DiMarzio pickups are the heart of G&L Tribute series guitars. Leo had used DiMarzios since the inception of G&L, and they’ve been a standard feature on G&L guitars since the 1980s.
At first glance, you might think that DiMarzios are like all other aftermarket replacement pickups… But as with many things in life, there’s more to the story.
DiMarzio pickups have a history with Leo Fender dating back to 1969 when Leo was still at Fender; this relationship continued throughout his entire career. While most know DiMarzio for their aftermarket pickups, they also make OEM pickups for other guitar manufacturers; this is where their relationship with Leo started.
I remember the first time I went to the DiMarzio factory years ago; I was amazed at all of the original Leo Fender designs for pickups and electronics that were hanging on their walls. It turns out that during his time at Music Man, Leo designed some of their best-selling pickups. They are:
• The Super Distortion Humbucker (introduced in 1972)
• The PAF-type Humbucker (introduced in 1974)
In 1966, G&L (Guitars by Leo) was founded by Leo Fender and George Fullerton. The first instrument that they designed and built was a bass guitar in 1980. It wasn’t until 1982 that they put out their first guitar, which was called the SC-2. Leo designed the pickups for these guitars and all of the pickups were made by DiMarzio.
The “Dual Sound Pickup” as it was called, allowed you to split the coils of both pickups to get either a single coil tone or a humbucker tone. This system is still used today on their Legacy series which uses a push/pull potentiometer for each pickup.
G&L has been around for over 30 years. I might be wrong, but it seems that the original G&L’s were actually built by DiMarzio. I believe this because the early G&L pickups have no markings on them at all, and they have the same exact specs as the DiMarzios that are pictured in that old 1982 catalog. Then later on, Leo started having his own pickups made at a different factory to cut costs. It’s hard to say when exactly this switch happened, since there aren’t many pics of 80’s G&L guitars out there.
The earlier models had pickups with alnico II magnets, copper plated steel bases and a ceramic magnet under the baseplate. Later on they switched to alnico V magnets and some “chrome” plating under the baseplates (probably it was really nickel plating). The chrome ones were supposed to be better-sounding than the copper ones, but I think they were just different-sounding. Copper is supposed to give you a warmer sound and nickel is supposed to give you a brighter sound, so maybe that was what was going on here too.
Another thing that changed about the pickups in later years is that sometimes G&L would wind them hotter than
As Leo Fender’s first fully-fledged successor and the man who picked up where he left off, I think you all will agree that George Fullerton deserves our respect and admiration.
But this story isn’t about George. It’s about a pickup – the humbucker. And it’s about G&L Guitars.
The last time I wrote about G&L, I was at Sire Guitars in Tokyo. As my pen scratched across the page of my notebook to record what he told me, I could feel the spirit of Leo Fender watching over us…and smiling.
I had asked Mr. Watanabe to tell me what G&L means to him, and how important they are to his business…and to Japan.
“G&L is a very important American guitar brand,” he said, “especially in Japan. We sell many G&L guitars every year.”
Why? Because the quality is so good?
“Yes, but there is another reason,” he added. “G&L uses DiMarzio pickups.”
I’d like to write about the pickups G&L has used over the course of its history – not just our own designs, but also those we’ve sourced from other companies. The reason I want to do this is to help provide a little more information for people who are trying to figure out what pickups were on their G&L.
I thought it might be useful to start with some background on how Leo Fender got into this business, and the early history of DiMarzio, which was the first company he did business with after he left Fender.
In 1956, Leo Fender formed a new company that he called Tri-Sonix, Inc., which would later become G&L Musical Products. (We get our name from George Fullerton and Leo Fender.) At that time, Leo and his partners had no idea what kind of products they’d make; they were exploring their options.
Guitars? Leo had already decided against making guitars for the next generation of guitarists and bass players. He wanted to move on to something new and different.
Amplifiers? That was obviously a good possibility; amps were the logical complement to guitars. But was anyone going to want tube amps when solid state circuits became
BBE is a company that makes some of the most popular effects pedals in the world. One of those pedals is a compressor called the Opto Stomp, which they claim to be “the closest thing to ‘The Secret Weapon’ used by a famous country guitarist”.
Now I have been looking through the BBE website trying to figure out who that country guitarist is, but I’ve been having trouble. I haven’t heard of him/her, and neither has anyone else at G&L. My best guess was Merle Haggard, but he’s not a BBE artist, and his main guitar guy (Red Lane) uses a different pedal than the Opto Stomp. My next best guess was Chet Atkins, but he died in 2001, so I doubt he was using an Opto Stomp.
So if anyone can clarify this mystery for me, it would be much appreciated. I don’t want to get into another “who wrote this song?” argument like last time!
Update: Just found out that the country guitarist referred to here is none other than Marty Stuart! And you will never believe what happened next…
Welcome to the Online G&L Museum
Several years ago I was looking for a new guitar. I had owned many in my lifetime and had recently been enjoying the playability of my Stratocaster-style guitars. As I looked around I found that some companies were making very similar guitars to what I had been playing, but they made them of better materials. One company in particular caught my eye: G&L Guitars.
When I started researching G&L Guitars, I was first drawn to their history and the people involved. Leo Fender’s story is well known (especially if you are a guitarist) but his later story is not as widely known. His first partner, George Fullerton, has also been absent from many of the stories by those who have recognized Leo’s contribution to the electric guitar. After establishing a relationship with both of these men after they retired, they founded G&L Musical Instruments with BBE Sound in 1980 and began again from scratch building instruments (and amps) that were based on their combined experience over the past 30+ years since Leo sold Fender to CBS (now Fender Musical Instruments). While much of this information can be found on other websites, one thing that is missing from most sites is what happened when G&