‘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 the 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 while much of the hardware, in particular the pickups, were unique to the brand. Still, as the person in charge of and responsible for sales at G&L, Dale Hyatt was constantly confronted with requests from dealers to produce more traditional looking and functioning instruments. In short, 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 many 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 plant manager 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 or enforceable. Hence on April 25, 1985 G&L filed for that name at the US Patent and Trademark Office under Serial Number 73534030, which was 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. Third, all came with a postcard sized Certificate of Authenticity (COA). And last, 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 to cease production after about 1,500 Broadcaster. This ensured signing the stickers would not be an infinite burden for Leo. The first G&L Broadcaster was released in May of 1985 and appeared in the September 1, 1985 price list at a MSRP of $705.50! As per George, it was marketed as a “repackaged SC-2”; no surprise given the model’s lineage.

Sure enough, Gretsch opposed the trademark application. More surprising, the freshly formed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) objected too, arguing it would be ironic if G&L could use the trademark whereas Fender back in the 1950s could not. 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 only 868 were built. Of these 868 Broadcasters, 568 have an ebony fingerboard and 300 a maple fingerboard. Ironically, S/N BC00001, completed May 1, 1986, is among the last built with S/N BC00876, completed May 23, 1986, believed to be the last. The highest serial number is S/N BC01096. These data originate from Dale Hyatt’s sales log as quoted in a letter of provenance for S/N BC00002 written by his son Ken with consultation of noted G&L researcher Gabe Dellevigne. That particular Broadcaster, entered in the sales log on March 27, 1986, has an ebony fingerboard and stayed in Dale’s possession after retiring from G&L. For full disclosure, in the text for this Broadcaster on his ggjaguar.com website, Greg Gagliano mentions a total of 869 Broadcasters with 308 having a maple fingerboard. As the joke goes, there are only 3 kinds of people: those that make off-by-1 errors and those that do not. The number 869 is also repeated at the bottom of the Rarebird page in the Guitars by Leo Registry, likely based on Greg’s number. With its predominantly Black appearance, some Broadcasters were built with a “Black Krome” Kahler™ 2320 flat mount fine-tuner vibrato for an extra $190.50 (or $896 MSRP including case)! The exact number of Broadcasters w/Kahler is somewhat in dispute too. Paul Bechtoldt quotes a number of 42 in Section III of “G&L: Leo’s Legacy”. However, on p. 17 of “G&L ASAT - Part 1”, 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.” However, Ken’s letter cited above mentions 57 Broadcaster w/Kahler. Given its source, the provenance for S/N BC00002 will be taken as gospel, similar as done for Interceptor production numbers. That gospel also preaches the existence of 1 Broadcaster with a #1 neck (12” fingerboard radius/1⅝” nut width), 1 with a (pre-BBE) #3 neck (12”/1¾”), as well as 3 left-handed Broadcasters. Although its log entry was never fully updated, that #3 neck w/maple fingerboard was changed to a (pre-BBE) #5 neck (25”/1¾”) w/ebony fingerboard when Dale ordered some rework on S/N BC01055. At the time of writing, that rarest of rarest Broadcaster is owned by Jeff Gruwell. That leaves 866 Broadcasters with a default #2 neck (7½”/1⅝”). Unfortunately, whatever the exact numbers may be, the original pool is diluted by replica Broadcasters built after 1992, a story in and by itself.

During its short lifetime, the Broadcaster had garnered much attention and accolades, e.g. by becoming Carl Perkins’ or Ray Flacke’s axe of choice, making it clear the model was a keeper. On April 10, 1986, G&L filed for a trademark (US Patent and Trademark Office, Serial Number 73592551) on the current name: ASAT. Persistent rumor has it ASAT stands for “After Strat, After Tele”. However, on p. 282 of his book “Fender - The Sound Heard ‘round The World”, Richard R. Smith claims he suggested that name to Dale Hyatt after having read an article about the Air Force’s Anti-SATellite weapon, and to stay with G&L’s use of other military 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 not much had changed. The now unpainted headstock carried the new model decal, a serif “ASAT by Leo Fender”, and the Leo signed inspection sticker and the COA were omitted. Black is still the only finish offered in the June 1, 1986 price list, the first with the ASAT listed in the lineup.

