The history of the P-90, the most versatile pickup ever made

P-90 pickups
(Image credit: Future)

The P-90’s lineage goes back to the 1930s, when Gibson’s first electric guitar pickup appeared on the ES-150. It became so synonymous with the era’s greatest jazz guitarist that the pickup became universally known as the ‘Charlie Christian’. 

It pre-dated the development of Alnico magnets, and Gibson’s pickup designers needed massive cobalt magnets to achieve the necessary gauss. The ‘Charlie Christian’ was wound with 38AWG magnet wire and weighed a hefty 2lb.

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.