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One CC pickup thread to rule them all!

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
Well not really.

I just wanted to include the obvious links that come to people's mind so we don’t have to travel over the same ground as past threads.

Charlie Christian used a few ES-150s and an ES-250 along with EH-180 amps before passing at the very young age of 25:


Okay what was the original Charlie Christian pickup?

The original pickup used weak cobalt steel magnets which were incorporated into the mounting harness and the first incarnation of the pickup used a very thick 38 gauge wire.
It looked something like this:


Jonathon Stout uses period correct guitars 1937 ES-150 and 1939 EH-185 amp to recreate this era's sounds:
There is one company that is said to reproduce them very close to the original specs

http://www.ccpickups.co.uk/about.html

Many other companies make some approximation of the pickup substituting other magnets like Alnico 3, 5 or ceramic magnets.

Lollar makes some of the most popular Charlie Christian-style pickup recreations using Alnico 5 bar magnets and 38 gauge wire. Especially popular are the ones made to fit into Telecaster neck positions (a little wider and deeper routing necessary) due to the popularity of players like Danny Gatton using an original CC pickup in the neck of his teles (with very substantial routing necessary.) and later apparently making his own.


http://www.lollarguitars.com/lollar-charlie-christian-pickups/charlie-christian-for-tele

Daniel Slaman who, at least in part, makes a living outfitting guitars to recreate the Charlie Christian vibe seems to think there is little difference between the two efforts:


Tim Lerch’s enthusiasm for them seemed to appeal to many people wanting to play jazz and blues on telecasters:


Other companies produce the CC pickup as well:

Vintage Vibe guitars (Peter Biltoft’s) CC Rider pickups are very popular but some say that they are really just p-90s in a tuxedo because of their use of 42 gauge wire. – They come with exchangeable alnico or ceramic magnets. Still, people really seem to love em!

Seymour Duncan (Special Order supposed to be custom made by Mr. Duncan himself)
T.K. Smith (Highly touted guitars as well)
John Anthony Guitars (Steel guitar application)
Kent Armstrong
Rio Grande
McNelly’s (Humbucker sized)
Here is an interesting video contrasting different archtops utilizing different pickups including some original and later era Gibson CC pickups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfxMV6JrdF0

I then came across this article:

https://gypsyjazzuk.wordpress.com/g...timer-pickup/charlie-christian/charlies-gear/

It states:

“ There were 3 different varieties of Charlie Christian pickup produced by Gibson, and all 3 are distinguished by the polepiece:

Retro Source

  1. The 1st of these was produced from 1936 until mid-1938 and had a plain blade polepiece. The coil was wound to about 2.4 kΩ resistance using AWG 38 enamelled wire.
  2. The 2nd type was introduced on ES-150s built from mid-1938 onward, and featured a polepiece that had a notch cut out below the 2nd (B) string. This modification was made to lower the volume of the B string, which sounded significantly louder than the other strings. At this time the coil was wound with a finer wire (AWG 42) resulting in more turns and an approximately 5.2 kΩ resistance, which gave the pickup a higher output.
  3. The 3rd pickup was available on the Gibson ES-250, which was available beginning in 1939. The blade on this pickup had 5 notches, each located between the strings. This pickup also had a more compact internal design. It featured a cobalt steel slug that was small enough to sit directly under the pickup.
The sound this pickup produced is clear – thanks to the narrow string-sensing blade – and powerful because of the relatively high resistance of the coil. Uneven magnetic flux within the steel magnets could cause some distortion in the signal. Electromagnetic hum was also a big problem with these pickups because of their large surface area and utter lack of shielding.”

According to this article, the 38 gauge wire was only used until mid-1938 when they switched over to 42 gauge wire. This would indicate that Biltoft’s and Lollar’s are equally correct takes on Charlie Christian era CC pickups in terms of wire (and equally different from the original design in terms of deciding to look for alternates to cumbersome cobalt magnets).

I have a Lollar in my tele neck and am waiting for a JAG bridge pickup to arrive. (Customs)

Lollar's bridge pickup didn't seem much like a mate specifically made for CC pickup in anything but output. It is 40 gauge wire with ceramic magnets. After listening to sound clips I decided to go with something else. ...which doesn't mean it isn't awesome!

So what is crucial for a CC pickup in your mind?
 
