Roughly, a year ago we set out on a quest here at TMR. A conversation was started in regards to which guitar in the office was the most versatile for testing amps and effects. Though we have an arsenal of axes to take gear through its paces, the discussion soon morphed into building a versatile guitar that could deliver a cornucopia of sounds and tone. Shortly after that “Stunt Guitar One” a black-on-black Fender Stratocaster was born.
The best sounding and most versatile pickup we could find for the bridge was the Seymour Duncan P-Rails (you can read the review here). After long debate we unanimously agreed the neck pick up would have to be a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates.
The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates is a recreation of ZZ Top axeman Billy Gibbons’ pickup from his favorite guitar, the Pearly Gates-a rare 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard. In 1959 guitar pickups were wound by hand. This inexact method generated guitars that were sometimes warmer, some hotter – no two Les Pauls sounded exactly the same.
The pickup in Billy Gibbons legendary Les Paul has a bit more bite than one would expect from a’59. The searing fat tone and days of sustain can be heard on every ZZ Top album he has recorded. We had to get some of that Texas funk for ourselves.
The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates is a straightforward install. Four conductor wiring gives you multiple wiring options for coil splitting or basic installation. Esthetically the pickup looks beautiful, open coils in high gloss black. The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates also comes in zebra or chrome and gold covers for those of you looking for a vintage vibe.
“Stunt Guitar One” was plugged into a Fender 13 watt Excelsior for the first test drive. The Excelsior breaks up nicely when pushed; we thought this was a good pairing. It was not good – it was great. The guitar had a ton of funk and pop to it. The pickup is hot with fantastic articulation and string definition. Turning the Excelsior volume knob up to about 12 o’clock gave us that great Texas blues sound that is so sought after.
As I banged out the opening riff of ZZ Top’s “Tush” a smile hit my face that you couldn’t have removed with a sandblaster. Turing on the tremolo on the Excelsior I started playing a bit of “Bo Didlley” by rock legend Bo Didlley. The riffs were sparkling, the glissando slides on the E string boomed! The definition and power in this pickup is amazing.
I took the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates through a catalog of some of its more famous players. Touching on a bit of Warren Hayes and Dickey Betts the tone was magical. Being a Boston bread guitar player I could not help myself from knocking out a bit of Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin” and “Walking the Dog”. With just the Pearly Gates and a cool amp I was right in the pocket of Joe Perry’s classic tone.
During the evening, I took the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates on a musical journey of country, surf, hard rock and blues – every time it delivered. The articulation and string definition of this pickup works great with my stompboxes, lush chorus, and evil flanges. With a touch of overdrive the Seymour Duncan turned into a sonic monster with incredible touch response and days of sustain.
This is without a doubt a best of breed pickup – kudos to Seymour Duncan for bringing this legendary tone to the masses. Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates has a street price of just around $95.00 for open coil and just over $110.00 for those of you looking for covers. To learn more about the Pearly Gates or any of Seymour Duncan’s products please visit SeymourDuncan.com