But things started to change slowly over the next year. Not all at once though, leading to what Greg calls some ”transitional example” of the ASAT where some elements have been changed already to the final configuration but others have not. Gabe has stated soft maple was Dale’s preferred wood due to its ease when applying coats in the finishing process. Being a closed pore species, it needs little sanding sealer and hence can speed up manufacturing, lowering cost. Still, more and more swamp ash was used, as seen on this 1987 ASAT, with maple only sporadically used as demonstrated in this gorgeous 1989 ASAT. Beyond Black, other finishes like Blonde, Sunburst, and Natural Ash became available as seen in the September 1, 1987 price list, Candy Apple Red and Purple were added in the January 1, 1988 price list. Instead of the single-ply black plastic guard, the ASAT got a black powder-coated aluminum pickguard. And instead of black hardware, including the black powder-coated Locktight (Saddle-Lock) bridge and control panel as well as the black chromed tuning machines, all chrome hardware with a white enameled aluminum pickguard was introduced towards the end of 1988 on the first installment in the (Leo Fender) Signature series: the ASAT Signature. ‘The Rembrandt’ completed in March 1988 is of course G&L’s first (and only true) Leo Fender Signature model of any kind.

An ASAT Signature came with a script “ASAT by Leo Fender” model decal and gold G&L block logo with “MADE IN USA PAT PEND” and “FULLERTON CA” in black underneath, as seen on the headstock of this ASAT Signature w/DFV. Any other Signature model however, received a white G&L block logo without these extra lines. The “MADE IN USA PAT PEND FULLERTON CA” phrase appeared earlier on (about) every instrument built during the first 5 years, i.e pre-1985. Strangely enough, that exact same gold G&L logo with phrases and the script ASAT model decal, now with “by Leo Fender” omitted, would for reasons unknown reappear on the ASAT Deluxe II and ASAT Junior II in 2011.

After BBE Sound, Inc. took over G&L, starting in November 1991 but becoming official in May 1992, the ASAT went through several name changes. Although chrome hardware had been available on the pre-BBE ASAT Signature for some years already, when FMIC legally estopped the continuation of any Signature model (with the exception of a limited number of Commemorative instruments), the ASAT Special name was introduced in late-1992 to distinguish the version with chrome hardware and (now) white pickup covers from the black covers/black hardware ASAT. When they stopped offering black hardware in 1998, the ASAT Special became ASAT again, but since 2001 it is back to ASAT Special. That same year the ASAT Special Deluxe was introduced for which a 2003 review (without byline), originally published in 20th Century Guitar Magazine and used as dealer promo material, is included below. The ASAT Special Deluxe may well have driven the reversal to the ASAT Special model name. Indeed, the ASAT Deluxe, introduced in 1996 at the same time as the ASAT (Special) Semi-Hollow, is quite a different guitar. It is clear though the ASAT Special Deluxe is the “child” of the ASAT Custom G&L produced mainly for the European market during 1995-1996. These 2 models both have a highly figured maple top on a mahogany back, though basswood was used instead on the ASAT Special Deluxe around 2009.

When inspecting any ASAT entry on price lists issued between September 1987 and January 1991, it contains a remark the ASAT is “Available W/3 Single Coils & 5-way Switch”. But contrary to expectation, this (pre-BBE) ASAT III variant carried narrow S-500/Skyhawk MFD pickups. So has there ever been an ASAT model with 3 Jumbo MFD pups? Yes indeed. At the 1999 Winter NAMM, G&L introduced the ASAT S-3 and it appears first on the November 1, 1998 price list included below. With a 5-position pickup selector and a Reverse Wound/Reverse Polarity middle pickup, some interesting sonic options were added to the mix. But many players found that large middle pickup to be in the way, especially when chicken pickin’. Being a commercially flop, this led to its discontinuation in early-2001. However, the model has seen 2 reappearances. Tim Page, of Buffalo Brothers fame, created the Trinity Limited Edition in 2006 and Midlothian School of Music revived this model again in 2011 with a run of special built instruments.

Below one finds some of the advertisements for the Broadcaster/ASAT (Special) 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. Relevant pages in catalogs present in the collection are also included. For a pictorial overview of the 110 ASAT guitars in the collection, please visit the ASAT Gallery where many group shots are found. Enjoy!


From Broadcaster to ASAT (Special)