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Ferret

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,873
I have a Lollar in one Tele and an older T.K.Smith in another. They are both fine pickups. I prefer the Smith which has a bit more rawness about it, but I honestly can't say that this makes it more or less true to any of the originals. Smith now makes one that is even rawer still which I shall try sometime soon. I also have a hum bucker size Lollar CC pup which I bought for an old arch top but the guitar isn't very playable so I'll have to try it in a better arch top some time.

Just as a matter of interest, there are a few Christian live recordings where his playing is a bit more high gain than usual. It wouldn't surprise me if he often played live like that but who knows for sure.

That's a great summary of what is known about the different brands. Well done and thanks.
 
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mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
So I am wondering if your T.K. Smith is different in composition than the Lollars? I have read that Smith sometimes uses A9 magnets and 40 gauge wire. The Lollar uses A5 and thicker 38 gauge wire.

Now, p-90s often use 43 gauge wire and first used Alnico 3 and then used Alnico 5 magnets.
http://www.theguitarmagazine.com/features/all-about-p-90s/

It seems the thinner higher gauged wire allows for more turns and a 'hotter' signal.

Peter Biltoft uses these kinds of materials for his CC Rider pickups, I believe. The different shape of the pickup itself will still make for a somewhat different sound than a p-90 because it covers a wider 'footprint' on the guitar and so 'senses' a wider portion of the guitar string. A humbucker sized cc pickup is also bound to sound a bit different as well for the same reason.

But it seems from 1938 onward 43 gauge wire was used in the original cc pickups as well.

I find the Lollar CC pickup attractive in that you can play clean single note lines for a melody in a jazz-type setting and it has 'some legs', fat enough to approach doing what a horn would do with that kind of line without sounding too wimpy or anemic.

Previously, being a predominantly a strat player brought up in the 80s, I accomplished this by boosting the mids and using compression ... or just using distortion in a more fusiony kind of mode. But it is nice to have a pickup that brings you part of the way there before tinkering with that kind of stuff. I always loved a big fat clean sound and sometimes the added gain was a compromise.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
Ferret, you mentioned preferring the Smith pickup for its "rawness". Are you referring to it breaking up better with gain?

Are you using it in mostly blues/rock type of settings?

I find the CC pickup likes 'hot' clean settings on an amp and resists breaking up and needs a particular EQ to not lose focus (get mushy sounding) with gain. I have a kemper with lots of profiles and it seems to play well with Dumble inspired overdriven amp profiles which have a certain midrange and a bit of a 'toothy' gain sound.
 

Drak

Member
Messages
5,060
Nice wrap up.
I have a Biltoft VV, but it's not in anything at the moment.
 

zztomato

Member
Messages
11,407
I really like the Lollar CC. I've used them in many tele builds.
Regarding pairing with a bridge pickup; the last tele I made with a CC neck, I used a Fralin blade vintage hot (I think) in the bridge which was a fantastic combo. I liked the middle position a lot- one of the best ever. Cool thing is that it was a little quieter in the middle due to the Fralin which is noiseless. The CC is quite a loud pickup so best to pair it with a big bridge pickup. Probably great with a Mare 0038 or similar.

CC pickups don't do that well with OD. They are one of the finest for a nice big clear clean tone or with just a hint of amp breakup.

Anyway, thanks for the great OP. I'm now reminded that I need to build another tele as I have a CC but nothing to put it in.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
I really like the Lollar CC. I've used them in many tele builds.
Regarding pairing with a bridge pickup; the last tele I made with a CC neck, I used a Fralin blade vintage hot (I think) in the bridge which was a fantastic combo. I liked the middle position a lot- one of the best ever. Cool thing is that it was a little quieter in the middle due to the Fralin which is noiseless. The CC is quite a loud pickup so best to pair it with a big bridge pickup. Probably great with a Mare 0038 or similar.
.
Thanks zztomato for the insights into the Fralin Vintage Hot. I know the regular non-humcancelling version of that pickup is the one that got Fralin noticed in the early days of that company.

I ordered this JAG Baytone bridge pickup:


The telebridge second from the left in the line up.
https://www.johnanthonyguitars.com/store/p599/Baytone_TELECASTER_BRIDGE_guitar_pickup,_CC_style_J035.html
It uses 42 gauge wire and an Alnico 5 bar magnet which John says has a sweeter top end than the ceramic magnet version.

Unfortunately the Canadian postal system has tied it up for a good while yet.

