Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

RIP Bill Lawrence, the unsung hero of rock guitar

RIP Bill Lawrence, the unsung hero of rock guitar

Nov 5, 2013


Bill Lawrence, 24/3/1931 – 2/11/2013



With great sadness in our hearts, the man we know as Bill Lawrence in the music industry passed away on November 2, 2013 at approximately 9:20AM.

Bill was a strong and courageous man. Even in his last few days, Bill fought to live. He’d talk about Music, Pickups & Guitars — and Life, and we, at his company, were still working because this is what Bill Lawrence wanted to know — that his company & legacy is carrying on as usual.

We will miss the Bill Lawrence Mighty Force. Bill brought so much, and he wanted to stay here on earth to keep giving. One thing, yesterday as preparing the necessary paperwork, required is Designation of Race. In Honor of Bill Lawrence and his wishes, we included Human.

A Memorial Service is being planned later this week in Southern California. More details to follow.

Love, Becky

This was the sad message that I found attached to the front page of the Bill Lawrence website, notifying the world that the great man had passed.

Some of you might not even know who BL was. Or maybe you’ve vaguely heard of the pickups that he designed which were adopted by Dimebag Darrell and Nuno Bettencourt, along with some sordid tale of a business partner gone rogue and making “copies” under a similar brand name.

That’s not all Bill contributed to rock guitar as we know it, though. Way back when, Bill collaborated a lot with a guy called Dan Armstrong (yep, the perspex guitars), eventually taking over his shop and delving deep into the art/science of pickup winding. Among his apprentices were Dan’s son Kent Armstrong (yes, the guy who has the pickup brand today, surprisingly enough) and another local kid called…. Larry Dimarzio.

Fast forward a bit to find Bill lending his talents to Gibson Guitars, designing pickups for everything from acoustics to the dual blade L-90, and the early inklings of the legendary L500 series which would form the fundamental tonal building block of Dimebag Darrell’s sound – so, indirectly, Bill Lawrence also gave you Pantera, heh.

Bill was evidently an extremely humble man, not in it for fame or fortune. Here’s a quote from his website:

“The L-500 recently became the very first aftermarket pickup design to be reverse-engineered by a major aftermarket maker.”

….which is just a nice way of saying that Seymour Duncan copied the shit out of the L500XL when they made the Dimebucker.

What do you do when you’ve been Larry Dimarzio’s mentor, and designed pickups for Gibson? Well, you might as well move on to Fender – and that’s just what Bill did.

Ever heard of the Fender SCN (Samarium Cobalt Nickel) noiseless pickups that were the mainstay in the AmDlx series? Yep, Bill designed those too, though you’d never seem to hear any talk or acclaim for his part in the matter.

Here’s to Bill Lawrence – I hope Dimebag is pouring you a Blacktooth Grin right now. Our thoughts are with Becky and the family.

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