Leo Fender, G&L Guitars, and Why We Carry Them
AB Music Studios is a proud Premier Dealer of G&L guitars, a brand established in the late 1970s by Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Dale Hyatt. Leo Fender, born in 1909, never learned how to play the guitar. After losing his job as an accountant during the Great Depression, being a gifted repairman, he decided to open the Fender Radio and Record Shop in Fullerton. After working on numerous unimpressive amplifiers brought in by local musicians, Leo decided he could design and build a superior product. It wasn’t long before he gravitated toward building guitars as well; in 1944, Leo built his first solid-body electric guitar. In 1950, the Fender Broadcaster, renamed the Fender Telecaster in 1951, became the first ever commercially successful solid-body electric guitar. The Fender Precision Bass was also brought to market in 1951 and the Fender Stratocaster was released shortly thereafter, in 1954.
Leo sold Fender on January 5th, 1965 to CBS for $13 million dollars. Michael Molenda notes, “CBS definitely did some cost cutting after acquiring Fender, and its management also made cosmetic changes to some instruments, such as larger headstocks. Mechanical changes included the 5-way pickup selector, the Bullet truss rod, and going to a three-screw neck attachment from the previous four-screw assembly.”
In the early 1970s, Leo spent a brief period designing and manufacturing guitars, basses and amps for Music Man, through his company CLF (Clarence Leo Fender) Research, a consulting firm. Internal conflict within Music Man prompted Leo to create G&L with longtime associates, designer, George Fullerton (The “G” in G&L) and marketer, Dale Hyatt. Leo and George made numerous innovations to the electric guitar through G&L, including the Magnetic Field Design pickup, the Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato, the G&L Saddle-Lock bridge, the Tilt Neck Mechanism, and the Bi-cut neck design. Leo Fender passed away in March of 1991. Dale Hyatt recalls, “He was in here working, like he was most days, til 5 o’clock Wednesday, the day before he went. He had that perseverance, continuing and continuing on a problem until the damn thing worked.”
The G&L factory, located in Fullerton (where it all began) on Fender Avenue, is still producing instruments today. Phyllis Fender, Leo’s wife, remains the Honorary Chairman; she signs each and every certificate of authentication that is printed for all American made, custom G&L guitars. Phyllis chose BBE Sound to manage G&L after Leo’s passing. Chairman of BBE, John C. McLaren says, “G&L will always be willing to make changes. Leo Fender was a symbol of change and evolution for the benefit of musicians. But for any change that is considered, we must first ask ourselves, ‘Would Leo have wanted it this way?’ If yes, then we do it. If not, then we will not. We always want to feel that Leo Fender would be proud of today’s G&L.”
Here at AB Music Studios, we feel that G&L embodies the spirit of Leo Fender and all that he has contributed to the world of modern music. We will continue to carry and support G&L because we are serious musicians who appreciate exceptional instruments. We encourage you to come down to the shop and try one out for yourself.