The downside of putting something like this in the bridge is that it will take away some of the innate tele-ness of the guitar than putting a lower output but slightly hot tele pickup in. I notice that Tim Lerch's number one tele is not the tele with the Lollar BS pickup in the bridge but his tele with the CC combined with the Lollar '52 tele pickup. He does mention that he makes up for the volume difference by using a boost,

But the JAG pickup sure looks the part and at only 70 pounds (Can $121/US $93) is both cheaper and closer to what I was looking for.
 
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jazzguitarfan

Member
Messages
503
How's the noise level in the Lollar? I have a Mighty Mite CC (I think) in my Forshage tele and it sounds good, but it is a bit more noisy than a standard single coil and I wouldn't mind trying a replacement.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
I think it is louder than the average strat pickup but not as loud as some p-90s I have heard.

I can usually turn at an angle to my amp that makes it not a major issue for me but the 60 cycle hum is part and parcel of all those true single coils. My guitar is copper foil shielded.

An EMG, it ain't. ; )
 

Ferret

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,873
So I am wondering if your T.K. Smith is different in composition than the Lollars? I have read that Smith sometimes uses A9 magnets and 40 gauge wire. The Lollar uses A5 and thicker 38 gauge wire.

Now, p-90s often use 43 gauge wire and first used Alnico 3 and then used Alnico 5 magnets.
http://www.theguitarmagazine.com/features/all-about-p-90s/

It seems the thinner higher gauged wire allows for more turns and a 'hotter' signal.

Peter Biltoft uses these kinds of materials for his CC Rider pickups, I believe. The different shape of the pickup itself will still make for a somewhat different sound than a p-90 because it covers a wider 'footprint' on the guitar and so 'senses' a wider portion of the guitar string. A humbucker sized cc pickup is also bound to sound a bit different as well for the same reason.

But it seems from 1938 onward 43 gauge wire was used in the original cc pickups as well.

I find the Lollar CC pickup attractive in that you can play clean single note lines for a melody in a jazz-type setting and it has 'some legs', fat enough to approach doing what a horn would do with that kind of line without sounding too wimpy or anemic.

Previously, being a predominantly a strat player brought up in the 80s, I accomplished this by boosting the mids and using compression ... or just using distortion in a more fusiony kind of mode. But it is nice to have a pickup that brings you part of the way there before tinkering with that kind of stuff. I always loved a big fat clean sound and sometimes the added gain was a compromise.
Well I'm not sure about the composition of the T.K. Smith but I can say a bit more about how I hear historical CC pups. I certainly hear Tiny Grimes and Junior Barnard rather than Christian or Oscar Moore when the Smith is pushed a bit but I often play live through a Vintage 47 40s Valco copy amp and it's dirtier than the Christian Gibson amps. (I'll get one of the Gibson amp copies sometime.) They don't sound like P90s to me at all and I have old as well as copy early P90s in some guitars. What do sound like a darkish P90s are the P13s which Gibson replaced the CC with around 42. Because of the war restrictions, Gibson didn't didn't make many P13 guitars and, after the war, sold the pups off to Harmony. The Harmony guitars that house them are very popular with swing blues players right up to now. I have an early P13 in a mid 50s ES125 but it seems short of juice and probably needs a rewind. They are very hard pups to take apart. I have a P13 copy in P90 housing built by Dave Stephens which is a killer pup. It's in a Hamer guitar at the moment which has a shredder knock which isn't for me but it sounds great. I'd like to get my original rewound and the Stephens more suitably housed. I'll see if I can find out more about the wiring on all of these because there is a clear family resemblance between all three pups played both clean and hot. Also in the family sound wise are Franz pups in arch top Guilds from the 50s which are like slightly cleaner P90s and which sound great in those old boxes.
 

Ferret

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,873
Ferret, you mentioned preferring the Smith pickup for its "rawness". Are you referring to it breaking up better with gain?

Are you using it in mostly blues/rock type of settings?

