|A good example of Leo versus Leo are his student
model guitars. Specifically, let's look at the mid-60s Fender Mustang, Duo-Sonic
II, and Bronco as well as the early '80s G&L SC-1 and SC-2.
The Mustang/Duo-Sonic II were introduced in 1964 as part of
a revised student model line-up for Fender. The two guitars were essentially
the same with the exception of the tailpiece: Dynamic Vibrato for the Mustang;
3-saddle hardtail bridge for the Duo-Sonic II. The bodies were generally
made of alder and were downsized and slightly "melted" versions of the Stratocaster
shape. The bodies did not have a back contour. The 24-inch scale maple necks
were fitted with a rosewood fingerboard. Pickups were alnico magnet single
coil and controls consisted master tone, master volume, and selector switches
for each pickup. For more details, refer to Tim Pershing's definitive articles
in the December 1996 and January 1997 issues of TCG.
Introduced in 1982, the SC-2 was Leo's modern version of the
Mustang/Duo-Sonic II. Like its predecessors, it filled the role of "student
model" in the G&L catalog. The SC-2 was available with a Dual Fulcrum
vibrato or Saddle-Lock hardtail bridge. The body was made of maple which
is an unusual choice (though Rickenbacker, another SoCal guitar maker, uses
it quite effectively). The earliest versions from 1982 -83 had a very Mustang-like
body shape, but that was changed on the later models to a small, but Strat-like
shape. Neither body style had a contour back. The fretted maple necks had
a full 25.5-inch scale length. Pickups were Leo's sizzling hot soapbar "Magnetic
Field Design" single coil units. These pickups eventually found their way
to the ever-popular ASAT model which is still currently in production.
Controls were simple - master volume, master tone and a 3-way
pickup selector switch.
Although it was introduced in 1967, the Bronco was reportedly designed
by Leo Fender as a replacement for the Musicmaster II while he still owned
FEI. The story goes that CBS put the project on hiatus until they could get
back orders of existing models filled. In an interesting twist of fate, the
Bronco replaced the Duo-Sonic II instead of the Musicmaster.
The Bronco shares the same body (though with different cavity
routes) and 24-inch scale neck with the Mustang, but has a single pickup
in the bridge position. It also sports a different vibrato tailpiece - one
that was designed specifically for the Bronco. At first glance the bridge
looks quite cheesy, but when set up properly it works better than Mustang's
Dynamic Vibrato unit.
The Bronco's design obviously stayed in Leo's head because
it is reflected in the G&L SC-1. This model is essentially an SC-2 without
the neck pickup. All other parts and hardware are the same. Like the SC-2,
it was available as a hardtail or with a vibrato tail, the latter being
fairly rare. In fact, the SC-1 and SC-2 models are rather uncommon with
production totaling only several hundred units. That's a drop in the bucket
compared to the thousands of Mustangs made by Fender.
Now for the sonic showdown. Without doubt, the Fender student
models sound typically "Fendery". The alnico pickups are not particularly
hot, but the tone is sweet with a slightly compressed sound. The Mustang
and Duo-Sonic II will produce some rather rubbery "in-between" tones thanks
to the fancy switchgear. Despite having single coil pickup in the bridge-only
position, the Bronco sounds surprisingly good and is far more versatile than
one would believe.
The G&Ls, on the other hand, have Leo's sizzling hot ceramic
"Magnetic Field Design" single coil pickups. These sound a bit "hard" compared
to most alnico pickups, but the tone is still harmonically rich. The SC-2
and SC-1, therefore, sound more modern. The SC-2, a favorite of Devo guitarist
Bob Mothersbaugh, is essentially a small version of G&L's ASAT model
and, not surprisingly, sounds very similar. The G&Ls have more twang factor,
too, thanks to the pickups, maple body and fretted maple neck.
So did Leo out gun himself? Yes and no. The main advantage
of the Mustang, Duo-Sonic II and Bronco was their 24-inch scale (and a 22.5-inch
scale was a factory option up to about 1970). This made them realistic guitars
for kids or people with small hands. The pickups on these models sound quite
good, too. The biggest drawback was the lower quality hardware and tuning
stability. The shorter scale may be easier to play, but it's more difficult
to keep the guitar in tune. Overall, the Fenders feel a little crude. Vintage,
but not very refined. The build quality of the Fender student models was
good until around 1966 when things went downhill fast for the student models
(even more so than the pro-level Fender models).
On the other hand, the G&L student models were essentially
slightly downsized versions of their pro-level siblings. They had full scale
lengths and used the same hardware as the more expensive G&L models.
While the scale length may not have been as user friendly to a 6-year old,
the pro-level appointments made them appealing to intermediate players looking
for a pro-level guitar at a no-frills price. In addition, the build quality
of the G&Ls remained very high and the guitars feel and play like the
As student models, Leo's second round of budget guitars may
or may not be superior to his earlier work. But to the average player, the
G&Ls are far superior to the Fenders.
About the author: Greg Gagliano proudly plays like a student
on his student model Fenders and G&Ls.