Learn About Making Music Hands-On at Gretsch Family Gallery

March 5th, 2015

An innovative exhibit–the Dinah & Fred Gretsch Family Gallery in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum–teaches young visitors how to record and write songs, be a performer and more; class and group tours encouraged.

Dinah & Fred Gretsch Family Gallery at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Youngsters can record a song, mix a band, learn how hits are written and hear working musicians, band managers and other industry professionals talk about their jobs at the new Dinah and Fred Gretsch Family Gallery at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Located within the Taylor Swift Educational Center — which includes a replica of Swift’s tour bus – the Gallery provides a close-up, top-to-bottom look at the process of creating music that’s geared to youthful learners, using artifacts from the Museum’s collection and such learning tools as a giant guitar, touchscreens and a do-it-yourself studio were young visitors can record and mix tracks.

Student and youth groups interested in visiting the Dinah and Fred Gretsch Family Gallery and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum can call 800-852-6437 for information and group reservations.

The Gallery was created through a generous donation by Gretsch Company president Fred Gretsch and his wife Dinah, who is the historic guitar-and-drum builder’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, through the Gretsch Foundation, which funds a plurality of concerts and music education initiatives. The Gretsch family have been leaders in American musical instrument making since 1883. Now they’ve also become leaders in innovative music education with the underwriting of the Dinah and Fred Gretsch Family Gallery.

“The museum needed a new and exciting interactive gallery that connects visitors with the creative process – from recording to packaging music,”  says the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s vice president of museum services Carolyn Tate. “The Dinah and Fred Gretsch Gallery is that space, bringing to life the Gretsch’s long-time commitment to music education for the benefit of our over 900,000 annual visitors.”

The seed for the Gallery was planted when the Gretsch family became involved in the curation of the Museum’s “Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player” exhibit in 2011. But its conception and construction required two years and input from many sources, including educational experts. It was determined that interactive experiences, contemporary stories and the ability to make things should be at the core of the Gallery, which also covers multiple genres.
“An effort was also made to illustrate that there are many ways to be creative within music, beyond being an artist,” says Tate.

The Gallery’s activities and exhibits — which include historic instruments — are tied together by nine stations with touchscreens where students can learn about songwriting, music business jobs, awards, design, costumes, recording, cross-genre collaborations and more. At one station, working professionals from all aspects of the music business explain their jobs via video presentations. Completing each station’s activities earns a badge. After collecting all nine badges visitors are “Certified Country” —  a designation more than 58,000 have earned since the exhibit opened in April 2014.

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family, has long been involved in music education through its sponsorship of concerts, festivals, clinics, workshops and direct assistance to schools. Recently the Foundation underwrote the purchase and installation of a new, state-of-the-art sound system in the auditorium of the historic 108-year-old Brunson Elementary School in Brunson, South Carolina, not far from Gretsch’s headquarters just outside of Savannah, Georgia. Fred Gretsch is available for interviews.

Contact:
LOCOMOTIVE ARTIST SERVICES
info@locomotiveartistservices.com
PO Box 17208, Nashville TN 37217
615-730-7916

Great Gretsch Educators . . . Mike Johnston

March 5th, 2015

Mike Johnston: 21st Century Digital Teacher

by Fred Gretsch

Many Gretsch drum artists are also excellent teachers. But Mike Johnston puts things the other way around. While a fine performer in his own right (with years of touring credits that include recording artists Simon Says and Filter), Mike is currently focusing on his career as an educator. And he’s primarily doing it the way you might expect in this digital age: online, via his educational website Mikeslessons.com.

As Mike himself explains, “When I was touring I’d put videos on YouTube for my students while I was out of town. I figured that when I came home I’d have seventy or so views from those students. But my clips would get 20,000 views in a weekend. Things kept growing, and when they got a million views I realized that there must be a need for online lessons. At the time DVDs with any kind of educational content cost $40—and sometimes a drummer might want just one chapter. So I thought, ‘What if I film everything in five to ten minute chunks?’ You could get just one rudiment…or just one funk pattern…or just the songo. So that was the concept.”

Since that time Mike’s concept has been wildly successful, propelling him to celebrity teacher status around the world. And he comes by that status legitimately, having himself studied privately for fifteen years with some of the greatest educator/drummers of our time, including Pete Magadini and great Gretsch drummer Steve Ferrone.

Since establishing his website Mike has expanded his offerings beyond pre-recorded lesson clips. He now presents thirty-six “live” online drum lessons monthly. In addition, he hosts ten International Drum Camps each year at the Mikeslessons.com facility in Folsom, California.

