After Leo Fender sold his eponymous company to CBS in 1965, he was inspired to break new ground in the guitar industry. Ambitious and eager to pioneer fresh concepts elsewhere, Leo founded the CLF Research company, which designed and manufactured instruments for Music Man in the ’70s. By the end of the decade though, Leo had a strong desire to once again form an independent musical instrument company — G&L Guitars!
In a position to have full creative control, Leo took the formulas he had spent years developing and refined them even further. Creating a number of original models, Leo boldly dubbed his new products “the best instruments I have ever made”. However, many of G&L’s instruments closely resemble the designs from Leo’s first company — especially their Legacy and S-500 models.
Closely adhering to the traditional S-type, the electronics and hardware appointments featured on these instruments would prove to validate Leo’s claim. Cutting-edge at the time and still relevant today, innovations like the ‘Dual-Fulcrum’ tremolo and ‘Magnetic Field Design’ (MFD) pickups pushed the boundaries of traditional guitar design. Other companies have since taken inspiration from them, and thus Leo Fender’s legacy continues to live on through G&L.
The G&L Legacy is viewed as the more traditional of the two instruments. Produced from 1992 (after Leo’s death), Legacy models sport a number of the forward-thinking features found on most G&Ls, but a few elements of their design echo the construction of classic S-style guitars. Somewhat bridging the gap between modern and traditional, let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the G&L Legacy.
Most G&L USA Fullerton Deluxe Legacy models are constructed from Leo’s favoured combination of tonewoods: Alder (body) and Maple (neck). Alder serves as an excellent foundation for the sparkly-sounding pickups, as it sounds balanced and produces a fairly pronounced mid-range. Maple, on the other hand, is adored for its brightness and gives notes a vibrant and snappy character. This is further accentuated by a bolt-on neck joint.
This type of construction is, of course, synonymous with the instruments from Leo’s first company. For extra variety though, selected G&L Legacy models are available with different body and fingerboard materials — depending on the finish option. For example, the Sonic Blue version has a Western Sugar Pine body instead, and other models sport Caribbean Rosewood fingerboards.
G&L Legacy guitars from the more affordable Tribute Series are slightly different. To keep costs down, certain models will feature standard Rosewood fingerboards instead of the premium Caribbean Rosewood found on their US-made counterparts. And dependent on their colour finishes, these guitars either come with Sassafras or Poplar bodies — the latter popular for its light weight.
Electronics & Hardware
Most G&L Legacy guitars feature CLF-100 Alnico single-coils, instead of the MFD pickups installed in most of G&L’s instruments. Designed to capture the essence of that vintage ’60s sound, these medium-output pickups have potent mids to ensure extra clarity. If you’re looking for a guitar that projects that unmistakable S-type sound, these pickups really deliver the goods!
Despite the old-school sounds that they provide, Legacy models are fitted with G&L’s flexible ‘PTB Tone System’. Unlike conventional tone controls that simply reduce the treble frequencies, the PTB System is a lot more intuitive and gives you greater control over the EQ of your pickups. Essentially made up of two master tone controls, one knob decreases the treble like a standard tone knob, while the other rolls off the bass frequencies (like a high-pass filter). This system therefore gives you far more sonic legroom.
The innovations don’t just end at the Legacy’s electronics. That’s because these guitars also boast G&L’s Dual-Fulcrum vibrato. This beautifully-machined bridge is considered a far more practical alternative to the traditional 6-screw tremolo. With its 2-point design, this results in lower friction for a smoother playing action. The raised design of the Dual-Fulcrum tremolo also allows you to slightly raise the pitch, while the brass inserts and string saddles yield more top-end clarity and greater sustain.