Early Leo Era Changeover Points

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Early Leo Era Changeover Points

Postby derick » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:47 pm

For students of the Fender / MusicMan / G&L eras under the direction of Leo Fender, one fact is clear – that Leo never really felt that he was finished with a design. It is somewhat revealing that Leo’s personal musical instrument collection contained exactly zero instruments. Phyllis Fender quotes him as saying “The next one I build is going to be so much better. Why would I keep something that was obsolete?” We have seen instruments from George Fullerton’s and Dale Hyatt’s private collections on the market but according to Phyllis we will not see one from Leo Fender's.

There are books about manufacturing changes of early Fender instruments. Decals, pickups, fretboards, colors, headstocks and everything in between. Early MusicMan not so much (and Leo was in a partnership where I suppose changes had to be approved? dunno) but confusion over dating of early G&Ls seems to be rampant. Right now on Reverb there are two G&Ls advertised as 82s that most certainly are not. The fact that serial numbers on these were not serial also adds to the guesswork, and the official glguitars site isn’t really much help here. The datestamps tell the tale, unless owners have made changes themselves.

The first three years at G&L contained the most changes of G&L instruments, and by 1985 there were few specification changes under Leo’s watch. So, here’s what I know and what I think is probably right with the changes of G&L basses 1980 to 1985. I do understand that the change dates had considerable smear, but almost all changeovers look to have lasted less than a couple of months. You don’t see any chrome “PAT. PEND.” bridges after November 81 for example and no slot poles after March of 1982…

If anyone has evidence that these dates are not correct, please feel free to chime in. I also understand that “never say never” applies to most everything that Leo did. So...


Approximate Changeover points to Early Leo Era L-Series G&L basses

Pole pieces - Large Hex to Slot Poles … December 1980
Bridge - Chrome to Smooth Black Powder Coat … October 1981
(L-1000 plates stayed chrome till Feb sometime,
There are L-2000s with Black Bridge & chrome plates
as well.)
Schaller straight Post Tuners to tapered brass ... November 1981
Control & Neck Plates , Chrome to Smooth Black ... Jan-Feb 1982
Pole pieces – Slots to Small Hex … April 1982
Schaller Stamped keys to G&L stamped … June 1982
Smooth Black Bridge/Plates to Krinkle Black … August 1982?
Relocate SN from Bridge to neck plate … December 1982
Skunk Stripe Neck to Bi-cut … January 1983
Paddle headstock to Modern pointed … May 1983
Front-loaded controls to back-loaded … Late 1985
Tuners-Brass tapered posts to aluminum ultralight … 1990

According to this chart, there should be no slot-pole basses with G&L stamped tuners, but I have one. As much of the hardware on that bass is pretty corroded, and the knobs were replaced with later G&L dome knobs (the original flaked-off ones were in the case) I am assuming the tuners were swapped at some point, but I have no proof of that.
Last edited by derick on Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:26 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Early Leo Era Changeover Points

Postby Ken Baker » Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:16 pm

Excellent piece.

To add a small wrinkle, there were times when parts were in short supply (or even out) and G&L would substitute others in their place.

Example:

My 1993 SB-2 that I got from Mal had Schaller-stamped tuners with straight steel pegs. I was told that it was likely due to G&L running out of the G&L-stamped Ultra-light tuners, or maybe Schaller dropped the ball and didn't make/ship enough. Who knows, but regular Scahllers were substituted. I later purchased and installed G&L-stamped Ultra-lights.

And the "never say never" thing? It's still like that to a degree. It may just be a guitar manufacturing thing.

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Re: Early Leo Era Changeover Points

Postby derick » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:02 pm

Ken Baker wrote:
My 1993 SB-2 that I got from Mal had Schaller-stamped tuners with straight steel pegs. I was told that it was likely due to G&L running out of the G&L-stamped Ultra-light tuners, or maybe Schaller dropped the ball and didn't make/ship enough. Who knows, but regular Scahllers were substituted. I later purchased and installed G&L-stamped Ultra-lights.



It seems that the tuners have presented the most problematic supply issues for G&L over the years, I've also heard of factory Hipshots. I am sure that I am not alone in being somewhat disappointed in the change to PING WELLs, but the show must go on.

Putting together this chart, there were a lot more changes to catalog than I had realized.
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Re: Early Leo Era Changeover Points

Postby Ken Baker » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:14 pm

derick wrote:It seems that the tuners have presented the most problematic supply issues for G&L over the years, I've also heard of factory Hipshots. I am sure that I am not alone in being somewhat disappointed in the change to PING WELLs, but the show must go on.


I asked about that.

Due to family issues and deaths, Schaller has created a lot of the supply issues we see out here in the wild. In fact, this is why G&L doesn't currently use Schaller tuners. It seems the company doesn't now have a handle on how to stay alive.

Hipshot was approached, but it appears that they don't want to do OEM work. No idea why. So Ping Well it is. Schaller quality was all over the board toward the end and the Ping Well tuners seem to be consistently good. We'll see long term.

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