Made with Love: Inside Josefina Campos' Hand-Wound Fat '50s Strat Pickups
This limited-edition run of Strat pickups come from the legendary Abigail Ybarra's apprentice and new Queen of Pickups, Josefina Campos.
By Mike Duffy
Josefina Campos has worked at Fender since 1991, but the roots of her story go back to the 1950s, when the company was officially founded by Leo Fender.
Josefina's Fender journey began on the floor in the Corona, Calif., factory, sanding guitar bodies by hand. Then, she was physically loading those bodies on the conveyer belt to head to the paint room to receive one of Fender's famous finishes.
But eventually, she found herself standing next to the legendary pickup winder Abigail Ybarra, who had learned the craft from Leo Fender himself and was the main steward carrying on his time-honored and time-tested techniques.
Josefina saw a new opportunity, one that would further the hand-crafted tradition of Fender's process of building high-quality and beloved instruments, and wanted to learn from the latest master.
She asked, and Ybarra answered.
"When she was thinking [about] retirement, they made an opening, and I applied," said Josefina. "I thank God she picked me. And she started teaching me everything she knew. She wanted to do it exactly the same, and that's what I do now. I'll do it exactly like she taught me, just like Leo did."
True, Ybarra had spent nearly six decades at Fender, learning how to wind pickups by hand and creating some of Fender's most popular instruments played by the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan … the list goes on and on.
Ybarra passed all that knowledge down to Josefina, who apprenticed for years before assuming her current role as Master Pickup Winder at the Fender Custom Shop, effectively making her one of the most sought-after talents in the business.
"Josefina brings so much to the Custom Shop," said Fender Custom Shop Director and longtime Master Builder Chris Fleming. "She's been here over 20 years and I've known her for 18, and in all those years she's become more and more responsible for really high-quality pickups.
"Josefina pickups are unique, and they're all hand-wound, so our customers are really interested in having those kinds of really special pickups in their guitars."
It's not just Josefina's pickups that energize the Custom Shop, however. Her bubbly personality is undeniable when walking the halls in the Corona factory, as each one of her co-workers is ready to share a laugh and a smile with her, no matter the time of day.
"Josefina just fills the place with love. What else can I say?" said Fleming. "She's very sweet and very friendly and helps anyone in whatever way she can, so she really lights the place up."
A hallmark of the Fender Custom Shop, the hand-wound Fat '50s Strat deliver the full-bodied "dream" single-coil sound found in many original late '50s Stratocaster guitars.
Enhanced bass response, punchy mid-range, crystalline highs combined with delicate touch responsiveness have made the Hand Wound Fat '50s the prefered pickup set for many top player around the world.
"The Fat '50s pickups are a stock item in the Fender Custom Shop, but the hand-wound versions of them have a different dimension," Fleming said. "They've got more articulation, they're very vintage sounding and they're very popular.
"They have a vintage wire, they're slightly hot. They're probably one of our most popular pickups."
What's more, each Fat '50s Stat pickup in this offering boasts Josefina's attention to detail that is unmatched in the business, with an additional ingredient that only she can bring to the table.
Not only does she take a tremendous amount of pride in bearing the torch for the hands-on approach Leo Fender and Abigail Ybarra began, but she also is unwavering in her love of seeing artists play music using her amazing creations.
"I think the pickups are the heart of the guitar," she said with a an infectious smile. "They make wonderful sounds in the hands of the players.
"I'm so happy that people like my pickups. I'm so grateful for that. I put all my love, all my dedication in my pickups. I give it all my heart."
Learn more about Josefina Campos' hand-wound Fat '50s Stratocaster pickups here.