Bill Lawrence pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by SpinWheelz, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Having heard both sides of the story from the people directly involved, I've personally come to the conclusion that it's a classic case of a creative thinker and a business getting involved and splitting up.

    Here's a brief bio of Bill's I wrote awhile back for a friend who had similar questions:


    *Bill Lawrence
    was born in Germany, and his birth name was William Lorenz Stich. Inspired by Charlie Christian, Django, Oscar Moore (of the Nat King Cole Trio,) and Les Paul, he became a professional guitarist known as Billy Lorento. He was often called the "German Les Paul" not only because of their musical similarities, but because he was also a tinkerer and inventor. He was so well known he had a range of signature models in the 50's made by Framus, all very valuable today on the vintage jazz guitar market.

    *After his musical career had started to cool off, (like Les Paul's did in the early 60's,) he switched from Lorento to Lawrence, thinking it was a more American sounding name. Under his new name he started focusing on guitar electronics, and after hooking up with Jzchak Wajcman, started Lawrence Electro Sound in 1965.

    *The company was only moderately successful, and after being bought out, Bill left for the US in '68 to work with Dan Armstrong. He helped design the pickup system for the Armstrong/Ampeg Plexiglass guitar. And he taught Dan's son, Kent, and Larry Dimarzio how to wind pickups. During this time Bill wound pickups for many famous guitarists based in NYC, including Wes Montgomery and Grant Green.

    *In 1971 Bill did his first "tour of duty" ;) at Gibson. (They had recently lost Seth Lover, and Bill took over many of his design responsibilities.) He helped design the electronics and other features of the S-1, L-6S, and Marauder. He left around '75-6 because he felt that only a small amount of his work ended up in the final product, and he was unhappy with the Quality Control. (He's a notorious perfectionist.)

    *In 1972 he invented the first single-coiled sized humbucker. He didn't think it sounded right, and was ready for production yet, so the idea waited until he started Lawrence Sound Research in 1975.
    His pickup designs included the famous L-250 single-coil sized humbuckers, (copied by every major pickup company in some form,) the L-90, (which became Iexpensive and so was reissued recently,)
    and later the famous L-500 series.

    *Despite high-profile players like Aerosmith, SRV, Roy Buchanan, Bruce Springsteen and Nils Lofgren, and many others, Bill's company wasn't financially very successful, so in 1984 he sold to Jzchak Wajcman, (who hadn't been involved in the company to this point.) Bill took a job opportunity in Germany to start OBL and Wajcman now trademarked the name "Bill Lawrence", as well as received the right to reproduce Bill's designs, (though they were significantly altered to save money and speed production.)

    *In 1987 Bill returned to Gibson, and with Tom Holmes assisting, did a lot of electronic work, designing pickups and control circuits. While this time around was more successful, he still wanted to run his own small business, so after selling OBL to Gibson, he did just that in 1994.

    *Since 1994 Bill's been making limited numbers of his original pickup designs, all custom made to order, as well as developing some new ideas. Such as the L-280 series of "noise-free single-coils. In 1995 he was contracted by Fender to help them develop their own line of noiseless single coils that maintained the Fender tone, ultimately achieving that with the ScN pickups in 2004.

    *Bill had been marketing his pickups under his own name, but Wajcman owned "Bill Lawrence" as a trademark. After going to court, it was decided Bill would market his pickup under the Wilde brand name, but was allowed to specify that the pickups were designed and made by Bill Lawrence, the individual.

    Wajcman's company, now known as Bill Lawrence USA, has to use a disclaimer stating that they are not involved with Bill Lawrence, the man.

    Adding to the craziness and confusion is the fact that Wajcman's pickups, while looking similar to Bill's, are built to a much lower standard of consistency and tone. I've played some that sounded really good, and others that were so microphonic they were unusable.
    It was this confusion that led Dimebag Darrell to think that Bill Lawrence's pickups had declined in quality, leading to the Seymour Duncan Dimebucker, essentially, a reverse-engineered L-500XL, (which Bill Lawrence, the man, is very proud of. :))
    And while Washburn and Dean have at some point, worked with both companies, Nuno and Dimebag used pickups made by Bill Lawrence, the individual, in there guitars, (you can tell if you see a close up picture.)
     
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  2. SpinWheelz

    SpinWheelz Senior Member

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    Holy crap, that's an awesome write-up, gmacdonnell! Thank you so much for that, you never cease to amaze.

    There's a somewhat similar story to be told in the mountain biking world. There was a guy named Horst Leitner who designed a four-bar rear suspension for mountain bikes while working at a company called AMP Research. The design was called the "Horst Link" because of a unique placement of a pivot link in this design. Somewhere along the way, the patent was sold to Specialized. And now Horst Leitner has set up his own company - in Germany, I believe - and in order to use the design that he invented, he has to license it from Specialized. It's all pretty messed up.
     
