‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L


Every manufacturer of goods will create prototypes either to test certain ideas or work out kinks in the production process. G&L is no exception to this rule. When browsing through all the instruments registered on the Guitars by Leo website, one will find one-offs, prototypes, and employee guitars that all have something unique to them. Some of the most famous prototypes are the F-150, S-200, S-300, T-400, Marquis (initially Artiste), Innovator, Comanche II, and the only ASAT Signature that is actually signed for real by Leo on the upper bass bout (aka ‘The Rembrandt’). Leo’s lab at the G&L factory retained some like this 1985 SB-3 bass prototype (S/N B015722) or this 1990 Skyhawk prototype (S/N G026536) with 3 MFD Jumbo pickups. Others are examples of the development of an existing model, most notably several transitional prototypes built to find what configuration would make the Interceptor guitar popular. And of course that baritone guitar (S/N G029213), where persistent, but incorrect, legend has it that this instrument was finished by Leo the day before his passing. In actuality, that baritone was assembled by Dale Hyatt and left on Leo’s chair in the evening of March 19, 1991, for Leo to test when he would come in the next day. However, that never happened and Leo passed away on the 21st. According to Dale, the true last prototype Leo worked on was this Superhawk (S/N G028886) with a new type of humbucker. Prototypes include test mules for models which later went into production, like the HG-2 prototype w/DFV, Comanche V prototype, ASAT Classic ‘Keef’ prototype, and John Jorgenson’s ASAT Z-3 prototype, or never made it, e.g. the line of acoustic guitars, the ‘CavASAT’, ‘RampASAT’, ‘InvASAT’, ASAT Classic Bluesboy Alnico Semi-Hollow, and ASAT Special ‘Cabronita’ having unique body/pickup combinations and/or test color finishes, with the ASAT Bass prototype and ‘Z-5000’ on the low-ender side of things. Or for a particular dealer, e.g. the ASAT™Cat prototype built for Alley Cat Music shown and discussed in the previous section. The late, great Gene Engelhart is known to have made a few employee guitars; some of them put up for sale by his estate. And then there is Dean Coy and his dcskunkworks who has built several one-offs, most notably in his famous Z-12 project of which I own the Z-12 ‘Big Red’. Plenty of examples indeed!

Only problem is they are usually not for sale. But G&L apparently changed its policy in early-2012. The now defunct Pro Guitar Shop in Portland, OR, put a dozen or so prototypes the proprietor had been able to secure during a visit to the factory up for sale: test guitars for the Korina Collection, unique finishes, and the like. Out of that initial offering, I was able to secure both the ASAT Deluxe Korina and ASAT Classic Korina prototypes. In mid-2012, G&L released another batch of prototypes for distribution by selected dealers, adding separate pages on their (old) website with listing for both bass prototypes and guitar prototypes. Many of these instruments were built while developing the Korina Collection and later the Savannah Collection, whose relevant instruments were added in late-2013 (see their respective pages for more information). The initial list also included instruments with less common tonewoods: a monkeypod bass, spalted alder instruments, and several Western sugar pine guitars. To tell the full story of the ASAT, I tried to get some representative guitars from the remainder. The ASAT Classic Bluesboy ‘Port & Chocolate’ was the first to arrive: a model built to test Clear Red as a finish on Western sugar pine and the first to have a roasted or torrefied maple neck. The ASAT Deluxe ‘TeleGib’ prototype, inspired by the ‘TeleGib’ Seymour Duncan built in 1974 for Jeff Beck, is another guitar with a pine body and has a configuration like an ASAT Classic were it not for the humbuckers. In 2012 G&L also built its first guitars with ASAT Classic Alnico pickups and one of the first 2 built is the double-bound, alder bodied, ASAT Classic Alnico prototype. This very guitar was presented at the National Sales Rep meeting in late-May 2012 to create some buzz for this new model. Of the batch of prototypes released in mid-March 2013, the model that sparked the most interest was an ASAT Deluxe Semi-Hollow TV Jones prototype, the first ASAT ever to sport TV Jones Classic Filter’Tron inspired pickups. It luckily enough ended up at The Guitar Store in Seattle, but only for a short time ...