Mike is also highly in demand as a clinician. He spent most of 2012 touring the United States giving clinics at various music stores, and he performed both days at the 2012 Meinl Drum Festival in Germany. All of this activity earned him nominations for Educator/Clinician of the Year by Modern Drummer magazine in 2011 and 2012.

Although he spends most of his efforts teaching online, Mike hasn’t abandoned the more traditional forms of drumming education. He’s also the author of a critically acclaimed instructional book called Linear Drumming. About the book, Mike himself says, “It’s a collection of my favorite linear patterns. It covers three different subdivisions and uses them as fills and grooves. Each page is built around a simple system.”

You can get more information about Mike and his teaching program at (big surprise) Mikeslessons.com. But for just a taste of what Mike has to offer there, check out any of the many clips available on YouTube. Here are a few to start with:

“The Simple Show-Off Lick”

“Breaking Down Polyrhythms”

“Improving Bass Drum Speed”

Mike has also contributed several educational articles to Modern Drummer and DRUM! magazines.  Here’s a YouTube clip based on one of those articles (“The 45-minute practice routine”).

And finally, some great clips of Mike discussing Gretsch drums and his teaching program are on his artist link at Gretschdrums.com.

All of us at Gretsch are proud to have such an energetic and forward-looking educator on our artist roster.

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Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . and Hitters

February 6th, 2015

Chick Webb: The Little Giant

by Fred W. Gretsch

The inaugural article in this new series featured Tony Williams, who was indisputably one of the most innovative and influential drummers in jazz. This time, we’ll take a step further back and examine the career of Chick Webb, who, as the editors of Modern Drummer stated in 2006’s The Drummer: 100 Years Of Rhythmic Power And Invention, “set the standard for how a drummer should drive a band.”

William Henry “Chick” Webb was a small man who possessed an unconquerable spirit and an astounding musical talent. For many jazz fans, he remains arguably the greatest swing drummer to have ever played the instrument. His accomplishments as a musician are all the more impressive because he had to overcome significant physical handicaps in order to achieve them. A childhood accident crushed several vertebrae in his back, and he never grew to full size. He also suffered from tuberculosis of the spine, which left him a hunchback, with a large face and broad shoulders.

Chick was born in 1909 in Baltimore, Maryland. He bought his first set of drums with his earnings as a newsboy there, and he began playing in bands on pleasure boats at the age of eleven. After moving to New York in 1925, he led bands in various clubs before settling in for long regular runs at Harlem’s famous Savoy Ballroom, beginning in 1931.

Chick powered that band ferociously from behind a custom-made Gretsch-Gladstone drumkit that’s depicted on the cover of the 1939 Gretsch Drums catalog. It was a console-type kit that moved on wheels. A trap table, including temple blocks, was set in the center across the bass drum. Surrounding the table were his snare (with wooden rims) made personally by Billy Gladstone, a 9×13 tom-tom on the bass drum, and a 14×16 floor tom. The striking finish featured a white pearl covering inlayed with green-sparkle “chicks” around the center of each drum. The bass drum head was painted with a massive crown, depicting Chick’s status as “The Savoy King.”

Chick used this unique setup to create complex and thundering solos that paved the way for later drum greats like Buddy Rich (who studied Chick intensely) and Louie Bellson. He couldn’t read music, so he memorized each high-energy arrangement flawlessly. Those arrangements, along with a crisp ensemble sound and Chick’s drum pyrotechnics, became the band’s signature style. In 1935, Chick hired a teenaged Ella Fitzgerald and rebuilt his show around her. In return Ella provided Chick with his biggest hit record, “A-Tisket A-Tasket,” in 1938.

How important is Chick Webb to drumming history? According to drum historian Chet Falzerano in his book Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of That Great Gretsch Sound: “Webb’s prowess as a big band drummer during the 1930s was best summed up by Buddy Rich. ‘He represented true hipness. His playing was original, different, completely his own. Only about a half-dozen of the top drummers since then have anything resembling what he had.’”

Falzerano goes on to describe a legendary battle of the bands at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom between Chick’s band and Benny Goodman’s, when drum superstar Gene Krupa was playing for Goodman. “Gene got to the heart of the matter when he said, after the battle, ‘I’ve never been cut by a better man.’ Before the night was over Gene stood up on Benny’s stand and bowed to Chick, as if to say, ‘You’re the king.’”

The band’s fame continued to grow, fueled by its reputation as a giant-killer in the Savoy battles and a continuous string of Decca 78s that featured such irresistible numbers as “T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and the B-side of “Tasket,” titled “Liza.” But Chick’s frail health began to deteriorate, and in 1939 he passed away at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After his death Ella Fitzgerald fronted the band until it finally broke up in 1942.