I find the CC pickup likes 'hot' clean settings on an amp and resists breaking up and needs a particular EQ to not lose focus (get mushy sounding) with gain. I have a kemper with lots of profiles and it seems to play well with Dumble inspired overdriven amp profiles which have a certain midrange and a bit of a 'toothy' gain sound.
With rawness of T.K. Smith I mean that they get slight breakup at settings where the Lollar wouldn't and a bit more hair even when clean. I play in a roots band and my blues playing is very much 40s and early 50s inspired. I don't play blues rock and only rarely play 50s rock and probably would just use a 50s style Tele when I do. My playing is very much swing and bop inspired. On the rare occasions on which I need more modern sounding gain, I use a boost pedal or fuzz. I've never played a Dumble style amp. My gigging amps are Vintage 47 Valco style, and tweed, brown and blackface clones—Clark, Allen, Headstrong, Swart and Fenders old and new. If you think of the range of sounds you get with Christian, Moore, Barnard, Jennings, Grimes, Walker, even Willie Johnson and early Chicago blues guitarists then that's what I'm aiming for but I wouldn't use CCs for the Johnson or Chicago sounds but rather Fender guitars or very dirty P90s.
 

Ferret

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,873
I find the Lollar CC pickup attractive in that you can play clean single note lines for a melody in a jazz-type setting and it has 'some legs', fat enough to approach doing what a horn would do with that kind of line without sounding too wimpy or anemic.

Previously, being a predominantly a strat player brought up in the 80s, I accomplished this by boosting the mids and using compression ... or just using distortion in a more fusiony kind of mode. But it is nice to have a pickup that brings you part of the way there before tinkering with that kind of stuff. I always loved a big fat clean sound and sometimes the added gain was a compromise.
I have pedals that would give me fusiony sounds like compression, sophisticated EQ and Tone Bender type gain but rarely use them and don't play fusion although I like fusion. It never occurred to me that fusion players would be drawn to CC pickups but I'd be very interested to hear the results. Although my playing is mainly very old school, my listening tastes run the gamut and I like jazz tones that aren't aiming for the old school tone like Frizell and Holdsworth and, from the 60s, Hahn and Szabo.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
Well I'm not sure about the composition of the T.K. Smith but I can say a bit more about how I hear historical CC pups. I certainly hear Tiny Grimes and Junior Barnard rather than Christian or Oscar Moore when the Smith is pushed a bit but I often play live through a Vintage 47 40s Valco copy amp and it's dirtier than the Christian Gibson amps. (I'll get one of the Gibson amp copies sometime.) They don't sound like P90s to me at all and I have old as well as copy early P90s in some guitars. What do sound like a darkish P90s are the P13s which Gibson replaced the CC with around 42. Because of the war restrictions, Gibson didn't didn't make many P13 guitars and, after the war, sold the pups off to Harmony. The Harmony guitars that house them are very popular with swing blues players right up to now. I have an early P13 in a mid 50s ES125 but it seems short of juice and probably needs a rewind. They are very hard pups to take apart. I have a P13 copy in P90 housing built by Dave Stephens which is a killer pup. It's in a Hamer guitar at the moment which has a shredder knock which isn't for me but it sounds great. I'd like to get my original rewound and the Stephens more suitably housed. I'll see if I can find out more about the wiring on all of these because there is a clear family resemblance between all three pups played both clean and hot. Also in the family sound wise are Franz pups in arch top Guilds from the 50s which are like slightly cleaner P90s and which sound great in those old boxes.
Really cool stuff on the P13s. To be honest, I have only read about them. Cool to hear from someone who has real world experience with them and can bump them up against CC and P90 pickups in their collection. Thanks for that.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
I have pedals that would give me fusiony sounds like compression, sophisticated EQ and Tone Bender type gain but rarely use them and don't play fusion although I like fusion. It never occurred to me that fusion players would be drawn to CC pickups but I'd be very interested to hear the results. Although my playing is mainly very old school, my listening tastes run the gamut and I like jazz tones that aren't aiming for the old school tone like Frizell and Holdsworth and, from the 60s, Hahn and Szabo.
I was always really attracted to Larry Carlton's sounds on the Sleepwalk and Friends albums. Most of his tones in that era were from Dumbles and Tweed Deluxes with plenty of compression on amps running around the breakup point.

What got me looking at CC pickups was actually trying to play along with early 60s Kenny Burrell and Grant Green albums. Although Rudy Van Gelder's tweed Deluxe (5E3 I suppose) was probably the most important equipment component, I couldn't really get there with humbuckers or with fender singlecoils.

I tried putting some Lindy Fralins P-90 in Humbucker casings (non-humcancelling) into a solid body guitar and really didn't get even a bit of that vibe either. I am not sure if it was the guitar but those p-90s were a bit underwound and didn't seem to produce a very complex tone. A real strong fundament with not so many overtones. I think Fralin makes great pickups generally, though.

