G&L - a Legacy of Engineering and Design
About Paul Gagon
Within a year of working at Fender, as the lead technician on the amplifier line, I was transferred up to production engineering. Within a year of that I was moved over into Fender R&D. During the next five years I was involved in guitar pickup and electronics design. The first notable product I developed was the Fender TBX (Tone Boost Expansion) control. This control was designed to perform two functions. First, it altered the loading effect on the pickup coil. Second, it controlled the lowering of the pickup's resonant frequency. This design became my first patent. A bit later I developed the Fender MDX (Mid Boost Expansion) circuit which was a mid-boost preamp for guitar.
Both the TBX and MDX were highlighted in the Fender Elite Stratocaster, and both of these controls were chosen by Eric Clapton to be on his signature model Stratocaster. For me, this was thrilling beyond belief as Eric Clapton is my all time favorite guitarist.
In 1980, I took on the project of evaluating Fender's entire pickup manufacturing process. This included spending countless hours researching not only the pickups that were currently being manufactured but evaluating Fender pickups from the early years as well. I managed to collect an incredible amount of data from my own dissection of vintage pickups and many hours of interviewing employees from the pickup department, many of whom worked for Leo Fender during the late '50s and early '60s. I can still recall the conversations I had with Abigail Ybarra about how Fender made pickups in the early years. She showed me the old work bench where she sat to wind the original Fender pickups. I remember how stunned I was when she told me that no one had ever asked her about Fender pickups before. I was in awe as I listened to the stories of her winding pickups for the man himself, Leo Fender.
The mid '80s was a financially tough time for Fender and most of the people I associated with were let go and moved on to other jobs.
I was very fortunate to have met Grover Jackson around 1984. We quickly hit it off and became close friends. When my time at Fender had come to a close, it only took one phone call to my buddy Grover Jackson and I was set. Next stop, Charvel/Jackson and the ride of my life.
Working with Grover at Charvel/Jackson was like strapping myself onto a rocket. Everything was moving at high speed. At any given time, some amazing guitar player would just show up to hang out at the shop and talk about guitars, amps, pickups, effects, whatever. Next thing I know, I’m designing and building a guitar switching pedal for Steve Vai, next it’s an effects rack switching bank for Vinnie Vincent, then up to San Francisco to hand deliver a custom tube guitar preamp to Neil Schon of Journey. One of the highlights of this type of crazy, high speed, life style was finding myself in a hotel room with Jeff Beck and his manager showing Jeff a new guitar-to-midi converter that we were developing under the Charvel name. I remember thinking to myself……I’m hanging out in Jeff Beck's hotel room…….how on earth did I ever get here?