When is a Tele not a Tele? Well, when it’s a Leo Fender-made SC-2, among other things. This is a neat guitar my favorite repairman, Doug Lawrance, found here in Texas. This guitar is similar to an ASAT, but has a different body shape and feel. Best of all, these guitars don’t cost what an ASAT runs, new or used. That means it’s Gigmeister-worthy.
Leo Fender’s story is well-chronicled, but his G&L designs show a definite evolution, with some of the earlier ones less stylish than others.
Some of the early-’80s guitars, like the Interceptor, were simply ugly. Others, like the Cavalier, never caught on. Granted, after designing the Strat, the Precision Bass and the Jazz Bass, it could be argued that all of Leo’s cool shape ideas were on permanent loan to Fender. However, in 1983 Leo, along with George Fullerton, decided to create a new line of less-expensive instruments that were still completely professional.
Introduced at the winter NAMM show, the SC-2 was part of a series of guitars and basses. The guitars were available with one, two or three pickups in fixed-bridge or non-locking vibrato models. Two companion basses were similar in shape, with one or two pickups. According to the ads appearing that winter, the SC series are “…a new breed…G&L offers you tomorrow’s treasures at today’s affordable prices.”
The SC-2 has two G&L-designed single-coil pickups with adjustable polepieces. Sharp observers will notice it’s the exact same design as the ASAT, the coveted G&L remake of the venerable Telecaster. In fact, the bridge is also identical, with a black powder-coated finish designed to avoid rusting out. It’s a wonderful design that offers almost an inch of travel for all six saddles in addition to the Strat-influenced dual adjustment screws for height. Another clever arrangement is the oblong hole which the string ball ends thread through, just below the intonation adjustment screw for each saddle. Best of all, the entire affair is sturdy yet comfortable enough for easy palm muting. Unfortunately, Leo’s idea to paint on the serial number was a bad one. This guitar, serial number G014883, is hard to read, even with a magnifying glass.
Finishes on the SC series included red, white and blue. This particular piece began life as white and has yellowed nicely over the years to a sort of stock Fender blond – kinda like a ’60s Telecaster.
The remainder of the guitar shows similar attention to detail. The three-way switch, volume, tone knobs and input jack are all top-mounted on a black metal strip, also black powder-coated for durability. Oversized chrome strap buttons are felt-washered to avoid scratching the paint, and the tuning gears are slot-headed Schallers. The 22-fret neck has a 71/2 degree radius which feels typical of a standard Fender neck, albeit with bigger frets. By this time (1983), enough players had griped about small frets that G&L began installing somewhat larger wire. The neck joins the body just past the 16th fret with three bolts, and Leo’s pet feature, the neck tilt. This enables you to adjust the neck angle without shims, creating a more consistent action all across the fretboard. This also gave Leo the chance to move the truss rod adjustment to the headstock, a move he wanted to do after leaving Fender in 1965. The truss rod can be tightened or loosened without removing the neck or loosening the strings. The SC-2 also includes a common string tree for the three treble strings.
Now that we’ve covered the technical stuff, how does this axe sound? Very Tele-ish, to be sure. The front pickup sounds good, especially with the tone knob rolled back. It won’t be mistaken for a humbucker, but it sounds strong and clean. One big bonus is the individual polepiece adjustments – which lets you balance strings right on the guitar! The back pickup sounds wonderful, as bright and clean as any good Tele should. The middle position is great, with a terrific “clang” that cuts and sounds full-bodied at the same time.
In fact, I’m doing some recording now (8-track) with the SC-2, and it has forced its way onto most of the songs on my new project. I’ve tracked it through an amp with clean and dirty sounds with great results, as well as direct into a dbx 163 compressor into the board. An interesting discovery is that when doubling guitars, you need less bass on a track. I doubled the SC tracks with my Ibanez RG-570 in position four (middle and back pickups) and found myself subtracting bass in the mix. A thinner-sounding guitar like the SC-2 or a Tele panned one direction with a thicker guitar panned the other gets that dense sound heard on so many great recordings.
The SC-2 isn’t the sleekest guitar ever, and it seems clear G&L marketed it as an entry-level pro instrument (how’s that for a misnomer?). Nevertheless, there will be readers who can overlook the cosmetics and listen for themselves. I would also prefer some neater knobs – the stock ones look like they were bought at Radio Shack at 7:30 Saturday night, just before the gig. The body shape could have used some contouring – it’s not as comfortable to play and hold as a Strat. Also the body size on a full-scale neck looks a bit small.
These picayune quibbles in no way detract from the SC-2. It’s an excellent guitar for many types of music, including country, roots rock, blues, alternative and even pop. Those of you playing country, for example, who want a Tele sound without the Tele styling may find the SC-2 to be just the ticket. Happy hunting!
A tip of the Gigmeister hat to my buddy Doug Lawrance – e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him at (817) 496-TUBE, and he might sell this guitar to you.
The G&L SC-2. Photo: Angelica Wilson.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’97 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.