Why didn’t Bigsby pickups catch on?


Even some of the masters who played originals seem to have moved on from them fairly quickly. Did any of them play them for their whole careers? They sound so wonderful on the recordings, and not without some versatility. Was the production cost on the aluminum casings too high?


considering the size of P.A. Bigsby's operation (essentially a one man shop) and the price of those pickups, they were a big succes I think. The list of high profile players using them at the time was pretty impressive.

It wasn't until Dimarzio came along (mid/late 70's?) that swapping pickups in a guitar became a pretty common thing, up until then you pretty much used a guitar as it came from the factory. Bigsby was the one exception : you see his pickups on Gibsons, epiphones, Gretsches and even the odd D'Angelico of the period.


So why didn't any larger company try mass producing them, or something based closely on them?


Couple of reasons I can think of :

-There was no market for replacement pickups at the time, or hardly. Carvin and DeArmond were probably the only pickups you could buy, and most of the people buying them were small builders or people electrifying acoustics, not people tinkering with guitars that already had pickups.

-Magnatone had Bigsby design some guitars, probably the pickups as well, so something along the lines of what you suggested did happen.

-The larger guitar companies built their own pickups in-house and had people who designed them on their payroll, so probably weren't interested in paying someone outside the company a license for a design. In fact quite a few guitar companies including Epiphone had been paying the Miessner company a licensing fee for pickups, not for any specific design, but apparently because the Miessner company had a pretty good patent on a magnetic piano pickup, and some good lawyers enforcing it. When that ended, I can imagine guitar companies not being too keen on paying yet another inventor a license for every pickup sold.


DeArmond and Carvin were probably a lot more inexpensive as well. Easier to find for most folks, too.


The question isn't so much "why didn't anyone?", but "why would anyone?". I LOVE Bigsby pickups, but by the time PA was done making them himself, most guitar players were looking for something else. In the general scheme of things, the Spanish guitars that PA built weren't used long. Merle Travis only used his for a couple of years....same with Grady Martin, Billy Byrd, and most other notable users. Today, the sounds of the late 40s are "cool"....in 1957, the sounds of the late 40s were old fashioned.


Noisy single coils. For a while in the 60's everything was about hum canceling.


Just thinly distributed, not much awareness, such as the scene was then. It is correct, this whole replacement pickups scene didn't even get started until mid 70s. You just used what came on the guitar, and if you needed a replacement you got it from the factory. It was just a way less tweaky scene back then.


Then there's the fact they don't exactly drop in to any massmarketed guitars of the time. Putting those things in is a commitment.


I had a set of the Bigsby pickups that came from a 50's Magnatone Mark V. They sounded sterile, had no real output to them and were very bright. I think part of the problem with them is that there is metal surrounding them on the sides which reduces the amount of Eddy currents and the amount of string vibrations it can see.. I made that mistake once with the P-90's in my 59 Les Paul Special. I wrapped copper tape around the bobbins to see if I could reduce the amount of hum/noise I was getting. It took all of the balls out of the pickups and made them sound too polite..

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