Fender: "the real thing"
Where to begin ? Here's a very rough time line with my opinion.
My 75' precision is very good and cool. I've delved deeper into Fender P's - older years but with all due respect they don't sound any better to me. Mine is as much the real thing as I'll want.
So then Leo left Fender (what year was it?) and worked on some Music Man basses right ? I don't like them even though I have played them and tried to like them. Are they the real thing? Yes and no. Yet, they are very high quality.
Then Leo did the G&L gig. I suppose these are a culmination of some of Leo's previous designs. These are the basses I like the most. I have 2 (that I've modified extensively) and they far surpass my 75' in many ways. My 75' just sits there for history now - respectfully. Are G&L basses are the real thing ? Yes and no. Was Leo still designing basses when he died ?
I'm glad that mine were both made at the original factory in Fullerton, Ca.
There's some bones for us to chew on here at TB. ;)
You are comparing Apples and Oranges for the "real thing" If you are tying everything to Leo Fender on that basis, then Fender is the "real thing". Music Man was short lived under Leo Fender before it was sold to Ernie Ball. Once again tying it to Leo Fender, only the Music Products under his time of owning the company are the "real thing". Same is true with G&L. G&L was the "real thing" when Leo Fender was still alive. Someone more knowledgeable than me can correct me, but I think Leo Fender only had a hand in earlier G&L products. Like I said, apples and oranges.
The answer is simple: play the basses you like best.
If you like G&L better, play them. They're what moves you.
I have 1963 P that I've owned since 1967. It's a nice bass, but its main advantage is that it's lighter than most P-basses. Sound-wise, I have new basses that are every bit as nice. I often play other basses in preference to it.
However, since I have owned it since the 60's, it was my first electric bass, my parents bought it for me, and I enjoy playing it, I keep it. And I don't feel a bit guilty about not making it the bass I worship.
I have a dozen basses, but none of them are absolutely "the real thing". I really don't believe in "the real thing" for me, just bases I like and some I don't like.
When I grab one to play because I like the feel and sound, I'm likely to grab the cheapest bass I own - my Squier Bronco with a Gretsch 2202 pickup in it. It's a sweetheart. So I may play it while my 1963 P and brand new Gretsch Thunderjet sit in their stands.
After a long hiatus, I'm back to playing Gibson. I still play a Jazz Bass for blues but my Gibson's for everything else.
I am not sure I am on the correct forum but
Just in terms of history, Leo sold Fender to CBS in 1965 when he had health issues. He signed a 10 year non-compete clause and stayed on (I believe) as a consultant for a few years before leaving entirely. He formed Tri-Sonix in 1971 with Forrest White & Tom Walker with Leo just designing amps due to the non-compete clause. Musicman was founded in 1975 after the 10 years was up.
I think the OP's premise is a little shaky. Mind you, I'm a big fan of Fender, and have so owned or currently own a Jazz, a '51 reissue P, three split-coil Ps, a G&L Tribute L2000 and a Stingray 5. Every one of them is a successful design, with only my personal preferences ranking them from best to less than best.
But while Leo designed the instruments, it often fell to his successors to make them right. An example is the original MusicMan instruments which reportedly toward the end of Fender's tenure left the factory with rusty hardware, poor finishes and truss rods that were impossible to adjust. A good friend had a Fender-era Stingray, and it was a wreck with a truss rod that broke when it was being adjusted and failed electronics. Ernie Ball stepped in and made the Stingray what is is today: a high-quality instrument with body contours (Leo built 'em as slabs) and introduced the Stingray 5 in addition.
G&L had a happier history under Fender, but he was not interested in running a big factory at that point, so it has never become the large operation the Fender company has evolved into.
Again, I love Fender basses: I traded off the Jazz because of its narrow nut, and the L2K just didn't sound as good as my Precisions; and my Stingray 5, even if a little hefty, is a unique voice in my arsenal.
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