James Tyler: the Man, the Myth, and the Mind Behind the Mongoose

An old James Tyler motto: “Either you know or you don’t.” It was something told to guys who would walk up to the NAMM booth and ask, “Why would I pay that much for a Tyler?” That works very well for Jim’s boutique business. But I am here to pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse into what it is that makes his guitars so special, and tell you why we chose him to be our partner in crime.


Please take a moment to read James’ history at his website.

As you read it, you may have seen a theme emerging. It is a theme that I have experienced first-hand in my 7 years working with him and my 23-year friendship with him. I believe this excerpt from his history sums it up very well: “…players wanted to add electronics, and the ’perfect‘ combination of pickups and hardware to yield a popular array of tones.” James Tyler has always been and continues to be on a quest to break the barriers and limitations of standard guitars to create new and different but highly usable and desirable tones.


One small and anecdotal example of his quest for tone would be in the array of pickups he has used in his guitars. The following are pickups that he has used as stock on his guitars over the years (this is not an exhaustive list and does not include the occasional special-order pickup): Seymour Duncan pickups (many wound to Jim’s specs and needs), Anderson-made parts wound to Jim’s specs and assembled by Jim (including putting canceling coils in the cavity of the guitar to eliminate hum), Lindy Fralin, Suhr, DiMarzio, and then in 2007 he began winding his own pickups based on all his years of experience with TONE, and that has brought to the market more than 30 variations of new James Tyler Pickups. Again, proof that he strives to offer a range of tone even within his own pickups.

We won’t even go into the use of mamywo, the crazy finishes like psychedelic vomit, or the lead/rhythm circuit with a mid-boost/preamp that created a generation of tone that you have all heard without knowing it came from. (A prime example of this tone would be the clean chucka guitar and solo on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” provided by David Williams playing one of Jim’s guitars.)


So as we searched the planet for a partner in crime, James Tyler seemed the obvious choice. Here at Line 6 we are always searching for ways to give players new and inspirational tone. Jim is very forward-thinking and uses Line 6 gear in his own rig. (Yes, Jim is a killer guitar player in his own right, which is another reason you know he “gets it.”) He is an innovative luthier who is out for the perfect guitar and electronics package that will deliver a popular array of tones. This is a natural step for a guy of his caliber and it has led to a beautiful partnership.


As was stated in the previous blog post, we will be going over each and every aspect of the guitar in obsessive detail: from the bridge to the tuners, from the pickups to the reasons behind the changes in the Variax technology. Ask me questions, make comments and join in the fun as we bring these guitars to market. Leave your comments here and post your questions in the James Tyler Variax Forum at Line6.com.

Until next time,

Line 6 Luthier/Customer Advocate Rich Renken is a 23-year veteran of the musical instrument industry. He is a gigging bassist and audio engineer who has mixed live and studio sound for many high-profile artists.