How did the Custom Creations
Department get started?
What started with Leo continues to thrive today...
G&L is a company with rich
ties to tradition. Founded
by none other than George
Fullerton and Leo Fender,
G&L has started their
own tradition by creating
updated, modern interpretations
of classic designs.
This closely follows founder
Leo Fender’s ethic of continuing
refinement, never resting
on laurels, and always striving
to find a better way to
While many players today
are familiar with G&L and
their more popular models,
like the Legacy and iconic
ASAT, what some may not
be aware of is G&L’s Custom
established in 1998 as a
creative outlet for the company’s
craftsmen to produce
runs of special instruments.
Premier Guitar recently had
the opportunity to sit down
with Dayv Chavez, Product
Manager for G&L, for a talk
about the Custom Creations
Department, a bit about
G&L’s history, and a few
hints at what is in store.
The department was built with the idea of
creating Limited Edition instruments with
options that aren’t available on any of our
other guitars. G&L has many talented and
creative musicians, and there have always
been animated discussions between them
about how they’d like to customize a G&L.
Sometimes the ideas are purely functional
and tonal, and sometimes they involve a
major cosmetic departure. We realized it
would be fun and rewarding to enable our
people to realize their dream G&Ls. Some
CCD designs we build in one run and
leave them be; with others we choose to
leave the door open for a future run.
With the Limited Edition instruments, we
do runs of them from time to time; we’ll
do 100 at a time, and maybe a year later
we’ll do another 100, maybe in a different
fashion, not necessarily the same way.
With the Special Build instruments, our
builders are given the freedom to take
the time to develop something that is
a little more off the cuff than what we
So the CCD doesn’t really have a custom
shop aspect where someone could
call and request one to be made?
No, and the reason for that is that we pretty
much are a semi-custom shop – there’s a
list of options where any of our dealers can
call up and say, “I want this build, with this
kind of neck, this kind of wood, and this
kind of finish,” at no extra charge.
We haven’t ruled out the possibility of
allowing customers to customize products
through the CCD, but we are not a true,
full-fledged custom shop. These days some
companies call themselves, or some part
of their operation, a “custom shop” but
there is no clear definition of what “custom”
means and consequently the term is
abused. We strive to be authentic, so that’s
why you don’t hear us calling ourselves a
Have you ever had an order that came
through that helped spawn an idea for
a Special Build or Limited Edition?
There are so many orders that have
had some influence on the CCD that it
wouldn’t be fair to try to pick just one.
However, one that comes to mind is our
ASAT Classic BluesBoy. That actually came
about by a dealer who requested that we
build an ASAT with a humbucker, kind of in
a Keith Richards style. It turned out to be
such a success and many dealers started
asking for it, so we ended up adding it to
our normal roster.
Customers may also trigger some train of
thought which germinates into a vision. Take
our ASAT Special with the big Magnetic
Field Design pickups. People new to the
G&L scene have described this guitar
as the “one with the P-90 pickups,” but
despite a similar appearance, they’re not the
same design. One of our guys thought it
would be cool to build an ASAT Special
with Gibson-esqe cues just to play on
the visual similarity the big MFD pickups
share with P-90s. The idea was an instant
hit with our crew, so with some tinkering
and chambering the body, our ASAT Junior
is to be able
to release one
new model every
quarter – either a
or Special Build.”
The Special Build guitars kind of seem
like a free-for-all. What is the
process in developing these?
The development process is the same
for both Limited Edition and Special Build
models. The difference is that at the beginning
of the process, the CCD has to make
a judgment as to whether a concept will be
strictly limited or open for another run sometime
in the future. The ASAT Junior was
really special to us but it just felt right to
go Limited Edition. Other concepts, like our
ASAT Classic S, seem to us like we should
keep the door open. It’s ubjective, but once
the decision is made we stick by it.
Who determines how many pieces are
going to be in any given run?
The Custom Creations Department does,
and they prefer to keep the quantity low,
usually 100 pieces or less. If it’s something
that deserves a larger number, such as
our 25th Anniversary model, of which we
made 250, we stretch out the production
of the model so that we don’t jack up the
lead time on our custom orders. The idea
is to keep the run short and still have a
sense of excitement about it, and then
right away get the neurons firing over the
next cool instrument.
