‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L

 
 

As discussed in previous sections, by the start of 1985 G&L had made great inroads in what is considered to be its main mission: building great basses and guitars leveraging Leo Fender’s decades long experience in designing tools for musicians. But, as per Leo’s directive, all this without copying his past successes per se. Although with their own distinct dimensions, many of the body shapes were still familiar. But much of the hardware, in particular the pickups, were unique to the brand. Still, being responsible for G&L Sales, Dale Hyatt was constantly confronted with requests from dealers to produce more traditional looking and functioning instruments; something people would associate more easily with the name ‘Leo Fender’. By 1985, Jumbo Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups were already installed on the SC-1/SC-2 ‘entry level’ guitars. In “Guitars from George & Leo: How Leo Fender and I Built G&L Guitars”, George Fullerton describes how it had been noticed artists, most notably studio cats, were buying the SC-2 with its maple body because it sounded like a Telecaster but “bigger and fatter”. Hence, while Leo was taking a vacation, Dale and shop foreman Lloyd Chewning prototyped the Broadcaster using the shape of the Telecaster as their template. But again the construction, pickups, wiring harness, and hardware provided great improvements over what many consider to be the negative traits of the Telecaster, especially intonation problems innate to 3-saddle bridges and the shrillness (ice-pick) of its vintage pickups.


Upon return, Leo was somewhat dismayed but he soon realized the potential of the instrument. All that was needed was a great marketing campaign to promote them. Leave that up to the savvy Mr. Hyatt. First, the name to use. Dale had noticed the trademark on “Broadkaster”, as used by Gretsch, had lapsed. That trademark had been the death knell for Fender’s original attempt to use the “Broadcaster” name. Even more, no musical instruments trademark on “Broadcaster” was live and hence G&L filed for that name on April 25, 1985 (US Patent and Trademark Office, Serial Number 73534030), published for opposition on July 30, 1985. Second, the guitars were given a distinctive Black look with gold lettered logo and model decal with script “by Leo Fender” underneath. Thirdly, some serious mojo was added when Leo agreed to personally sign the inspection sticker placed in the neck pocket for each Broadcaster. It was fully expected some company in the industry would object. Leo and/or G&L hated wasting their time in court, but they knew full well any objection needed time to work its way through the system. So upfront, no matter what, the decision was made production would cease after about 1,500 Broadcaster. This ensured signing the stickers would not be an infinite tax on Leo. The first G&L Broadcaster was released in May of 1985 and appeared in the September 1985 price list at a MSRP of $705.50! As per George, it was marketed as a “repackaged SC-2”; no surprise given its lineage.


Sure enough, Gretsch opposed the trademark application. More surprising, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) objected too, arguing it would be ironic if G&L could use the trademark whereas Fender could not back in the 1950s. G&L dropped the trademark application on March 25, 1986. And with that, production of the Broadcaster, and Leo’s personal involvement with each, ended after a total of 869 were built, 308 of them with maple fingerboard, only a handful with rosewood, and the remainder with ebony. With its predominantly Black appearance, some Broadcaster have a “Black Krome” Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner floating vibrato for an extra $190.50 (or $896 MSRP including case)! The exact number of Broadcasters w/Kahler is somewhat in dispute. Paul Bechtoldt quotes a number of 42 in Section III of “G&L: Leo’s Legacy”. However, on p. 17 of his first “G&L ASAT” installment in the May 2005 issue of 20th Century Guitar Magazine, Greg Gagliano states “Rarer still are a handful of Broadcasters (44 to be exact) that were fitted with a Kahler 2320 flat-mount vibrato unit.”


During its lifetime, the Broadcaster had garnered a lot of attention and accolades, e.g. by becoming Carl Perkins’ axe of choice, making it clear the guitar was a keeper. On April 10, 1986, G&L filed for a trademark (US Patent and Trademark Office, Serial Number 73592551) for the models current name: ASAT. Persistent rumor has it ASAT stands for “After Strat, After Tele”. In reality, the name was suggested by author Richard R. Smith and is short for Anti-SATellite, much in line G&L’s use of other military related names like F-100, Cavalier, Nighthawk, Interceptor, etc. The first ASATs, aka “Poor man’s Broadcaster” and introduced during the June 14-17 1986 NAMM, made it clear nothing else but the name had changed. The Broadcaster was rather narrow in its design. The ASAT has many, many variations.


Making up the vast majority of the guitars in this collection, an attempt has been made to bring together at least one Broadcaster/ASAT with each and every pickup combination ever released by the factory; no after-market mods and/or pickup swaps are allowed (of course with a single exception). The pages for each specific guitar contain their specs, with special focus on the pickups, and why the particular specimen was of interest to be added to the collection. Why the other non-ASAT models then? Some of these pickups appeared first in a different G&L model. These so-called “source guitars” have been added so the evolution can be placed in the proper historical context.


Below one finds some of the advertisements for the Broadcaster/ASAT published by G&L over the years in guitar magazines. This includes an ad for Marshall amps showing Fred Newell playing an ASAT. He received $4,000 for this endorsement in 2 installments with both checks signed by Dale Hyatt and Leo Fender as shown below. For a pictorial overview of all 80+ Broadcaster/ASAT guitars in the collection, please visit the ASAT Gallery where many group shots are found. Enjoy!

 

The Broadcaster/ASAT