In celebration of its 35-year reign as a premium maker of guitar and bass pickups—and, more recently, effects pedals and quick-change pickup installation systems—Seymour Duncan is offering the model Thirty Five guitar. This instrument is inspired by Seymour’s personal instrument, which itself is an evolution of the famed “TeleGib” that he built for Jeff Beck in the early 1970s. Only 35 Thirty Fives will be made, nevertheless, the project is a case study in crafting an ultimate T-style guitar.
Duncan’s original TeleGib—essentially a Fender Telecaster fitted with a pair of humbuckers and a Gibson bridge/tailpiece—presented an early example of how components from very different types of guitars could come together to create a unique hybrid. The basic template of the Thirty Five remains unchanged, but the overall package has been refined to the nth degree.
Built in Oxnard, California, by Jean Larrivee, the Thirty Five sports a body shape that was traced directly from a 1953 “blackguard” Tele owned by collector Nacho Banos (author of the book, The Blackguard). The shape is different than that of a modern Tele, and it also has the deeper neck pocket that Fender used from 1950-1955. Because of the added height of the Tune-o-maticstyle bridge, the neck pocket is also angled slightly after finishing to eliminate the need for shims and, therefore, ensure maximum neck-to-body contact.
The neck is carved to Duncan’s preferred combination of vintage Tele shapes, and its headstock features a string tree for the E and B strings that’s positioned to facilitate behind-the-nut bends. The Thirty Five’s 22 nicely crowned, highly polished frets and perfect fitting fossilized mammoth ivory nut are the work of Duncan’s VP of Product Development, Frank Falbo.
Black Tahitian pearl dots mark the fretboard, while a “35th” logo in mother-ofpearl flanked by inlaid “1976” and “2011” denote the 12th fret. Seymour Duncan personally hand fashions the neck plate from flat-stock steel, drills and countersinks the holes, stamps the serial numbers, and preps the piece for chrome plating.
The cavities for the humbuckers are routed in exactly the same position as on Duncan’s guitar, and the Concept JB and Jazz copper-wound pickups have the same specs as the ones Duncan originally built for the TeleGib.
A set of new Zephyr Silver humbuckers are included in the tweed case for optional installation, which can be done easily thanks to the Liberator Solderless Pickup Change System residing under the control plate. A spare control plate with a Liberator and a 500kΩ volume pot is also supplied for use with the Zephyrs. Other details include Seymour Duncan Bournes potentiometers and a Luxe Capacitors paper-in-oil replica of a 1956 Tele’s tone cap.
The amber-tinted varnish finish matches that of Duncan’s original guitar, and the grain of the swamp ash body has also been stained to recreate its aged appearance (some versions will feature a wine red finish). Other authentic details include a varnished phenolic black pickguard (traced from a 1950 Broadcaster), string-through holes with metal ferrules (non functioning, of course), a belly cut on the back, and a comfy forearm contour on the upper top.
The Thirty Five has a great playing feel, and the action is reasonably low with the bridge height-adjusting wheels set flush to the body. There’s almost zero fret buzz and the intonation is tuneful in all positions.
There’s a good deal of acoustic liveliness in this guitar, thanks, in part, to the select woods and super tight coupling of the components. The tones also sounded rich and detailed when played through a DR. Z EZG-50 combo. The Thirty Five’s Concept Jazz and JB ’buckers delivered everything from sparkling clean tones to thick, singing sustain when pushing an MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion pedal. The Thirty Five’s balanced blend of warmth and sheen comes through on all pickup settings, and there’s always that sense of humbucker heft awaiting your touch, which makes for a whole different sonic experience than you get from a standard Tele. The Tone control (which has a .047uf cap) on the 250kΩ plate can sound muffled if turned down too far, but within its effective range it’s well voiced to facilitate browner, jazzlike textures from the neck pickup, or take a little slice off the bridge setting in a highgain confi guration. Duncan points out that swapping in the 500kΩ control plate (which comes with a .022uf cap) will brighten up the overall response.
The Thirty Five offers a unique experience to anyone who can afford it and is fortunate enough to actually find one in stock at a select dealer. Yes, it’s an investment-grade guitar that will probably be traded among collectors more than used to make music, but it’s also a great hybrid T-style guitar that stands solidly on it own merits. Hopefully, Duncan will eventually make a production version that’s available to a wider audience, because who wouldn’t want an ax with such a history behind it?
CONTACT Seymour Duncan, (805) 964-9610; seymourduncan.com
NUT WIDTH 1 3/4"
NECK One-piece quartersawn rock maple w/walnut “skunk” stripe
FRETBOARD Maple, 25 1/2" scale
FRETS 22, Warmoth 6105 nickel-silver medium tall
TUNERS Kluson nickel-plated sealed
BODY One-piece hand-selected swamp ash
BRIDGE Callaham milled stainless steel Tune-o-matic style w/TonePros locking stop tail
PICKUPS Duncan original JB (bridge) and Jazz (neck) Concept humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way selector
EXTRAS Duncan Zephyr Silver humbucker set included. Liberator Solderless Pickup Change System installed.
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046 set
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
KUDOS Beautifully made replica of Seymour Duncan’s personal “TeleGib.”
CONCERNS Extremely limited production.