Every pickup we make tells a story, and our line of vintage pickups is particularly stocked with interesting tales. We asked our sales manager, Alex Semple, to share the stories behind some of our most popular vintage-style models.
Seymour W. Duncan and Billy Gibbons have been friends for a long time, and they’re always kicking around interesting ideas. Once upon a time Billy and Seymour had a particularly wacky brainwave: test just how hardy the Pearly Gates humbucker is by submerging it in water and seeing if it would still work.
Recently when I visted the Seymour Duncan factory, I was lucky enough to get to hang out in the Custom Shop. Such history in those walls! Pictures of Seymour and MJ with Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Edward Van Halen and many others throughout the years adorn the walls. I saw prototypes for the AH-1, the Frankenstein pickup, early handwound (by Seymour himself) ’59s, you name it. It was a treasure trove of pickup prototypes. No, they literally have a vault of prototypes, in addition to the ones displayed on the wall.
In this ongoing saga of testing out Duncan humbuckers in my trusty rebuilt vintage Kramer Voyager, I’ve been through quite a few bridge pickups all paired with the ’59N, which is a great neck pickup. Not just great but super versatile, and able to blend with every single bridge pickup I tried. Great cleans, killer…
Previously, I told the story of my rosewood Tele. I love that guitar; it’s so clear and warm and chimey! But, it doesn’t have the boldness, rawness and raunchyness of what I consider to be the ‘real’ Telecaster sound.
For over 40 years ZZ Top has been defining their version of Texas rock and have always done it in an unmistakable way, with a tone that is as signature as the long beards and sunglasses. Having produced 15 albums, tons of hits and circled the globe many times over rocking out concert halls, ZZ Top has earned their place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Not only has ZZ Top managed to stay together while many rock bands from the era have broken apart, but Billy, Frank and Dusty continue to crank out great music and tour like a Texas tornado.
When it comes to neck humbuckers I’m a fan of fairly bright, cutting tones with no mud. A neck pickup needs to have a fairly clean sound, even when under a lot of distortion. I like for it to have a bit of attitude too. I have no time for ‘friendly’ sounding pickups. But they do need to clean up nicely and split well too.
The Pearly Gates model is a recreation of a specific set of PAFs in a particular sunburst ’59 Les Paul Standard. Vintage PAFs generally spec out to be low-output by today’s standards, and the Pearly Gates is very slightly overwound compared to the typical PAF. The result is a humbucker that sounds slightly ruder than the average PAF, with strong sustain, noticeable warmth and a bright high end which really helps harmonics to sing.