‘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. Similar to the F-100 prototype, there is a 4th switch on the panel, absent on the L-2000 that went into production which has the pickups in their current positions and a control panel with tabs where the mini-toggle switches are located. Although initially available both in a pure passive version (L-2000) as well as a passive/ version with preamp (L-2000E), the April 1, 1981 price list only offers the active L-2000E. The ‘E’ would disappear in the BBE-era but still shows 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 principle was also used for other bass pickups. A smaller footprint Bi-Pole™ humbucker was introduced on the El Toro, El Toro-E, and Interceptor basses, whereas a single-coil “Jazz” style MFD was used on the ‘entry level’ 1st style SB-2 and SB-1 basses, as well as the Lynx after the SB-basses evolved. Split coil MFD’s were used on the 2nd style SB-1 (Deluxe ) and SB-2 (Deluxe), the latter still with a Jazz”-style MFD in the bridge. In early-1987, Leo was even actively developing a Z-coil pup for 5-string basses, as later used on the L-5000, with rosewood fretless and maple fingerboard examples in this collection, and the ‘Z-5000’ prototype.

Since the take-over of G&L by BBE, a similar focus has been on the development of Alnico-pups which, in different configurations and shapes, have been used on the Legacy/LB-100, JB/JB-2/JB-5, and MJ-4/MJ-5 basses. 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. 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.

L-Series basses (L-to-R):

1980 L-1000, 1983 L-1000F w/ebony board, 1981 L-2000E, 2003 L-2500. 1993 Climax Bass and 1997 L-1500 Custom shown separately.

P- and J-basses:

1982 SB-2 (1st style), 1988 Lynx, 1983 SB-1 (1st style), 1991 SB-2 Deluxe, 1985 SB-1 (2nd style), 1990 SB-1 Deluxe, 1989 SB-2 (2nd style).

Bi-Pole™ humbucker basses (L-to-R):

1983 El Toro-E, 1984 Interceptor Bass (control panel), 1987 Interceptor Bass (rear-loaded).

Z-coil Basses (L-to-R):

1988 L-5000 (fretless), 1991 ‘Z-5000’ prototype, 1989 L-5000 w/maple board.

ASAT Basses (L-to-R):

1993 ASAT Bass Commemorative w/ebony board, 1989 ASAT Bass prototype, 1993 ASAT Bass Commemorative w/maple board.


basses - the Low-enders