Vintage Attack: Cream T Custom ’61 Guitar Pick Ups

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Cream T Custom 61 Pickups

Cream T Custom 61 PickupsAre you looking for vintage sound from a passive guitar pickup? Then try a Cream T Custom ’61. Handcrafted by Norwegian luthier Thomas “Toneshaper” Nilsen, the Custom ’61 produces a rounded string attack that resembles a classic Gibson P.A.F. When paired with a Delaney Matt “Guitar” Murphy signature model axe, results exceeded all expectations.

At the moment, Cream T pickups might not be a familiar product to most guitar players and instrument manufacturers in North America, but that should change once they hear their classic sound. A pair of Custom ‘61s can deliver traditional warmth to nearly any electric six-string.

Cream T’s Custom ’61 maker

Cream T Custom ’61 pick ups are hand made in Norway by guitar luthier Thomas “Toneshaper” Nilsen. Among Nilsen’s customers are Blues master Joe Bonamassa and British legend Jeff Beck. The Cream T website describes Nilsen’s initial business encounter with Texas boogie slingers ZZ Top and their personal guitar tech:

“The Eureka-moment wasn’t until early 2009. Thomas had made some prototypes which had more tone and dynamics than in any of the old ones he had used as a yardstick. Thomas then contacted guitartech-extraordinaire Elwood Francis and asked if he would be kind enough to test some pickups handmade in the woods of Norway.”

“Who could be a better judge on Cream T Pickups than the man who has had copious encounters with Billy Gibbon’s famed Pearly gates? The verdict was good. The little ol’ band from Houston ordered three sets to check out, and the result was a big thumb’s up!”

Just a pair of Custom ‘61s out for a cruise

When two Cream T Custom ‘61s were taken for a test drive on Delaney’s new U.S.A.-made Matt “Guitar” Murphy signature solid body, string attack was quickly softened without giving up any aggressive tendency.

Although Delaney’s custom made Murphy model emitted noticeable buzz on the 5th and 6th bass strings, the performance of the Cream T’s were superb. While plugged into a factory prepared 15 watt Fender Blues Junior, made in Mexico and equipped with 12AX7 and EL-84 tubes, “Toneshaper” Nilsen’s creation offered consistent dynamics across the fretboard.

With the amps reverb control set to 10 and the “fat” switch off, master between 2 and 3, middle at 6, bass near 3 and treble close to 7, the Delaney had an organically yielding character especially when working around the 7, 10, 12 and 13th frets.

Midrange enthusiasts have no fear, the Custom ’61 sounds good at any position. When an external Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal was added, temperate pleasantness surrendered to a firm Blues Rock resonance.

Each Cream T is laser engraved and popped into a guitar for testing prior to leaving the one man factory in Norway.

Nilsen’s Custom ’61 is made to order, though there are dealers in North America that sell ready made instruments featuring some of his other pick ups.

In California, Tonebender Custom Guitars and Basses and elsewhere online, Megatone Music carries guitars outfitted with Cream T’s. Otherwise, contact Thomas Nilsen directly at his company’s website. For the moment, retail prices are not readily available because each pick up is created upon request.

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Paul Wolfle

As a vintage and contemporary music enthusiast, guitars dominate Paul’s life. He plays slide in open tunings on a National Steel Tricone resonator and electric blues, in standard tuning, on an assortment of other instruments including his white Fender Stratocaster.

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