This small enterprise was founded by Randy Curlee around 1975 in Matteson. The name S.D. Curlee came from the three original designers, Sonny Storbeck, Randy Dritz and Randy Curlee. This independent entrepreneur built and sold around 15,000 handcrafted instruments, including 12,000 bass guitars, between 1975 and 1982. Curlee wanted to offer a quality built instrument at an affordable price. Advertising campaigns were rather scarce: only a handful of ads exist. A rather classy 8 page color affair from 1979 and a few black-and-white flyers were distributed.
During these years, the Curlee brand was also licensed to Hondo. S.D. Curlee was one of the first instrument manufacturers to use this approach to the issue of unlicenced copies of premium brands. Many other instrument companies subsequently followed its lead, such as the Fender's Squier brand of Asian-manufactured products and, more recently, the OLP brand of licensed MusicMan products.
During the early 1980s, the climate for these 'all natural' instruments changed drastically. New composite materials such as carbon resin (used on Steinberger, Status, Modulus and other instruments) became the state of the art. Headless designs, flashy colors and an altogether different approach forced Curlee and his contemporary contenders into new grounds. He went to work for Yamaha instruments and died in 2005.