Founded by bassist Dan Lakin and luthier Hugh McFarland in 1994, the company's name, pronounced "lake-land", is a portmanteau of "Lakin" and "McFarland", the surnames of its founders.
Lakin and McFarland began developing the first Lakland prototype in January 1994 and showed it later that year at the July 1994 NAMM Show.
The pair launched Lakland in 1994 with a $20,000 home equity loan and Lakland basses went into production in the United States in 1995. In 1996, the company became a unit of A. Lakin & Sons, Inc., a tire recycling company founded by Lakin's grandfather Abraham Lakin in 1919.
McFarland left Lakland in 1997. In 2001, Lakland introduced the Skyline Series, a lower-priced alternative to its U.S.-made basses. Manufactured in South Korea, the Skyline Series helped the company break even for the first time in 2003. Production of Skyline Series basses was moved to Indonesia in 2008.
In April 2010 the company was acquired by Chicago-based Hanson Musical Instruments. Hanson, a maker of electric guitars and electric guitar and bass pickups and electronics, had been Lakland's primary supplier of bass pickups and preamp products since 2005. Lakland was renamed Lakland Guitars LLC and while the Lakland brand name remains, signature model names—such as the Bob Glaub, Duck Dunn and Joe Osborn basses—were given numeric designations. Lakland executive John Pirruccello was named president.
Owners of Lakland basses and others interested in the Lakland company and its products formed The Lakland Owners Group. It is not affiliated with Lakland Guitars, LLC.
Lakin and McFarland began designing the first prototype in 1994. Made of ash and a quilted maple top, rock maple neck, and maple fingerboard, the prototype was a blend of elements from a Fender Jazz Bass and an early MusicMan Stingray. Its similarity to Fender's Jazz Bass drew a cease-and-desist order from Fender for trademark infringement.
The prototype's electronics were inspired by a Bass Player magazine review of the Warwick Dolphin bass. Pickups were supplied by Bartolini and the bass featured Lakland's characteristic oval bridge plate. Originally made of aluminum, McFarland later replaced the bridge with one fashioned from chrome-plated steel.
Lakland currently manufactures a U.S.-made line of basses called the "U.S. Series", and a lower-priced Indonesian-made line called the "Skyline Series".
Lakin conceived of a signature model bass in 1997. A bass player himself and a fan of bassist Joe Osborn, Lakin contacted Osborn after reading an article about him in Bass Player magazine. Osborn, known for his 1960 Fender Jazz Bass, collaborated with Lakin and a team that included luthier Michael Tobias on what would become a vintage Jazz bass-style 4-string bass known originally as the Joe Osborn Signature model and equipped with Lindy Fralin pickups.
Other signature models were developed in collaboration with bassists Geezer Butler, Jerry Scheff, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Darryl Jones and Bob Glaub.
The Donald "Duck" Dunn and Bob Glaub signature models remain in production under the names 44-64 Custom, and 44-64/55-64, respectively.
The Lakland Hollowbody is a dual-pickup, hollow-body electric bass guitar designed in conjunction with luthier Michael Tobias. The bass is constructed of carved mahogany for the back and sides and of maple for the top and neck. The fingerboard is made of rosewood. Current models are equipped with two of Lakland's Chi-Sonic pickups. The body of the bass is completely hollow with no supporting center block.
The Lakland Decade is a dual-pickup, solid-body electric bass guitar released in 2004 to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary. The U.S. Series Decade is available in a variety of configurations. The Skyline series is constructed of a mahogany body, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard and equipped with Lakland's Chi-Sonic pickups.
Lakland U.S. Series basses are manufactured by Lakland in the United States.
Current U.S. Series models include:44-94: Lakland's first bass
55-94: Lakland's first 5-string bass, featuring a 35-inch scale neck
Decade: a dual-pickup bass created to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary
44-60/55-60: the first Lakland signature model, a vintage Jazz bass-style bass formerly known as the Joe Osborn Signature and available in 4- and 5-string models
44-64/55-64: a vintage Precision-style bass formerly known as the Bob Glaub Signature and available in 4- and 5-string models
44-64 Custom: a 4-string bass combining a Precision-style body and a Jazz-style neck, formerly known as the Duck Dunn Signature
44-51/44-51M: 4- and 5-string basses inspired by the first Fender Precision Bass which debuted in 1951
44-AJ/55-AJ: an active Jazz-style bass available in 4- and 5-string models
Hollowbody: a dual-pickup, hollow-body bass designed in conjunction with luthier Michael Tobias
55-69 Tetsuya: a pink-finished 5-string bass designed in collaboration with L'Arc-en-Ciel bassist Tetsuya and Japanese electric guitar and bass manufacturer ESP
Lakland introduced its lower-priced Skyline Series of basses in 2001.
Originally manufactured in South Korea, Skyline Series basses are currently built in Indonesia and Korea. The first two digits of the serial number on a Skyline Series-bass indicates the year it was built. Skyline Series basses are shipped to Lakland's U.S. facility for the installation of electronics and final inspection and set-up.
In 2001, Lakland introduced the Korean (Indonesian since 2008) made Skyline Series. Developed with the help of importer-exporter Westheimer Corp., the midrange Skyline Series is constructed using North American wood and features the same overall design as the US basses (excluding the graphite reinforcement on the 4-string necks, all necks being half-sawn instead of quarter-sawn, acrylic nuts instead of bone, no left-hand models, no alder body wood option, and in far fewer colors) but is cut, finished, and assembled overseas. Once the instrument arrives in Chicago, the company's builders work to install its electronics and make sure the frets are leveled within specification of Lakland's US models. Lakland currently uses the PLEK setup and leveling system. The Skyline 44-02 and 55-02 models originally contained the USA Bartolini MMJ pickups and NTMB preamp, the same system that was in the USA 4-94 and 55-94 basses. Currently all of those models (4-94, 55-94, 44-02, 55-02) contain the Lakland-Hanson LH3 system. The Skyline 44-01 and 55-01 models contain the Korean Bartolini MK1 pickups and preamp. The Osborn, Scheff, and Jones signature models previously featured Hipshot-licensed tuners and Lakland-Hanson custom pickups. (Previously Lakland used Aero or Lindy Fralin pickups.)
The Lakland Shoreline Series is manufactured in Japan to Lakland USA specs by the Japanese guitar company ESP, and is available for sale exclusively in Japan.
ESP also manufactures the Skyline Series, much the same way as they produce their own Edwards range. These are a slightly lower cost option in the MIJ line-up; Much of the rough cutting, and routing and rough finishing is carried out in Korea (not in Japan), where as the final finishing, assembly and installation of pick-ups is completed in Japan. Most Japanese Skyline series such as the Skyline 44-AJ feature Duncan Design pick-ups and the Bartolini ME-1 pre amp, they are very good for the money.