‘The Real Ones’ - A history of G&L


A ‘Signature model’ is usually designed by and carries the “John Hancock” of some famous artist. G&L has/had several too: the discontinued John Jorgenson Signature and Will Ray Signature model, and the Rampage and Superhawk Jerry Cantrell Signature models in production until Jerry moved to Gibson in early-2020. But what sets G&L apart are its other Signature models honoring people closely involved with the inception and foundation of G&L during its nascent days in 1979: Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Mrs. Phyllis Fender.

On 3/23/88, Leo actually autographed and dated a single ASAT by hand at the request of Vice-President of Marketing and Sales Dale Hyatt after which he famously claimed he did not care what Dale would do with that guitar but it would be the last one he would ever sign. This while that guitar, now better known as ‘The Rembrandt’, already had a script “by Leo Fender” autograph decal on its headstock. An early, if not the first appearance of this phrase first appeared under the G&L logo of the 1st X-body Interceptor II built for Leo Fender whereas the standard production Interceptors, like this Interceptor III with exactly the same body and neck dates as Leo’s guitar, had the standard logo. Nor does the phrase appear on either of the 2 maple board, gold hardware 1st X-body Interceptors used in early marketing material. Ever since the introduction of the Broadcaster in 1985, the “by Leo Fender” phrase became in wider use appearing on instruments in different font colors, borders, and sizes in either of three locations: under the G&L logo decal, under the model decal, or at the tip of the headstock. Notwithstanding Leo’s refusal to sign any more in person after ‘The Rembrandt’, the idea was not shelved. Instead, Dale had a slightly different decal made of Leo’s autograph omitting the “by” on the headstock version. The ASAT Signature was the first model in the lineup which could be ordered with such a Leo Fender signature decal, now located on the upper bass bout. Already visually presented in the late-1988 brochure/catalog, the ASAT Signature only had its first mention in the January 15, 1990 price list together with other Signature models added during 1989 like the Skyhawk Signature, Comanche V Signature, and Comanche VI Signature, all available with either maple or rosewood fingerboard. The ASAT Classic and ASAT Bass, 2 new models introduced on the same price list, were originally available exclusively as a Signature. The (pre-BBE) ASAT III was also available as a Signature model though never mentioned as such in any price list. This ASAT III Signature w/DFV (and PTB) from March 1989 just happens to be the oldest in this collection. Incidentally, Dale had made sure by then these Signatures came with a unique feature by ceding usage of the “by Leo Fender” headstock decal. Two other popular models, the S-500 Signature and L-2000 Signature, were finally added in January 1991. Signatures with a Natural Gloss or Blonde finish received a black decal, as seen on ‘Char’ (barely) or the ASAT III Signature w/DFV (and PTB) and Comanche IV Signature referenced above. For a Signature with a Black finish, e.g. this ASAT Signature w/DFV with chrome hardware or all gold hardware ASAT Classic Signature w/LFV, the decal is gold. As is the color of the Signature on the ASAT Classic ‘Buck Owens’. A white decal seems to be most common since it was used in combination with burst finishes. Few can be seen on instruments with a (Three-tone) Sunburst finish like this triple-bound ASAT Classic Signature. The most common combination though is a Cherryburst finish with white signature decal as seen on the aforementioned ASAT Signature and S-500 Signature, the latter with all gold hardware. The Signature series reached its crescendo with the Commemorative Edition ASAT Classic and bass released after Leo’s passing just before BBE Sound, Inc. (BBESI) took over operations at G&L at the end of 1991. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation soon sent BBESI a “cease and desist” letter, claiming rights to the “(Leo) Fender” name as part of the 1965 CBS-Fender deal. This caused an immediate termination of any non-Commemorative Signature as per a dealer letter by then national sales manager Rob Rizzuto dated May 20, 1992. The Commemoratives series ended a year later in May 1993. But rumor has it there is still an ample supply of unused decals.

Between 1995 and 2008, the George Fullerton Signature model was part of G&L’s lineup and hence witnessed the transition from a 3-bolt neck attachment to a 4-bolt. In 2007, BBESI honored Mrs. Fender with her own Limited Edition: the Phyllis model: ‘Blondie’. To commemorate the first centennial of Leo’s birth in 2009, the C.L.F. Centennial ASAT Limited Edition, carrying Leo’s initials, was released. Unfortunately, no instrument has ever been released honoring the man on the sales side of things and (spiritual) father of many G&L models: Dale Hyatt. He would certainly have deserved his moment in the sun but sadly, with his passing on March 28, 2013 this will never happen. So I will honor him with a separate page dedicated to the Dale Hyatt Collection.


“The Family - Signatures FROM Leo, George, and Phyllis