Can people get the Custom Creations
Department guitars straight from G&L,
or do they have to go through the
Everything is done through our dealers.
Customers can feel more than happy to
give us a call if they want to figure out
how to configure their instrument, as a lot
of people have questions about things like
tonal nuances. They can then go back to
the dealer and definitively say, “this is what
I want.” We recommend that everybody
get acquainted with a dealer. We take pride
in the quality of our dealers, and they’re
capable of fielding just about any question
about custom orders.
Are the people that work in the
Custom Creations Department the
same people working in the regular
All of the instruments are built in the
same factory, and everyone in the factory
shares all the work as it comes through.
If it comes from the Custom Creations
Department, there’s not just one guy in
particular that works on them specifically,
because everybody that we have there is
a complete craftsman, 100%.
However, normally there is one person
there who will take the lead in the
outcome of that instrument. They’ll be
somebody who’s more specialized in the
area and will father the instrument from
concept to fruition. This makes it even
more fulfilling for the CCD crew, because
if it’s your baby and you’ve championed it,
you’re going to want to be sure it comes
out just as you’d imagined.
Do you see the CCD instruments as
guitars mainly for playing, or are they
more of a collector’s item?
I think it’s both, I mean these instruments
really have a special quality to them, and
a lot of people will say to us that they
wish they had two because they like to
play the thing so much. So I think it’s both
at the same time – they end up playing
them, but they also end up taking very
good care of them.
You mentioned breaking out of the
mold a little bit. Is G&L getting away
from more of the traditional stuff? For
instance, can we look forward to some
more non-traditional shapes, along the
lines of the Interceptor, in the future?
It’s interesting that you bring that up,
because this year in particular that’s
kind of the route that we’re taking. We
feel the time is right to start bringing
back some of Leo’s earlier G&L shapes
and designs, but improved as he would
expect. Without going into specific
details – we want people to be excited
when they see them – we do have
a couple of instruments that will be
launched this year which are modern versions
of some of the early instruments
G&L made – for example, the F-100,
G&L’s first model, and possibly the SC-2.
You’re going to see modernized versions
of these instruments; we’re bringing
them into the present.
We also have a Comanche 6 Studio
coming, based on Leo’s first rendition of
the Comanche, which has the split coil
pickups and six switches. Three switches
turn the pickups on and off, while the
other three turn separate coils on and off
on the individual pickups. It gets pretty
interesting with all of the different pickup
combinations you can coax out of that.
You guys have quite the legacy with
Leo Fender and George Fullerton; how
big is your responsibility to that legacy
when you’re coming up with new
designs for the CCD?
We did a photo shoot with Phyllis Fender
recently, and I asked Phyllis if she had
some of the instruments that Leo kept
around from the golden era. She said that
he never saved anything, and he would
say that he didn’t keep any of those
instruments because every instrument
that he would make after was always
going to be better, so why have an inferior
At G&L, our goal is to always raise the
bar, making ever better instruments,
advancing the technology in the instruments
and production, and in a broader
sense, bring musicians the finest instruments
available. This is the mantra that
we’ve adopted from Leo. Leo said that
“G&L instruments are the finest I have
ever made,” and our idea is to continue
on with that same spirit. I must admit
it did take a while to grapple with the
powerful legacy we had to manage.
Fortunately, George has been very helpful
as a mentor for us for the physical and
functional aspects of the instruments,
while Phyllis has been a philosophical
mentor, keeping us grounded.
But do you ever feel pressure to stay
with more traditional shapes because
of where your company has come
In terms of tradition, the shapes of our
Legacy and our ASAT are definitely staples
of Leo’s. What is exciting for us is the way
time has changed the perception of G&L’s
earlier designs, such as the F-100, G-200,
SC series and others. Fifteen years ago,
our customers had virtually no interest
in those shapes; they wanted traditional
shapes from G&L. Now our customers
are showing more interest in the earlier
shapes, and we’re thrilled that we can
bring back the roots of the line. These are
good times for us.