A cable pioneer’s legacy lives on
While serving onboard the USS West Virginia, a young sailor named George Lewis survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to a career in the music industry. With his uncanny ear for guitar tone, George made his name with Nashville’s legendary Sho-Bud Pedal Steel Guitars and went on to become part-owner of GHS Strings, pioneering string-making techniques that are still employed today. Amazingly, though, the industry best remembers George Lewis for something else on top of all that: as the “George” behind George L’s instrument cables. In 1973 George and his wife Mona founded what’s acknowledged to be the first “high end” cable company, delivering a cable without humming, crackling, buzzing, or line loss, and changing how musicians hear their sound. “This alone was a miracle,” says George’s daughter Kimberly Lewis, who now co-owns George L’s with her sister Leesa Lewis. “But many people have no idea we hold a prominent spot in steel guitar history.”
Today George L’s specializes in fully U.S.-made cables along with strings, pickups, and steel guitar accessories based on George Lewis’s innovations. Among numerous awards, George L’s cables were named #1 in sound quality by Guitar Player magazine. Its products are sold around the globe, with a total of 94 distributors worldwide. “Put your finger on the map,” says Kimberly, “and we have a distributor there.”
For Kimberly and Leesa Lewis, who took ownership of the business when their father passed away in 2009, the music industry has been way of life. As girls they worked the counter at Sho-Bud’s retail store on Broadway in Nashville, and in 1970 they attended their first NAMM show with GHS Strings. As owners of George L’s they’ve only expanded the company’s global scope, hitting virtually every foreign trade show and, increasingly, keeping a handle on the business via video conferencing and the web. “Now I can reach ten customers around the world before I’ve had my second cup of coffee, and I haven’t even packed a bag,” says Kimberly.
It sounds simple, but Kimberly and Leesa say that what sets George L’s above the competition is still what their father taught them about customer service. As Kimberly recounted, “Our Chinese distributor, who sells hundreds of pedals, once told me that everyone says the same thing when he mentions George L’s: They smile and say, ‘That’s the best company I work with.’ I knew that meant I had done my job and done it well.” The George L’s tradition entered its third generation when Kimberly’s two sons, Kahler and Karrington Williams, started working for the company full time as coil winders and pickup makers. Both learned the business over 14 years of traveling the world with George L’s. “It’s hard to find a third generation of any kind working in the industry today,” says Kimberly. “They are our greatest asset.”
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