‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L

 
 

Contrary to persisting popular opinion, the honor of inventing the electric bass goes to Paul Tutmarc and his Audiovox #736, not Leo Fender. But the extraordinary influence Leo has had on popular music by further developing, popularizing, and economizing the electric bass cannot be underestimated. Would James Jamerson’s famous Motown riffs have sounded the same without? Would funk ever have come into existence? Would the world ever have seen somebody like Jaco Pastorius or The Ox? With the introduction of the Fender Precision bass, covered in US Pat. Des. 169,062 filed for by Leo on November 21, 1952, and Jazz bass, arguably the biggest revolution in popular music took place; even more profound that the introduction of the electric guitar I’d claim. Just think about the size difference between the upright bass and an electric bass. Finally an audible instrument taking care of the lower registers that travels easy and sounds great!


After starting G&L, it became clear Leo would not overlook the low-enders and, just like he had for guitars, had a couple of improvements up his sleeve. With the introduction of the (fretted or fretless) L-series basses, the L-1000, L-2000, and L-2000E, all present on the September 1, 1980 price list, the world learned about the sonic qualities of the (L-series) Magnetic Field Design (MFD) humbuckers with adjustable pole pieces, allowing players to tweak the balance between strings, and Locktight (Saddle-Lock) bridge, maximizing the vibrational coupling between strings and body. The L-2000 evolved out of the Music Man Sabre Bass. This is most evident by comparing the Sabre with the L-2000 prototype appearing in G&L’s very first catalog from 1980 and as it appeared less than a year later in marketing material. The 1980 L-2000 has similar body contours as the Sabre, (MFD) pickups in identical positions, and the same banana-shaped control panel but for the number and location of the mounting screw holes. Although initially available both in a pure passive version (L-2000) as well as a passive/active version with preamp (L-2000E), the April 1, 1981 price list only offers the L-2000E. Similar to the F-100 prototype, the prototype L-2000E pictured in the 1980 catalog has a 4th switch on the panel, absent on the L-2000E that went into production as pictured in the 1981 catalog. That bass has the pickups in their current positions and a control panel with tabs where the mini-toggle switches are located. The L-2000E model decal on the headstock included ‘Series·E‘ until late-1982 when G&L moved from the skunk stripe to the Bi-Cut neck with the G&L hook. The ‘E’ in the model designation in catalogs and on price lists would only disappear in the BBE-era although it does still show up in their first price list dated January 1, 1992. The line of L-series basses was later extended with the 5-string L-2500 in the mid-1990s. Although initially conceived differently (see the ASAT Bass prototype), the same wiring harness and pickups are found on a different body, i.e. the ASAT-bass.


The MFD design was also used for other bass pickups. A single-coil “Jazz” style MFD was used on the ‘entry level’ 1st style SB-2 and SB-1 basses, introduced in 1982, as well as the Lynx after the SB-basses evolved. The Bi-Pole™ humbucker, which has a smaller footprint, was introduced in 1983 on the El Toro (discontinued as of January 1, 1984) and the El Toro-E, followed a year later by the Interceptor Bass. Split-coil MFD’s were used on the 2nd style SB-1 (Deluxe), introduced in 1985, and the 2nd style SB-2 (Deluxe), which saw the light in 1989 still with a bridge “Jazz”-style MFD. In early-1987, Leo was even actively developing a Z-coil pup for 5-string basses, coming to fruition with the 1988 announcement of the L-5000 model, with rosewood fretless and maple fingerboard specimen in this collection, and even a ‘Z-5000’ prototype from 1991.


Beyond the aforementioned switch to the Bi-Cut neck in late-1982, one other cosmetic change was made in Leo’s days. Initially G&L basses had their controls mounted on a control panel, either chromed or black powder-coated, screwed to the front of the body. Starting in mid-1985, all non-”entry level” basses but the El Toro-E moved to rear-loaded controls providing a very clean looking front while still allowing easy access to the wiring harness and/or battery compartment by removing a plastic cover on the back of the body. And even the “entry level” basses saw a change with their controls being mounted on the pickguard also holding the split-coil neck pickup.


Only after the purchase of G&L by BBE Sound, Inc. was there a focus on developing basses with Alnico pickups. Since 1992, many models have been introduced with such pups, in different configurations and shapes, such as the Legacy Bass /LB-100, JB/JB-2/JB-5, and  MJ-4/MJ-5 basses, with the JB-2, MJ-4, and MJ-5 already having been discontinued in the interim. Late in 2019, the G&L introduced the Custom Shop Matador Bass with two custom wound LB-100 Alnico V split-coil pickups, although two SB-1 split-coil pups are an available option. The L-series MFD humbucker is not forgotten though as evidenced by the introduction of the Climax Bass, later evolving into the L-1500 (a 4-string bass notwithstanding its name), 5-string L-1505, Kiloton, Kiloton 5, short scale (30”) Fallout Bass (Launch Edition), and the M-2000/M-2500 basses, the last 2 with an updated 3- and 5-string version, respectively, of this magnificent pup, called the M-series MFD humbucker, tailored to a newly designed active wiring harness. In 2018, both the L-1000 and L-2000 were reissued under the CLF Research label with a distinctive look harkening back to the beginnings of G&L, including the revival of the control panel, control knobs, and hookless headstock. And the SB-1 and SB-2, with the SB-2T as a variant, have been available for most (SB-1) if not all (SB-2) of the BBE-era.

 

basses - the Low-enders