Regrettably, the primitive recording techniques of the 1930s could not adequately capture Chick Webb’s spectacular technique and wide dynamic range. Still, some re-mastered recordings and radio broadcasts do exist to help us appreciate the talent of the man who was one of the first Gretsch drumset endorsers—and who indisputably earned his nickname of “The Little Giant.”

Here are a few YouTube links to check out:

A classic recording of “Stompin At The Savoy”.

A performance of “St. Louis Blues” taken from a radio broadcast from the Savoy Ballroom in early 1939.

A 1937 recording of “Harlem Congo” (from The Smithsonian Collection/Big Band Jazz [From The Beginnings To The Fifties] Volume ll).

Chick’s importance to jazz history is also made clear in a feature film titled THE SAVOY KING: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America. Check out the full film if you can. In the meantime, watch an excerpt clip.

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Gretsch News From NAMM: A Report On What’s Changing And What’s Not

January 25th, 2015

Shortly after the turn of the new year it was announced that the license to manufacture and distribute Gretsch drums had been acquired by Drum Workshop. Not surprisingly, this set off a storm of rumor and speculation about the future of the brand and of the drums themselves.

In order to address the concerns of the drum community, a presentation for the music-industry press was held on Friday, January 23 at the NAMM musical instrument trade show in Anaheim, California. There, comments were offered by key figures from both companies, including DW founder Don Lombardi and Gretsch Company president Fred Gretsch.

Don was careful to stress the respect that he and everyone at DW shares for the legacy of Gretsch drums, as well as for the passion for quality displayed by the folks who make them at the Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. He stated unequivocally that there are no plans to make any changes to that manufacturing operation.

For his part, Fred Gretsch stated that throughout the 132 years of Gretsch history, the goal of the Gretsch Family has been to manufacture the best drums in the world, and today the family is pleased to have a new partner in that effort. He went on to note the strong parallels between Gretsch and DW, including that fact that, like Gretsch, DW is “a family-owned company run by people who have a genuine understanding of–and respect for–the art of top-quality custom drum manufacturing.”

Fred concluded by saying, “I’m confident that this new partnership will generate continued expansion of the world-wide market for Gretsch drums, while honoring the time-tested design and unique legacy that are so much a part of ‘That Great Gretsch Sound.’”

In addition to the press presentation, the continuity of Gretsch drum production was dramatically illustrated by a display of beautiful kits and snare drums. These included:

A new Broadkaster kit finished in Satin Copper Lacquer.


A Brooklyn Classic configuration in Satin Dark Ebony.

A flagship USA Custom kit finished in Dark Walnut Gloss.


A kit from the new Renown Walnut series, in natural gloss. It features 6-ply walnut-maple-walnut shells.


Wood Burned Snare Drums developed in conjunction with drum star Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean.

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From Around the NAMM Show 2015

January 23rd, 2015

At the 2015 NAMM Show, the first major industry event of the year, the throngs of eager music-gear-minded in attendance each day were treated to an exciting array of new and unique products to see, hear, and test out.

We’ve captured some (because we couldn’t possibly have gotten it all) Gretsch-related photos and postings from around the show.

NAMM Show Eve:

Posted by Bigsby – (To see all Bigsby Twitter posts, follow @Bigsby.)

It all started Wednesday night as the Bigsby/Gretsch booth began to come together -

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NAMM Show Day 1:

Posted by @Bigsby –

Fender custom beauty.


Posted by Gretsch – (To see all Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @Gretsch.)

Gretsch drum artist Mark Guiliana wowed folks as he demo-ed Sabian cymbals atop a new Broadkaster kit.

Posted by Fred Gretsch – (To see all Fred Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @FredGretsch.)

To cap off a terrific first day: a special dinner with friends including from Kanda Shokai, Fender, and guitar artist Joe Robinson.

Posted by Gretsch Guitars -  (To see all Gretsch Guitars Twitter posts, follow @GretschUSA.)

The newly updated Brian Setzer Professional Collection of Gretsch Hollow Body guitars was unveiled.

Joe Carducci and Jeff Cary hanging with Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick.

The great Billy Duffy was hanging at Gretsch Guitars’ “backstage” area.

They had everyone feasting their eyes on these beauties.

Posted by Gretsch Drums – (To see all Gretsch Drums Twitter posts, follow @GretschDrums.)

Gretsch Broadkaster in the house with this gorgeous Satin Copper with Vintage Hardware.

At the Gretsch Drums booth you’ll find this USA Custom in Dark Walnut Gloss Lacquer.

