Seymour W. Duncan and Cathy Carter Duncan, founders and owners of Seymour Duncan Pickups and Pedals, today announced the appointment of Phil Ressler as CEO and President. A long-time guitar player and collector, Ressler is a seasoned executive leader who shares Seymour and Cathy’s ideas for the company’s evolution. He also brings a strong personal vision for Seymour Duncan’s future, rooted in his extensive experience developing companies.
“I’m honored to be working with Seymour and Cathy,” says Ressler. “Seymour is truly a genius of expressive guitar tone, and from the very beginning Cathy’s diligence and commitment to customers developed the company into a sustained success supporting the efforts of guitar and bass players, from the biggest names in music to those just starting out. I have great respect for both the quality of the products and the conscientious way in which the company approaches the fretted instruments community.”
After 20 years as a senior marketing and operating executive in the software and internet industries, and several years in advertising and consumer audio before that, Ressler joined venture capital firm Clearstone Venture Partners as Vice President and Executive-in-Residence, where he worked for much of the past decade. In that capacity, as well as in several advisory roles, Ressler has helped numerous companies develop business strategies, expand markets, solidify operations, and strengthen finances. His operating experience spans raw start-ups prior to products and revenue, private fast-growth companies, and public firms up to $1B in revenue.
“For most of my career, I’ve aggressively developed markets for products that were ultimately intangible and of temporary value,” notes Ressler. “Everything in code eventually disappears or becomes obsolete. Now I have the chance to work with products that are not only substantive, but enduring. A Seymour Duncan pickup made today will not only still be in a guitar in 50 or 75 years, but it will likely sound even better. I also prefer the explosive growth possible in emotion-driven markets. Guitar is growing globally, and Seymour Duncan offers the right vehicle for building a growth business that combines emotionally-driven demand, technical R&D, precision manufacturing, widespread distribution, and global relevance in music.”
A Long-Term Plan
Seymour W. Duncan and Cathy Carter Duncan have long held the idea that they were building an enduring company, and appointing Ressler represents a significant milestone in realizing their vision. “Phil understands what we’ve always been trying to do,” says Seymour. “He really gets it. I feel good knowing that he’s able to take what we’ve created and build on it from here.”
“We founded Seymour Duncan on the idea of giving every passionate musician, no matter their level, the tone tools and support they want,” says Cathy Carter Duncan. “We always envisioned a company that would be around long after us. We gave Seymour Duncan a great foundation, but Phil is the builder for the next phase. He has the energy, enthusiasm, and love of music required to carry our vision forward.”
The Beginning of a Vision
By the time Cathy Carter and Seymour Duncan were introduced in a Topanga Canyon ice cream shop by Canned Heat guitarist Jamie Shane in 1975, Seymour was an established guitar modifier, technician, and pickup rewinder for top guitarists. He rewound pickups for Jimi Hendrix in 1968, and created the “TeleGib” guitar that produced the now-classic sounds on Jeff Beck’s 1975 album Blow By Blow. When they started the company in 1976, it was Seymour designing the products while Cathy built the business, carefully overseeing marketing, operations, and finance, and firmly establishing strong core principles around which the company would operate.
“Seymour saw his job as supporting musicians, and my job was to support Seymour,” says Cathy. “Our first business-planning session was over a spaghetti dinner in 1979, when we had just two full-time employees we and a couple of high school students. Even then we were thinking five years ahead.”
“Our serendipitous meeting has continued to produce so much for our employees and for the larger community of musicians. When you build a company like this, it takes on a life force of its own, both through the people involved and the values you cultivate. Knowing that Phil is committed to our core values of customer service–respect for everyone and quality in everything we do–was very important to us.”
A Change of Leadership
With the days of living in the company warehouse long behind them, Seymour and Cathy are looking ahead to the Seymour Duncan’s future. “There comes a time when it’s natural and healthy to step back and give responsibility to someone who can take it further,” says Cathy, who led the executive search process. “I felt it was important that the person we selected was a guitarist, but it was less important that we choose someone from the musical instrument industry. What we needed, and what we found, was a strong leader who can help build the company for the long term.”
Ressler was intrigued from the moment the recruiter asked whether he’d heard of Seymour Duncan. “Of course I had. I was reading Guitar Player magazine from around its third issue, back when I got my first guitar as a teenager. I followed Seymour Duncan from the beginning. The company is jammed with highly knowledgeable professionals, from Seymour and Maricela Juarez in the Custom Shop, to our engineering and customer service teams, to the dozens of experienced pickup winders who have developed years of expertise in our Santa Barbara production facility. I’ve already planned initiatives that will allow us to provide even better products and customer service for musicians and guitar builders everywhere.”
About Seymour Duncan Pickups & Pedals
Seymour Duncan is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of musical instrument pickups, offering musicians a wide range of pickups and a full line of effects pedals, along with renowned customer service. The company also operates the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop, a boutique workshop that has created custom guitar pickups for scores of top guitarists, including Slash, Mark Knopfler, Billy Gibbons, Los Lobos, and Steve Miller.