‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L

 
 

More than half of the G&L guitars discussed on this site are the Broadcaster, renamed to ASAT in 1986, or some variant on this model. But strangely enough, the Broadcaster has a clear and identifiable precursor: the SC-2, an ‘entry level’ guitar without which the ASAT might never have come into existence. Introduced in September 1982, it was the cheapest G&L available at the time, with a slab-body reminiscent of the mid-1960s Fender student lineup: Mustang, Duo-Sonic, and ¾-scale Musicmaster, as pointed out by Greg Gagliano in his article “Leo vs. Leo:Student Model Guitars”. Notwithstanding the “student” moniker, no short-cuts were taken in its construction. It had a soft maple body, choice between Locktight (Saddle-Lock) hardtail version, aka SC-2 NV (“No Vibrato”), or as SC-2 DFV with Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato, both with S/N stamped on the bridge, hard-rock maple neck and a 7½” radius maple fingerboard. The headstock did not exhibit the G&L hook which was introduced on the G-200 in late-1981 and currently adorning every non-CLF Research branded G&L, a feature (or omission thereof) that would stay with all ‘entry level’ models until the very end of 1991. The wiring harness on the SC-2 is very simple: control panel with input jack, volume control, tone control, and 3-position pickup selector, all controlling the signals coming from the 2 pickups. But just not any pickups! This model introduced the Jumbo Magnetic Field Design (MFD) single-coil pickups to the world. It was observed soon enough that many (professional) Tele-players were buying up these instruments because the pickups sounded like a warmer version of the Tele-pups, as Riley Wilson describes in “The G&L SC-2”, or less ice-picky as one would say in the business. This became a major factor in the decision to introduce the Broadcaster in May 1985, which in turn evolved into the ASAT a year later.


Of course, Leo would never overlook the low-enders. So in November 1982, the SB-1 and SB-2 saw the light of day with their own simplified wiring harness. ‘SB’ stands for Standard Bass, according to George Fullerton on p. 124 of Guitars from George & Leo: How Leo Fender and I Built G&L Guitars. However, in “Matching Mojo”, an article by Willie G. Moseley on the SC/SB series, he hints that Student Bass is the proper label. A couple of years prior, he also contributed “G&L SB-1/SB-2 - Small Budget Long-Scale” putting a spotlight on the early version of these budget basses. They sported 1 and 2, respectively, Jazz-bass inspired single-coil MFD-pickups. Around December 1982, the ‘entry level’ guitars were expanded with the SC-1 and SC-3, both having the same body and headstock shape as the SC-2 and similar simple wiring harness. The SC-1, the cheapest G&L ever produced but still available with either hardtail or vibrato bridge, was a simplified version of the SC-2 in only keeping the Jumbo MFD bridge pickup. ‘SC’ means Single-Coil and one would reasonably expect an extrapolation of the SC-1/SC-2 to 3 Jumbo MFD pickups for the 3-pickup SC-3, something like this 1984 SC-2 (1st style) ‘III’ one-off. Instead, the SC-3 was issued with the same narrow-bobbin MFD pickups as the Nighthawk (renamed to Skyhawk), demonstrating once more that G&L was not skimping on hardware. On the January 3, 1983 price list, the SC-3 was only listed with DFV. Interestingly enough, all “Mustang-body” SC-3s registered on the Guitars by Leo (GbL) website have DFVs only.


But the June 3, 1983 price list offered the complete line of ‘entry level’ guitars with either a DFV or the NV option. That line now also included the (Humbucker Guitar) HG-1 and HG-2. The latter had exactly the same body shape and wiring harness as the SC-2 but, as the name implies, two hum-bucking MFD’s with the a comparable footprint to the Jumbo MFD neck pickup. These GHB humbuckers were narrower than the ones used on the F-100, and the bridge pup was not slanted like the HG-2R “Angled-Offset” pickup on the prototypical ‘SCav-2’ 2nd style entry level guitar and, earlier, the Cavalier. In true Leo Fender fashion, sonically they were bright and powerful unlike what is typically expected from humbuckers. The HG-1 again was a simplified version of the HG-2 with only a single bridge pickup.