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NAMM Show Day 2:

Posted by @GretschUSA Guitars -

Gretsch (RED) Bono Signature Model

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Mark Guiliana and Mike Johnston at the Gretsch Drums booth!

There’s a whole lot of drumming going on at the Gretsch Drums booth!

Posted by @Bigsby -

In case you didn’t hear, Bigsby goes great on an acoustics too!

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NAMM Show Day 3:

Posted by @FredGretsch -

A mix-and-match Gretsch kit belonging to Taylor Hawkins part of the Zildjian display.

At the Gretsch Guitars booth with Spanish Gretsch endorsee Al Dual.

Had a nice visit with the fine folks from Lane Music, Memphis. Another family-owned business.

Posted by @Gretsch -

Here’s a close-up of a Gretsch Wood Burned Snare developed in conjunction with drum artist Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean of PyroKraft.

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Steve Ferrone visits the Gretsch Drums booth!!

Posted by @GretschUSA -

The G9555 New Yorker

Gretsch Guitar booth getting crowded.

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NAMM Show Day 4 (Final Day):

Posted by @GretschUSA -

Brian Setzer Beauties!

Posted by Other Sources -

Thanks Matt Sorum (@MattSorum) for posting this fabulous photo of you and Mr. Gretsch!

And also for this photo of you (@MattSorum) and Mathieu Jean (@MathieuJean7) with the Wood Burned Gretsch Snares.

Check out this incredible photo posted by Sam Ash Music (@samashmusic).

Nice shot of Bigsby Vibratos on display by Guitar World Magazine (@GuitarWorld).

Love this shot of Michael W. Stand of the Altar Billies (@TheAltarBillies) with the world renowned Joe Carducci.

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Great Gretsch Educators: Mark Schulman

January 14th, 2015

Mark Schulman: Mr. Energy

by Fred W. Gretsch

If you had to pick one drummer in the world to personify boundless enthusiasm, unwavering dedication to purpose, and sheer, unadulterated energy, you’d need look no further than Mark Schulman.

To begin with, there’s Mark’s musical career. His performing and recording resume would do credit to five drummers, let alone one. Besides his current gig with superstar P!nk, Mark has worked with a “Who’s Who” of international rock & roll royalty including Foreigner, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Destiny’s Child, and Billy Idol. He anchored Cher’s Believe and Farewell tours—two of the most-attended tours in music history. He drummed with Velvet Revolver at Ozzfest and with Simple Minds at Glastonbury (for 200,000 people).

Mark with P!nk

He’s the recipient of numerous gold and platinum discs, he’s appeared on nearly every American and European TV variety show, and he was named among the top three pop-rock drummers of 2014 in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll. Mark is also a music producer, trained audio engineer, and co-owner of West Triad Recording Studio in Venice, California.

But we’re here to examine Mark’s work as an educator. Not surprisingly, he’s just as busy in that area as he is in his performing career. He’s taught at the prestigious Los Angeles Music Academy, and he has a top-rated educational DVD titled A Day In The Recording Studio: A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Recording Great Drum Tracks For Drummers And Musicians, distributed by Hudson Music.  Mark has also become one of the world’s most sought-after drum clinicians, hosting clinics and master classes in countries around the world.

Oh, and lest we forget, Mark is an author, too. His website is chock-full of his blogs, which offer great advice on a variety of drum-related topics. Meanwhile, he recently published a book, titled Nerve Breakers, Conquering Life’s Stage Fright. This terrific work arms readers with the essential tools to break through the daunting yet defining moments in life. After performing for more than a billion people on the biggest stages in the world over the past twenty years, Mark has developed his own “nerve breakers.” In addition, during the past year he’s interviewed some of the world’s most famous people, from all walks of life, to learn their “nerve breakers”: how they conquer fear, from running into a burning building to placing a foot on the moon to kicking a last-second field goal on national television. His book offers inspiration and easy-to-follow action steps to enable readers to break through the barriers that have held them back from fulfilling their dreams and goals.

And in his spare time (!) Mark has been chairman of the board and a major force in the development of Create Now!, a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to help change troubled children’s lives through creative arts mentoring. And, as a cancer survivor himself, Mark has also motivated children and teens through his work doing seminars with the Ronald McDonald House as well as benefits for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK.

Mark Schulman Signature Snare Drum

Everyone at Gretsch is proud of Mark’s accomplishments as a musician. (And by the fact that his Signature Snare Drum is the best-selling signature product in the history of Gretsch Drums.) But we’re just as proud of Mark’s stellar accomplishments as an educator, mentor, motivator, and all-around dynamo. Mr. Energy, indeed!

