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It’s all in the hands—the pickup-making icon has helped shape music history over the last 40 years, providing pickups for EVH, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Clapton, Frampton, Slash, Yngwie, Billy Gibbons, and countless others. She sits down with John Bohlinger to discuss her unusual start with Seymour Duncan, reveals who’s her toughest customer, and predicts good tone in your future.
“The heart and soul of your guitar has to connect with your own heart and soul,” says Seymour Duncan Custom Shop manager Maricela “MJ” Juarez.
Juarez has worked alongside Seymour Duncan for more than 30 years, establishing herself as the legendary pickup builder’s most trusted collaborator. She’s also become a custom pickup builder to the stars, helping the guitar’s most demanding tone junkies connect better with their instruments. Some say she’s wound more pickups heard on gold and platinum records than anyone. Her clientele includes Billy Gibbons, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Eddie Van Halen, Vince Gill, Slash, James Taylor, Peter Frampton, Warren DeMartini, and Steve Miller—not to mention countless discerning players around the globe.
Juarez began her Duncan tenure as a production-floor pickup winder, but Seymour eventually asked her to manage the growing Custom Shop. It’s expanded so fast that they recently brought in Seymour’s son Derek to help manage. Nowadays they’re only partially joking when they refer to Juarez as the Queen of the Custom Shop. But like so many things in life and music, her path to pickup-winding royalty was anything but what she’d planned.