The world of yowhatsshakin


“A Broadcaster!”, I hear you say. “Isn’t that a famed Fender model from the early ‘50s?” Yes, it is. When Leo Fender, in close collaboration with George Fullerton, built their first 2-pickup electric guitar (see design pat. D164,227, filed by Leo on April 23, 1951) intended for mass production, it was christened Broadcaster. However, Gretsch happened to have a trademark (‘Broadkaster’) for a drum kit and took umbrage to Fender using something too close for comfort. Hence, Fender was forced to rename the guitar and settled on Telecaster.

Move the clock forward about 35 years to 1985. Neither Leo nor George had been associated with the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) for many years. Since the start of G&L, they have been working hard to build “the best instruments Leo ever made” (to paraphrase a the 1988 ad campaign below). But sales manager Dale Hyatt, a long time Leo Fender associate, had to field many a call from musicians asking for more traditional shaped instruments; the ones they associate with the name “Leo Fender”. Finally, with Leo on vacation, Dale initiated just such a model. (This initially somewhat to the chagrin on Mr. Fender upon return!) But the result was an updated Telecaster style guitar: soft maple body with black finish, hard-rock maple neck with 7½” radiused optional ebony or maple fingerboard, matching black headstock, and most importantly 2 Jumbo Magnetic Field Design (MFD) single-coil pickups as introduced on the SC-2 ‘entry level’ model. The single-ply plastic pickguard, Locktight (Saddle-Lock) bridge, tuning machines, controls, and control panel were all black too. All that was left to do was finding a name for  it ...

Leave that up to the marketing savvy of Mr. Hyatt. He had noticed that Gretsch hadn’t kept their trademark current! So a healthy dose of chutzpah, 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! In another Dale ploy, Leo himself inspected every Broadcaster, leaving his signature on a sticker in the neck pocket as a cherished artifact. Somewhat surprisingly, now FMIC took offense arguing that it would be unfair G&L could use the very name Fender had to abandon decades earlier. G&L did not put up too much of a fight knowing enough buzz had been created. It changed the name to ASAT in April 1986 after 869 Broadcasters had been produced, 308 of them with maple fingerboard. And with that also Leo’s inspection and sign-off ceased. This would have stopped after at most 1500 instruments anyway; it was never G&L’s intention to keep the name and inspection sticker ad infinitum. At least as of 2007, Gretsch still holds the trademark to the term ‘Broadkaster’ (again) and could easily have stopped G&L as it did Fender in 1951. There is no longer a webpage on this model, but do a search and you’ll find plenty of entries for sites like Harmony Central and Telecaster user groups. Or just check out this Rarebird page on the Guitars by Leo (GbL) website.


G&L BROADCASTER w/Maple Fingerboard

The story behind this guitar

Year:                 1985

Serial number:    BC00445

Neck date:         AUG 7 1985

Body date:         8-14-85

Strings:               D’Addario EXL110 Nickel Wound Regular Light (10-46)

This is a story of friends and fellow aficionados. The first person featured is Bryan Griffith, one of the best photographers I know. His beautiful compositions featuring guitars in his collection have graced many a post on the (old) GbL. The stand-out for me always has been his Broadcaster w/maple fingerboard. And in our correspondence, he never failed to mention how good that guitar sounds. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I got my Broadcaster w/ebony fingerboard just after Christmas 2009. And my ears opened up. Now I wanted one with a maple board too. Since Bryan didn’t want to sell his, the question remained where to find one.

Enter Gary Maki, a fellow collector with whom I have had several transactions now. When he sold me his ASAT ’50, he also showed me some other pieces he wanted to sell in the future. Amongst them this Broadcaster, never played, still with the original box! The “never played” went out the window when it arrived. And I couldn’t put her down, she sounds so amazing. Undoubtedly the whole “voodoo” of playing a New Old Stock instrument has a lot to do with it. It is slightly brighter than its younger (by about 2 months) sibling. The neck date is August 7, 1985 and the hang tag lists August 14, 1985 as her birthday; the same day Leo inspected the guitar and left his signature!