Seymour W. Duncan is a guitarist and guitar repairman, but is perhaps best known as the man behind Seymour Duncan Pickups, the world's leading manufacturer of guitar and bass pickups located in Santa Barbara, California. A good portion of Seymour's life has been devoted to studying, and helping to create some of the world's most identifiable guitar tones.
Born in New Jersey, Seymour grew up in the fifties and sixties, during a time when electric guitar music grew into greater acceptance. Seymour's teenage passion was focused upon guitars by a great uncle who introduced him to the music and legend of Charlie Christian, Chet Atkins and Les Paul.
Seymour quickly progressed from strumming in his bedroom to jamming in packed clubs where his talent was unquestionable (unlike the fake I.D. he used to get inside for his gigs). One night during a session, his Telecaster's lead pickup broke, and he was forced to play the rest of the night on the rhythm pickup. Necessity being the mother of invention, Seymour rewound that lead pickup on a record player spinning at 33 1/3 rpm.
While he developed his playing skills, Seymour's knowledge of how guitars work developed at an equally prodigious pace. Seymour took every chance he had to talk with players about guitars, tone and electronics. After spending time with musicians such as Les Paul and Roy Buchanan, Seymour realized that it was his guitar, and not his playing, that prevented him from producing those wonderful tones that defined great players. Suddenly, and forever, Seymour was hooked on the dynamics and character differences of pickups.
As Seymour tinkered devotedly with materials and techniques, his bag of tricks grew and grew. At Les Paul's suggestion, he bolted for England in the late '60s where his intention to play soon mixed with the opportunity to further his pickup research working in the Repair and R&D Departments at the Fender Soundhouse in London. It was here that he did repairs and rewinds for such artists as Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton, and Seymour's guitar hero, Jeff Beck. It was through his work with Beck in particular, that Seymour honed his pickup winding skills -- some of Seymour's first signature pickup tones appear on Jeff's early solo albums. Seymour's sabbatical in England resulted in a flock of new fans and friends.
Seymour came back to the United States, and eventually settled in California. He established contact with industry luminaries such as Leo Fender, Les Paul, and Seth Lover (inventor of the humbucker pickup) and continued learning about and making pickups. Demand for his custom pickups grew and, in late 1978, together with Cathy Carter Duncan, he started his own company, Seymour Duncan Pickups. Today Seymour and Cathy are surrounded by over 100 employees whose dedication results in the continual refinement of pickup tone and technology.
Seymour's latest venture is the Antiquity and Antiquity II Series of hand wound and aged pickups which produce the genuine sound and vibe of pickups made in the '50s and '60s. Seymour's dedication to music has always been focused on helping musicians achieve the tone that sets them apart. His regular appearance at clinics and conventions is part of this on-going commitment to helping players learn and capture the special tone that expresses their inspiration. Seymour has made pickups for most of today's most discerning and diverse players from Aerosmith to ZZ Top and all points in between.
Seymour Duncan - The Unofficial SD User Group group forum