This week “Abby” Abigail Ybarra retired from the Fender custom shop. Who is the Abby that I and all guitar geeks hold in such high esteem? She’s the Number one woman of Rock and Roll & electric blues. She is the master-hand pickup winder (the person who sets magnets and decided how much and where copper wire resides in a guitar pickup) for Fender Guitars since 1958! I am truly one of the lucky ones, I have two sets of Pickups hand wound by Abby, one still in a box in my GUN SAFE! The set I have in use are brilliant to say the least. Her pickups have been on a who’s who of musicians such as Jimmy Hendrix, Buddy Guy, David Gilmore, Buddy Holly, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Merl Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Ritchie Blackmore, Robert Bray, Ry Cooder, Rory Gallagher, Eric Johnson, Eddy Hazel, Bonnie Raitt, Robin Trower and the list goes on and on and on. A virtual who’s who of all my favorite pickers.
Abby truly is the queen of Guitar and a guitar hero in her own right. She is loved by fans and guitarists world over and her retirement is a milestone in music history. God Bless you Abby, I hope you enjoy your well-earned retirement and take a long well deserved and enjoyable vacation with your family.
The following story is from the fender.com website announcing Abby’s retirement:
The Fender Custom Shop is both pleased and wistful to announce that one of its most revered employees, “pickup artist” Abigail Ybarra, is retiring after more than 50 years in the Fender family. In celebration, Fender arranged for multiple Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos to play at her private retirement party with dozens of her coworkers earlier today.
Ybarra came to Fender in 1956 and in 1958 began hand-winding and hand-building guitar pickups for the fledgling Southern California musical instrument company (pickups convert string vibrations into electric signals, creating the “voice” of an electric guitar). Ybarra’s hand-wound pickups have been included in Fender’s most popular instruments from the late-’50s to today, and were most likely found on instruments played by legends such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan and countless others. Her pickups have become highly desirable and sought after by artists and collectors alike.
“Abby is one of the many individuals, like George Fullerton, Freddie Tavares and Forrest White, who have set our course as a company and leader in our industry,” said Mike Eldred, Fender Custom Shop Marketing Director. “She has literally ‘set the tone’ for Fender, and we will continue to carry on her legacy in the Fender Custom Shop.”
Over the past three years, Fender Custom Shop Pickup Specialist Josefina Campos has been apprenticing under Ybarra, mastering the techniques that only a half-century of experience can create. Campos, who has been with Fender since 1991, is more than prepared to take the torch from Ybarra’s legendary hands.
“Josefina has been part of the Fender Custom Shop for many years now, and she has spent a good portion of her time winding great-sounding pickups and apprenticing with one of the best pickup builders in the world,” added Eldred. “We are grateful to add her to an extraordinary group of Master Builders, and excited to watch her take her place in Fender’s rich history.”
Campos-wound pickups are already in great demand, and the Fender Custom Shop is planning to include them in select limited instruments and in custom-ordered Master Built models.