set of pickups, which have been heavily featured by Frampton over the years. He even had them installed on a series of new guitars after a builder insisted on using their own brand’s pickups instead of MJ’s. He told her, “MJ, just make them and send them to me. When I get the guitars, I’ll just change them.” For Frampton, MJ’s pickups were essential to his tone.

So, what was it like when MJ finally got to meet Peter Frampton for the first time? “It was like ‘Ohhhh!’” she exclaimed. “He was very welcoming, very nice. It was something that I’d been wanting to do for years. There was lots of love and respect from my side to him and he did the same thing. It was really great.”

A portion of the proceeds from the Frampton Comes Alive Humbucker set will benefit the Peter Frampton Myositis Research Fund, which was established to support Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) and related myositis research in order to improve the lives of patients living with myositis and to ultimately find a cure.


Steve Miller’s The Joker Strat® Set

Apparently, the word was getting around that MJ was working on a special 40th-anniversary project. “Steve Miller asked me, ‘Why Peter? I’m celebrating 50 years of The Joker and I’m jealous.’” She told him, “Don’t worry Steve, we’ll make you a set of Strats,” and he had the idea to name them “The Joker.”

The heart of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” Strat® set is a custom wind that MJ has been doing for Miller for years. All three single coils feature Alnico 2 magnets and a lower-output vintage wind that fans have heard live and in recordings for decades.

Fans might even recognize these pickups in some of Miller’s more unique guitars. At one point, she found out that a set she made for him wasn’t going to be installed in a standard Stratocaster. “He installed them on a very, very light wood guitar that was recommended to him by Billy Gibbons. We didn’t know if they were going to work on this particular wood because it was kind of an experiment.” Miller had told MJ that if the pickups didn’t work, they could do something else for this particular wood.

So, did she have to make any adjustments to those pickups? “None, whatsoever,” she replied. “He says, ‘MJ, you nailed it. Nailed it like always. They work great with this wood.”


Notes for Notes

In addition to a portion of the proceeds from the Frampton Comes Alive Humbucker set benefiting the Peter Frampton Myositis Research Fund, a portion of the proceeds from each of MJ’s anniversary sets benefits Notes for Notes.

Notes for Notes works to provide youth with free access to musical instruments, instruction, and recording studio environments with the goal of music becoming a profoundly positive influence in their lives. It’s a cause that’s close to MJ’s heart, and ours.

Steve Miller has also worked with MJ and Seymour Duncan to support Notes for Notes. We asked MJ if she had a favorite Steve MIller story, and she told us a story about putting on a concert for Notes for Notes, “I’m telling Steve about it and within three seconds—not even finishing my sentence—he says, ‘Yes, MJ, I will gladly do it.’”

You can find Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” Humbucker set, Pete Anderson’s “Working Class” Tele® set and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” Strat® set at the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. Each set of pickups is signed by MJ and their respective artist.


Please check your items carefully and confirm they are correct for color, position, etc. We are not able to accommodate order changes or cancellations once you have completed the check out process.

My cart
Your cart is empty.

Looks like you haven't made a choice yet.