- electric guitars
Bill Lawrence, was born Willi Lorenz Stich in Germany in 1931. He made his first magnetic pickup in 1946. In 1965, Bill Lawrence, Nathan Grossman and Jzchak Wajcman started Lawrence Electrosounds in Munich Germany. The company made pickups for different guitar manufacturers, including Framus. In 1966, Jzchak Wajcman bought the shares from Grossman and became the majority stockholder. By 1970, Jzchak closed the company, and sold the equipment to Hoyer Guitars. Jzchak moved to Israel, and Bill moved to the USA.
Lawrence quickly became established in the New York music scene. Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis used his Lawrence Audio electric piano. He designed pickups for MicroFrets, and teamed up with Dan Armstrong on several projects, eventually taking over Armstrong's custom shop when Armstrong moved to England. Bill worked there rebuilding and improving pickups and pioneered he idea of new pickups for retrofitting into existing guitars. Lawrence's apprentices in those days included Dan Armstrong's son, Kent Armstrong, and Larry DiMarzio - both of whom soon established their own pickup companies.
Lawrence then went to work for Gibson where he eventually became responsible for design at the Kalamazoo factory. While still consulting for Gibson, Lawrence moved to Nashville in the mid 1970s where he introduced the FT-145 sound hole pickup for acoustic guitars and the first noise-free Fender single coil (the L-220), his L-90 twin-blade humbucker, and later the L-500 series.
At the end of the 1970s, the Moridaira Company (owner of Morris guitars) became the exclusive distributor for Lawrence's products in Japan. Lawrence and Toshio Moridaira started a joint venture - The Bill Lawrence Guitar - and the Moridaira Company was the exclusive distributor for these guitars to be sold only in the south-east Asian market. Moridaira made the guitars in his Matsumoto based Morris factory, and Lawrence supplied them with his USA made pickups and endorsed the guitars. He stayed one month in Matsumoto at Toshio's house to teach him the marketing strategy, and worked in his factory to set it up for electric guitar production. According to Lawrence, it was made very clear, from the beginning, that he would not get involved in copy guitars. However, during a later visit to Japan in 1983, he discovered the Moridaira Bill Lawrence guitar program was focused on making copy guitars. Although these were undoubtedly very high quality copies, Lawrence was unhappy with this as wanted his reputation to be based on high quality original products. Despite this the Bill Lawrence brand Japanese made stratocaster and telecaster copies were still in production in 1986 and possibly later.
In the 1990s Bill's wife Becky took increasing responsibility in the pickup making business. Lawrence was also employed during the 1990s as a consultant for Fender, his work included designing the pickups for Fender's Roscoe Beck signature basses. In 1997 Bill Lawrence issued his own line of USA made electric guitars under the Wilde brand name. Bill Lawrence died in 2013, but Becky Lawrence continues to manufacture Bill Lawrence pickups at his California workshop.
Source: Bill Lawrence Guitars (Japan) catalog 1986
Source: Bill Lawrence website (2 April 2017)