LsL was founded in 2008 by me, Lance S. Lerman and my wife, Lisa S. Lerman in the garage of our home. We never intended to go into business but the business kind of made itself.
After a long woodworking career which started in Berkeley, CA in 1978 where I was a banjo teacher at "The Fifth String" music store. I got a chance at a real job with a musical instrument importer/distributor, Saga Musical Instruments in San Francisco as their first employee. The job entailed unpacking imported guitars, banjoes etc, and testing them out, setting them up and repacking them for shipment to music stores. Inevitably some instruments needed some attention and I started doing minor repairs. One thing led to another and I soon got a position at the 5th String as an instrument repairman.
A few years went by and I started D&L Instruments with my partner, Joe Deetz. We made electric guitars and basses for a few years then Joe left the company. I carried on alone for a few more years until I was put out of business by a burglary. I moved the family down to Los Angeles in 1983 and started California Wood Products with the few tools that were too heavy for the burglars to steal. After 16 years in business and with 200 employees what became Sequoia Wood Products, Inc closed in December, 1998. We could just no longer compete with imports from both Mexico and China.
I figured that if you can't beat them, join them so I then went to China with the intention to have some furniture designs made there. It became apparent that if one was going to manufacture a high-quality product in China you had to be there to control the entire process and watch it closely. I spent eight years in China both building factories and running large furniture and woodworking operations.
LsL Instruments was born in the cheap, sweaty, sticky-floored bars in Shanghai and Dongguan, China. No, they're not made in China. Born. While I was in China, I did a fair amount of playing guitar in those very same, cheap, sticky-floored bars. In fact, I re-acquainted myself with the guitar and how I started my long career in woodworking - making guitars.
In China I was running the large woodworking and furniture factory six, long days a week, and at night I was often found playing music in bars. But burning the candle at both ends wasn't working out so well. Not to mention being away from my family. It was time to come home to the U.S.
I had been playing a Fender® Nashville, B-Bender guitar in China but it was time, I felt, to have a real guitar. My wife, Lisa, and I are both lifelong woodworkers so we had a fairly nice, well equipped woodshop in the garage. And since I could not purchase the vintage guitar that I wanted, I figured that I could make it (while continuing my job hunt). Because I had built guitars before, I knew I could do it. So the T Bone was born out of a need (or at least a really, really want) for a guitar that played and sounded like the real thing. You know, the kind of instrument that magically sucks the music out of you. That kind.
I spent months (the job hunt wasn't going all that well) building jigs, templates, measuring, listening and finally building the guitar. I wanted that '52 but there was no way that was going to happen. Mine had to be the same or even better. Then, after a considerable amount of time, the first chord.
Is it me or is this guitar killer? Must be me . . . So I brought her down to Cal Vintage Guitar and Amp and handed it over to one incredible (and honest), guitar player, Tommy Kay. He's the kind of guy who can play anything in any style in any key at any time. And he wouldn't pull any punches with his opinion either. Just what I needed. So I handed it over:
He played. I watched and sweated.
"You made this?", "Yes" I told him.
"You made the body? You made the neck?"
"I made it all. The body, the neck, the pickguard, everything except some of the metal parts." I replied.
"I'm blown away. Can you make another?"
Whew! I did it. It was exactly what I was going for, that ol ’52. And it turned out that a lot of people seemed to agree with Tommy. And LsL was born. Clearly it's been some kind of miracle. I'd actually made the guitar I wanted and it turns out, a lot of other people wanted one, too. The kind of guitar that just sucks the music right out of you!
And we all at LsL continue to do just, exactly that, every day.