Some changes to the ‘entry level’ guitar lineup were announced in a letter to dealers dated January 18, 1984. The HG-2, SC-2, and SC-3 got a more Strat-like slab-body with pronounced horn, i.e. so-called 2nd style body, mainly due to the G&L sales force pushing for more traditionally shaped guitars. The serial number now appeared on the neck plate instead of the bridge. However, it should be noted all known HG-2 guitars have this revised 2nd-style body including the HG-2 prototype w/DFV. Hence, it is doubtful any Mustang-body HG-2 was ever built. The single pickup models, i.e. the SC-1 and HG-1, were discontinued. Although 3 more SC-1s were built in 1989 in special custom colors for Robert Poss (about whom more below), less than 250 SC-1 guitars were produced in total. As for the HG-1, it may well be G&L’s “unicorn” akin to Gibson’s 1950s Moderne. No HG-1 is known to exist and/or registered on the GbL website in either body style. Word has it most of them, if not all, were converted at the factory into HG-2s.


Although outstanding orders were still fulfilled, in a letter dated January 15, 1985 dealers were informed all ‘entry level’ models were (temporarily) discontinued while G&L focussed on their new line of Superstrats and the Lynx. The Lynx was actually a modified 1st style SB-2 but now with a choice of maple, ash, or poplar contoured body and choice of maple or rosewood fingerboard while still retaining the same 2 pickups and wiring. Of course, the pickups of the SC-2 would live on in the fabled Broadcaster introduced in May that year. And in September the 2nd style SB-1 reappeared on the price list now with a sleeker contoured maple body in Matte Sunburst finish only with plastic pickguard, maple fingerboard, and its pickup changed to a Precision-bass style split-coil MFD, although very early ones have a Schaller PBX pickup which also have adjustable pole pieces. Things got more interesting around September 1987 when more colors became available for the SB-1. The same time, the SC-3 was reintroduced still with a 2nd style control panel but with a contoured body, ebony fingerboard, DFV, and either a bone nut or Wilkinson roller nut/locking tuning machines combo. G&L had also been experimenting with matching painted necks and headstocks, mainly to mask imperfections in the wood like mineral streaks, leading to some “wild” looking guitars like this Hot Pink SC-3. By January 1988, the roller nut was discontinued and the SC-3 only came with a DFV and rosewood fingerboard.


By mid-1988 G&L already sold the SC-3 in its 3rd and final configuration. Looking much like a 2-knob version of a Skyhawk, it now had a contoured body, about ½” wider than the previous 12”, rosewood fingerboard, and a pickguard carrying pickups, controls, and output jack. The presence of such a guard may not be entirely clear when reading the SC-3 description on the June 15, 1988 price list. The January 15, 1990 price list had this remedied listing the option of either a white or black guard explicitly. The SC-3 Deluxe was listed for a mere $100 more with either a maple or rosewood fingerboard. The best information available is that the ‘Deluxe’ label merely means the neck has a gloss transparent finish instead of matching the body color, hence requiring an esthetically more appealing piece of hard-rock maple. The January 15, 1991 price list had identical descriptions for both versions, adding even more confusion. By the start of 1989, the SB-2 also had been reintroduced now sporting a maple contoured body, pickguard, and same split SB-1 pickup in the neck combined with the “old” Jazz Bass inspired single-coil MFD in the bridge. At the same time, the SB-1 Deluxe and SB-2 Deluxe were added to the lineup, both with rosewood fingerboards instead of maple and the option of an ash body.


Things changed quite a bit starting New Years Day 1992. What all happened to these ‘entry level’ models in the BBE-era can be found in this chapter.


Group shots fronts and backs (L-to-R):

Guitars (pre-1985): 1983 SC-1, 1982 SC-1 w/DFV, 1984 SC-2 (1st style) w/DFV, 1982 SC-2 (1st style), 1984 SC-3 (1st style) w/DFV, 1984 HG-2, 1983 HG-2 prototype w/DFV, 1984 SC-2 (2nd style), 1984 SC-3 (2nd style). A 1984 SC-2 (1st style) ‘III’ and 1984 ‘SCav-2’ are shown separately.

Basses: 1983 SB-1 (1st style), 1985 SB-1 (2nd style), 1990 SB-1 Deluxe, 1991 SB-2 Deluxe, 1990 SB-2 (2nd style), 1982 SB-2 (1st style).

Evolution of the SC-3: 1984 SC-3 (1st style) w/DFV, 1984 SC-3 (2nd style), 1987 SC-3 (2nd style) ebony, 1988 SC-3 (3rd style), 1991 SC-3 Deluxe.

 

‘entry level’ models: the SB-, SC-, and HG-series