Thanks for all the good information. So I was correct that you were hedging your bets on custom pickups by Bill Lawrence - that was just my guess. I wasn’t really questioning your reasoning, only coaxing it out of you! I forgot that Garcia mentioned that his newly refurbished Wolf pickups had been wound by “some guy”. Also that internet write up on Bill did mention that he had a name for himself in the local NYC music scene hand winding pick-ups for “famous musicians” so I see the logic on speculating that Ramrod or someone else sought him out during one of the many NYC runs in 76/77, and installed them or delivered them back to Irwin for installation, but who really knows? From that Garcia interview it certainly seems that the first set of pick-ups was not a stock set from Dimarzio or SD, which as far as I can know were the only two after market providers, but I think I was 14 in 1976 and not really in tune with who made what for who. It seems Bill Lawrence was already at Gibson by 73/74, but correct me if I’m wrong. Here is an interview with him where he describes those years:
The problems started many years earlier, around 1973/74. Gibson was looked at as a money-making project. The owners of that time were in the beer business, the spirit that is so important in instrument making was lacking. I often had the feeling that the company was being degraded into a furniture factory. Instead of making the instruments by hand in a first-class way, they looked for the fault in the models themselves. They experimented on the market with new instruments that were not well thought out or fully worked out. The owners understood absolutely nothing about the guitar business. They hired top managers who had been educated at first-class universities, but who had a flaw: For them, instrument making was a book with seven seals. They came to me with things that I knew right from the very beginning would not work. If I made my objections known, they said I just didn't know anything at all about business. That fact that that really bothered me is the reason I left Gibson, but in my subconscious I had the feeling that someone would come along who would bring the business up again, and I already had a plan firmly in mind about how that could be done! But before that came to pass, the company was turned over to new people who were not even worth talking about. This involved a consortium of banks or something, to this day we don't know anything more about it. Then Gibson/Norlin was really golden by comparison, because then you could still talk to real people, be a real person. Truly, all the bankers could see was a killing to be made. Nothing was repaired, all of the machines fell apart. It was a crying shame.
It’s also possible that “a” version of the Wolf 2.0 had a set of SDS-1’s like shown in this 1978 Dimarzio catalogue image. - http://vintage.catalogs.free.fr/dimarzio001/00.htm
- The poles are adjustable and uniform. It’s also possible that the Wolf 2.0 had a variety of pick-ups tested before Garcia settled in with the Dual Sound/ SDS-1 combo later in 78. After all Irwin is quoted as saying (and mentions he’s the one changing out the electronics at this stage and changing them out for new ones – sort of indicating everthing was still somewhat off the shelf):
I configured the guitar with a plate system for mounting pickups. This allowed for a variety of pickup choices. It was originally set up with three Fender Stratocaster pickups. I also provided Jerry with a second pickup plate for Humbuckers (hum-canceling dual-coil pickups). The 70's were a time of evolution in guitar pickup design, so when Jerry got a new guitar, there was usually a period of experimentation. Then, from time to time Jerry would try new pickups, but once he found what he liked, he usually stuck with it. Sometimes Jerry felt that an old set of pickups. would get "tired", so I'd change them out for new ones.
What’s plausible is that Garcia got burnt out on the thin sound of the Strat pups from playing them all through 73 and 74, liked the beefier sound of the his Travis Bean soap bar pick-ups and when he went back to the Wolf asked Irwin or Ramrod or someone else for a hotter pick-up, which could have been a set of SDS-1’s or possibly a prescribed custom wound set from Bill Lawrence - or another electronics guy for that matter. It’s certainly speculative, but what isn’t is the tone of Wolf 2.0 or should I say tones – because the tone seems to evolve throughout late 77 to spring 78. Late 77 sounds more like the Travis Bean sound and spring 78 sounds less gritty – at least to my ears.
From Dimarzio’s website:
It might look like a Strat® guitar pickup, but the SDS-1™ adds punch, gain, and warmth reminiscent of the best old soapbar pickups. The adjustable pole pieces don't pull as hard as regular rod magnets, so you can get the pickup closer to the strings for stronger output. The highs are less exaggerated and the bottom is deeper than most singles for a rounder, darker tone. If your guitar's bridge position sound is too edgy, without the push needed to drive your amp, remedy the situation with an SDS-1™. Add a pair of True Velvet™ pickups for sparkle, or a True Velvet™ in the neck and an FS-1™ in the middle for balanced tone choices.
Has anyone tried a set of SDS-1’s? I see Moriarty offers them in his Wolf tribute.
Mike do you have any experience with the Super Distortion S, and if so (or even without) can you offer an opinion on them? What’s interesting is they look to be based on Bill’s ground breaking Blade design, but that’s way over my head as well. And speaking of Bill, what’s up with this guy called EZ Wajcman who appears to own Bill’s name in trademark?
Here is the Dimarzio write up on the Super Distortion S or SDS (common theme here) – what sounds cool is that you can get a variety of sounds by being able to coil tap them and without having to route out your axe for a dual sound!
Super Distortion® S
The Super Distortion® S offers the performance of the famous Super Distortion® in a humbucking Strat® bridge direct replacement-size pickup. We've built in the same blend of power and tone that made the original Super Distortion® the worldwide standard for high-output humbuckers. We also tweaked the sound to take into account the fact that the Super Distortion® S will be installed in the classic slanted bridge position. The new model has 4-conductor wiring for parallel humbucking and split-coil modes, and makes a great bridge position combination with the Pro Track™, The Chopper™, and Fast Track 1™.