Seymour’s 59 Model Set (more recently known as the Vintage Blues Set) is one of his earlier humbuckers. Right up there after the JB and the Jazz, yet prior to the Pearly Gates and the Custom.
If you’ve known me any length of time, you’d know that I’ve not really been all about the 59 Model in the neck. Sure, I’ve tried it with a polished Alnico 4 magnet and I’ve tried it in different hybrid variations with different coils from the Jazz. It just really didn’t work out well for me. But… more on that later.
While talking with Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, Dio, Last In Line, Riverdogs, Whitesnake) earlier this year, a lot of the conversation was about gear. Yeah, no duh! LOL! I was blown away with the tone Vivian was getting on this year’s Last In Line album, ‘Heavy Crown’. Vivian confirmed he recorded that album with his first Les Paul, the same he used when he first joined Dio. From there he goes into an ENGL amp and cabs, with a wah pedal as needed.
What? No boost or overdrive or distortion pedal? I pressed again on the pedal issue when I saw him recently on the Def Leppard tour. Nope. No such pedals. Wow! Vivian says he gets what he needs out of the ENGL head. He’s the cat that’s sold millions of albums, so who am I to question, right? Haha!
Vivian said he has had all sorts of pickups in this Les Paul over the years. When he recorded his first album with Dio, Vivian clearly remembers using a DiMarzio X2N. After listening to ‘Heavy Crown’, I was floored when he told me he has a set of Seymour’s 59 Model humbucker in his Les Paul.
See, I’d always imagined the 59 Model set was just another take on a vintage-correct 1959-ish PAF-type humbucker. Not so. Introduced in 1978, Seymour accounted for the amps and lighter gauge strings that were en vogue at the time. He still gave the 59 Model a bit of a vintage look, with the longer legs and single-conductor lead wire. If you don’t dig that, it does appear that they are offered with 4-con lead wire. If you have to, Mojotone has short leg plates that can do the trick.
So I called MJ, at the Custom Shop. Sure enough, she confirmed making a 59 Model set for Vivian. I sourced a MJ-made 59 Model set and installed them in a trusty double-hum guitar for evaluation.
Totally prepared to have the same experience with the 59 Model neck humbucker, imagine my surprise when I heard a totally different vibe. Going around and around for a while to figure it out, it finally hit me that I’d been matching up the 59 model neck with more decidedly modern styles of bridge pickups. Listening to the neck pickup again paired with a similar style in the bridge presented the character of both pickups in a much more complementary environment.
And off I went, running through one genre of music after another. Much like the Seth Lover set, I found the 59 Model set totally capable of handling the hardest rock that gets up into metal. On a clean amp setting, it seemed that the 59 Model set is a bit too full in series mode for my tastes, so I made use of some 4-conductor wiring and discovered the split and parallel modes to be much more airy and chimey for that purpose.
Series – 8.419k, 4.739H, 5.344nF
42 AWG Plain Enamel
Resonant Peak – 6kHz (advertised)
Series – 7.234k, 3.859H, 6.564nF
Resonant Peak – 6.8kHz (advertised)
There’s really not much to top the display of the 59 Model from Vivian, but here’s an official video from Seymour’s house that showcases the neck pickup:
Darth Phineas is a long time music industry insider who provides his readers with unbiased reviews on musical instrument and guitar gear. You can read more of his reviews and check out industry news on his Facebook community Darth Phineas, Twitter or his website is darthphineas.com