  3. WBPickups

    WBPickups Guest

    Bill has had some history. I feel fortunate to own a couple of his early work. Here's a couple of the L-90's that I own from about 75'-76' (note the Lawrence, not the LSR name on the cream covers.) Great sounding pups! Dharma approved!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Whew, Will, those are sweet. They're worth a small fortune to many guys, esp. in that color. Hold onto those babies!:thumb:
     
  5. ReverendJWblues

    ReverendJWblues MLP Chaplain V.I.P. Member

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    One of the best pickups I ever had in a guitar back in the late 70s was a Bill Lawrence L900 in a graphite neck Moonstone Pulsar, that guitar just totally frickin rocked, too bad I sold it, but I made good money on the sale. :)
     
  6. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    I played a great Moonstone last year. It was like a 335, but solid carved woods and thinner. It had L-90's, and it sounded and played great. It was a good deal, but I still couldn't afford it. :rolleyes:

    Bill Lawrence's pickups are so neat because he really walks to the beat of a different drummer.
    They're totally different designs from most other makers. Obviously, they're not the best choice if you want PAF tone, but if you're looking for great flexibility, transparency and clarity, they're wonderful tools.

    They serve a different purpose than the more traditional designs, and we're lucky to have so many great options for every kind of tone these days.:dude:
     
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  7. pimphat

    pimphat Senior Member

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    This thread rocks! Really great info. Just spoke with Becky last week and i have a new L-500 zebra on it's way. Been using the L-500's for a couple years now and i can honestly say there is nothing they can't do! Luv 'em. :applause:
     
  8. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    They're fabulous pickups for many styles. Congrats on the neck pup. Becky is a sweetheart, isn't she? :thumb:

    At some point, you might want to try the L-90: it's a bit more open and sweet than the L-500, it's more "single coil" sounding. But it makes a wonderful neck pickup for any style.

    At the low prices they offer, and considering what high-quality units they are, it's hard to not want to stock up on them!
     
  9. st.bede

    st.bede V.I.P. Member

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    :laugh2::laugh2::laugh2::laugh2::laugh2:
     
  10. st.bede

    st.bede V.I.P. Member

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    yhea...she watched my flying V vid and made suggestion for me...I thought that was cool...and she was nice on the phone..we talked about fender (being that they moved to Coviana next to the fender plant, and all...)
     
  11. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Random Bill Lawrence factoid I was just reminded of: Ken Fischer of Trainwreck fame, was a huge Bill Lawrence fan. He used L-90's in his test guitars while working on amps, etc. He was a fan of the L-500 too, esp for lead sounds, but prefer the L-90 for chords and rhythm. He thought they were the most pure, versatile pickups available. And he knew a thing or two about tone. Wish he were still around, he was a great man, and dearly missed.
     
  12. pimphat

    pimphat Senior Member

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    WOO HOO! It's here! This beauty will be going into my Tokai today along with a zebra GFS Fat Pat in the neck and a push-pull coil cut for both pups...:naughty: I have used this combination before and i loved it.

    And yes gmacdonnell, Becky really is a sweetheart. This is the third l-500 i've ordered and it's been great dealing with them. :thumb:
    [​IMG]

    Going in this:
    [​IMG]
     
  13. pimphat

    pimphat Senior Member

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    Thats really interesting stuff. I allways think of Bill's pickups as clean and versatile. I mean they really don't seem like "distortion" pickups to me. But they are loud as hell. The l-500 does really well when coil tapped too.
     
  14. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Beautiful guitar man. I'm digging that finish. Should sound fantastic when you're done with her. :thumb:

    The thing about Bill's pickups is they're really associate with Nuno and especially Dimebag, so people assume they're super hot.

    But he made a ton of variations on each design, and most of them are clean, clear, and very versatile. Only the XL's are more limited in tone, but that's on purpose, to achieve that tone Dimebag loved so much.


    I haven't used a coil-tapped L500 myself, but I'm a big fan of BIll's LCR circuit. It sort of converts the sound of your pickup from a more heavy tone, to a cleaner sound, and can get great single-coil style sounds, and on some guitars, even acoustic-style sounds.

    It's the best $20 you can spend if you're after versatility. :dude:
     
  15. needlespauls

    needlespauls V.I.P. Member

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    Very sweet! Got me thinking! Post pics of the new look if you can, and a full tone report would be sweet!!!
     
  16. pimphat

    pimphat Senior Member

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    Will do. Looks like i'm not going to get to it today after all. Wife has me running around....bummer.:rolleyes:
     
  17. LOVEROCK

    LOVEROCK Senior Member

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    Pics! Need pics!
     
  18. SpinWheelz

    SpinWheelz Senior Member

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    And there's STILL more stuff to learn!! What's an LCR circuit, mate?
     
  19. Shai`tan

    Shai`tan Senior Member

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    I have the Gibson "The Originals" in my `89. BB Custom. Not alot of info on these.
     
  20. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Man, I'm sorry I didn't mention it earlier! Here's a picture:[​IMG]

    The Q-Filter replaces 1 of your tone controls, and it reduces the impedance, and output of the pickup.

    When used with a higher-output humbucker, turning it down a little makes it more "classic" sounding. Under the halfway mark, it's sort of a single-coil sound, in that the highs and enhanced and the mids recede, but it's not like a coil-tap. All the way down, it's almost and "acoustic" sound: in fact, I use it live for "acoustic" guitar parts if I'm playing electric on that song.

    It's a very versatile tool for $20 and it's as easy as replacing a tone cap.

    I've installed over a dozen of them, both when I did that for work, and since, for friends and bandmates. Every one of them has loved it.

    On a Gibson, you can wire it to 1 tone, and use the other as a Master tone. Making it a "no-load" pot will give you even a bit more versatility, by allowing you to bypass the tone citcuit. I wouldn't recommend for everyone, but some people like that sound, and it's nice to make it optional.
     

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