Leo George has always loved the sound of 12-string guitar. After hearing Pete Seeger's interpretations of Huddie Ledbetter, George got his first 12-string, a Gibson B-45-12 in 1966. A Naval Academy classmate, Marvin Wiles, had owned the same model guitar before he was shot down over Vietnam. George has thought of his own 12-string as Marv ever since.
This 12-string baritone guitar was inspired by Leo Kottke's Louise. George tells us, "I first heard him play this on his custom Bozo twelve-string, tuned down two full steps plus a 'drop-Bb' tuning. Consequently I think of the Alembic baritone twelve as Leo."
Leo's design was patterned after Jimmy, George's custom 5-string Europa bass. Jimmy is named after Jimmy Blanton, who George calls "the best bassist Duke Ellington ever had.
"To come up with the feature set, I studied all the pictures in past COTMs and factory-to-customer listings. Then it was a matter of taking Susan’s advice on what would and wouldn’t work together. (Thanks, Susan :-)!)"
He also worked closely with Paul Schein of Washington Music Center. Paul and George grew up across the street from one another in Silver Spring, Maryland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Paul has sold many instruments to George and all four of his sons. We hear soon George's grandsons might come into the musical world, likely with an introduction to Paul. "Paul and I talked regularly for the specification and during the gestation of my Alembic customs," George tells us. "I wouldn’t trust anyone else with these instruments."

Geo inlay Geo has been George's nickname since the days of sharing time on mainframe computers. We've rendered it here to mimic the uncial hand and maintain the pen nib effect in abalone.
To coordinate with the rest of the traditional Alembic ovals, we've inlaid a tidy ring of sterling silver around Geo. A similar inlay appears on Jimmy.
concealed hardware bridge In order to squeeze twelve saddles with independent intonation in such a small space, the concealed hardware bridge is a necessity (though it sure looks good too). Instead of the stabilizing pin and the intonation screw being side by side, in Leo's bridge they are stacked. Intonation is accomplished by adjusting the captive screw through the upper hole with a hex driver.
Just barely visible is the top edge of half-moon tailpiece where pairs of strings share a single slot. We've made tailpieces with an individual slot for each string on 12-string guitars before, and found sharing is more elegant.

truss rod cover The continuous wood truss rod cover keeps those neck laminates in open sight. "One key decision," George recounts about the design process, "was whether or not to go for book-match-to-center. On one hand, it’s a shame to waste that lush cocobolo. On the other hand, the Flame Maple neck with triple Ebony laminates deserves to be seen too. Given the woods you put together, I think the exposed neck is the right call."
MXY pickups give plenty of coverage for the strings, and match the pickups on Jimmy. Controls are kept simple, with a 3-position pickup selector switch, volume, filter and Q switch for tone controls. There's also an on/off switch to operate the side LEDs.

continuous wood backplate Made much like the continuous wood truss rod cover, the continuous wood backplates are stacked up from veneers that we made from the woods used on the guitar, each five layers thick. Gluing these layers together makes the plates much stronger than if they were made from solid wood.
Since the wood plates replace what is normally solid brass, the reduced weight is a welcomed side effect of adding this beautiful feature.

peghead peghead
We made the veneers for the front and back of Leo's peghead from the same Coco Bolo board that we constructed the front and back body laminates for a perfect match in color and figure.
The interior veneers are alternating layers of Maple and Vermilion that correlate with the accent laminates in the body.
Designing a new peghead shape was necessary since this was the first 12-string baritone guitar we made. The neck is a little wider than a regular 12-string, and we wanted to keep the peghead as small as possible to reduce the weight and coordinate with the sleek Spectrum body shape.

Wood Swirly, swirly Coco Bolo just doesn't get any better than this. There's lots of contrast between the orange-red and nearly black grain and lots of interesting figure to loose yourself in.
As a true Dalbergia Rosewood, Coco Bolo has a remarkable tone that is very complex. George couldn't agree more. "In terms of musical appeal, you should hear it with a drop-A tuning, cranked up through my bass rig!"

sandwich Hippie sandwiches are yummy! We made this one with a stack of:
  • Coco Bolo top
  • Maple accent laminate
  • Vermilion pinstripe
  • Flame Maple core
  • Vermilion pinstripe
  • Maple accent laminate
  • Coco Bolo back
logo The Sterling silver inlaid logo has mother of pearl in the Alembic cloud and abalone in the circle formed by the dragon. It's recessed under the finish, and undetectable to the touch.
The string nut is held fast with an achor screw like our standard adjustable nut. This one can be raised by placing shims between the nut and the baseplate - but that's unlikely to be necessary since the chrome plating is harder than the brass and will take much longer to wear.

We heard from George that his coffee mug from his days as a Navy fighter pilot at N.A.S. Miramar in San Diego might be up for retirement this month. After 42 years, he'll be bringing a Leo mug to class every morning. It's an honor for us, George, that you would think so highly of the guitar we made for you. We sure love Leo, and it's great to know that you love Leo too.

Front Back


  • Spectrum 12-string baritone guitar
  • Coco Bolo top and back
  • Western Flame Maple body core
  • Western Flame Maple, Rock Maple and Ebony neck
  • Ebony fingerboard with abalone oval inlays
  • Custom "GEO" inlay at twelfth fret
  • Chrome plated hardware
  • Volume, filter, Q-switch, 3-position pickup selector switch
  • Side LEDs in red
  • Silver inlaid logo with mother of pearl and abalone
  • Sold by:
    Washington Music Center
    11151 Viers Mill Road
    Wheaton, MD 20902
    (301) 946-8808
    (301) 933-4438 fax

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Text © 2008 Alembic, Inc., photographs of guitar © 2007 Alembic, Inc.
Gibson is a registered trademark of Gibson Guitar Corporation.

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