I saw Tim Lerch playing with the CC pickups and the descriptions seemed to be what I was looking for and I have been really happy with the Lollar I put into a maple-necked, pine body telecaster that I bought just to put the pickup into.

I am still not willing to go the hollowbody route as of yet as I just find them such a foreign land but the CC pickup is a real nice step in an interesting direction for me. Really nice thickness and sustain on the unwound strings.
 

Ferret

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,873
P90s in humbucker casing are rarely the real deal. Mojotone and Wolfetone are trying to produce the real deal but I haven't played either yet. I think the Mojotone might still be in the development stage. I'm no fan of humcancelling single coils; the ones I've played have been underwhelming although I don't rule out the idea completely. The early 60s Burrell and Green tones are wonderful. CC, P13, P90 and Frantz are all good choices as are some old (40s, 50s and early 60s) DeArmond pups.
 

bluesman59

Member
Messages
1
i have just bought and received a lollar cc pickup that is a custom design for a p-90 hollowbody guitar. i have yet to finish installing it in my '55 l-5. i built the harness and it seems to be louder than the 8.2k '53 p-90 i have for the bridge position. one thing. when you touch the blade, it buzzes fiercely. neither the blade or the magnets are grounded as was in a p90... were the original cc pickups like this? it seems it would have been easy to have the magnets touch the blade (both the blade and the magnets are epoxied in) and then have a ground tab touching the magnets to eliminate the strong buzz. 'would be an improvement that would not sacrifice tone in any way. the magnets would shield the pickup from behind, as well. makes sense? anyway my question is: do the blades on old cc pickups buzz when touched by your hand? thanks......
 
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mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
i have just bought and received a lollar cc pickup that is a custom design for a p-90 hollowbody guitar. i have yet to finish installing it in my '55 l-5. i built the harness and it seems to be louder than the 8.2k '53 p-90 i have for the bridge position. one thing. when you touch the blade, it buzzes fiercely. neither the blade or the magnets are grounded as was in a p90... were the original cc pickups like this? it seems it would have been easy to have the magnets touch the blade (both the blade and the magnets are epoxied in) and then have a ground tab touching the magnets to eliminate the strong buzz. 'would be an improvement that would not sacrifice tone in any way. the magnets would shield the pickup from behind, as well. makes sense? anyway my question is: do the blades on old cc pickups buzz when touched by your hand? thanks......
The K readings are not intuitive with the 38 gauge wound guitars in comparing them to the k readings of guitars using different materials. They are probably a bit louder than you expect.

They aren't usually wax potted and so can be a bit microphonic but it is not like I can speak into mine like an old Japanese singlecoil pickup I had. Lots of classic pickups are not wax potted, for example Seth Lover PAF style humbuckers. They don't exhibit the behaviour you describe.

My CC for tele pickup does not "buzz fiercely" when I touch the blade at all. I have foil shielded cavity but that wouldn't change that aspect.

I think there is something amiss with your pickup.
 

mateo2006

Member
Messages
24
My gigging amps are Vintage 47 Valco style, and tweed, brown and blackface clones—Clark, Allen, Headstrong, Swart and Fenders old and new. If you think of the range of sounds you get with Christian, Moore, Barnard, Jennings, Grimes, Walker, even Willie Johnson and early Chicago blues guitarists then that's what I'm aiming for but I wouldn't use CCs for the Johnson or Chicago sounds but rather Fender guitars or very dirty P90s.
Wow. You have some of the most respected repro amps out there. Have you not found what you are chasing with these amp builders or are you buying amps with different output to find that 'sweet zone' at different volumes for different gigs?

Personally, I always thought the Browns/Blondes to have the greatest fat clean sounds - or perhaps the bigger tweeds at lower volumes. The Brownface Vibroverbs with two 10inch speakers seems pretty special. I have thought of getting a clone of one of those.

I seems you need a fair bit of commitment to gig an original old octal amp, delicate due to their age, under powered and heavy compared to latter day alternatives. A lot of enthusiasts are liking "Vintage 47"s versions of these classic amps.

Here is a bit about the original gibson: https://www.vintageguitar.com/21529/39-gibson-eh-185/

Jonathan Stout compares his with the Vintage 47 and not surprisingly the original with field coil speaker sounds like it has some added warmth:
But Vintage 47 seems more giggable.
 




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