Learn more about Mark Schulman and his educational activities at markschulman.com.

And enjoy a YouTube clip of his playing with P!nk, and an excerpt from his Day In The Recording Studio DVD.

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Webster-Designed Gretsch White Falcon Turns 60

January 8th, 2015

Gretsch Remembers Jimmie Webster, the Musician, Inventor, and Traveling Ambassador for Gretsch Guitars who, among many other important contributions, designed the Gretsch White Falcon.

Jimmie Webster

The Early Days.

Jimmie Webster was born on August 11, 1908 in Van Wert, Ohio into a very musical family. Both parents played as well as taught piano and his sister, Virginia, became a well-respected jazz pianist. Keeping the family tradition alive, Webster excelled at piano but also had a passion for the guitar.

In the 1930s Webster was a professional musician in the New York City area and married L’Ana Hyams, one of the first women jazz bandleaders. Webster was also an in-demand professional piano tuner, ran a small music store, and began doing a little consulting work for the Gretsch Company.

During World War II Webster served as a musician in the U.S. Air Corps in Iceland. After the war, Webster moved to Long Island, N.Y. where he became more involved with the Gretsch Company. Webster’s long association with Gretsch guitars would span four decades.

The 1950s: A Golden Decade for Jimmie Webster and Gretsch Guitars.

In 1951 Gretsch informed the music industry (and market leader Gibson) it was serious about manufacturing a professional line of electric guitars. Webster led a successful, three-day promotional show for music dealers and professional musicians at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel. Webster demonstrated the new Gretsch single cutaway Electromatic and Electro II hollow body electric guitars. Based on industry trade journals, the event was well attended and very successful in getting Gretsch the awareness and exposure the company needed.

Throughout the decade, Webster proved to be Gretsch’s main “idea man” in his quest to distinguish Gretsch guitars from the competition. Webster and Gretsch led an industry “color revolution” and took guitars beyond their conservative natural or sunburst finishes. It was Webster’s idea to cover the top of the solid body Silver Jet guitar with a flashy, sparkle drum finish from Gretsch’s drum department. He also took marketing cues from the auto industry by introducing guitars finished in Cadillac Green, Jaguar Tan, and Copper Mist and conducting traveling “Guitarama” shows and demonstrations around the country.

1954 was truly a banner year for Gretsch and Jimmie Webster. At the July Summer NAMM Show Webster unveiled the ultimate “dream guitar”, the opulent White Falcon. Designed more as a concept “guitar of the future” than an actual production guitar, Webster’s stunning white and gold beauty caused such a stir with sales reps that Gretsch had no choice but to offer it in their 1955 lineup. It was-and remains today-the “Cadillac of Guitars”.

In an effort to match Gibson’s recent endorsement of Les Paul, Webster set his sights in 1954 on landing Gretsch’s first signature guitar with one of the industry’s most talented guitarists, Chet Atkins. Although he resisted at first (Atkins was happy with his self-modified D’Angelico), Atkins finally agreed once Webster told him he could design his own signature guitar. The result was the legendary Chet Atkins Hollow Body Model 6120. Launched in 1955, this milestone electric guitar with its distinctive orange finish, fire-branded “G”, and western-themed appointments put Gretsch on the map and forever changed the company’s fortunes and popularity.

Ever the inventor and in search of the next innovation, Webster patented and introduced a line of Project-O-Sonic stereo guitars in 1958. With split Filter’Tron pickups and dual amplifiers, Webster proclaimed it to be the biggest revolution in guitar engineering since electrification.

Jimmie's Album, Wester's Unabridged, Was Produced by Chet Atkins.

The stereo guitar sounded impressive when played by a talented guitarist and Webster proved that with his landmark Webster’s Unabridged LP. Not only did it showcase his Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar, but it also captured his revolutionary two-handed tapping technique. Webster is known as the “Father of the Touch System” and transferred his piano playing abilities to the guitar by developing a two-handed tapping technique. Webster played guitar with both hands producing bass lines, chords, and melodies simultaneously. Webster even wrote an illustrated instruction book entitled Touch System for Electric and Amplified Spanish Guitar that was published in 1952. Those fortunate to have seen and heard demonstrations of Webster’s unique Touch System were left amazed and impressed.

Space Control Bridges, String Mutes, and Tone Twisters

As Gretsch’s main guitar sales and marketing man, Webster had an endless imagination for new gadgets, inventions, and innovations. Many of Webster’s ideas were granted patents. During the 1950s and 1960s Webster was responsible for such memorable Gretsch features as the Space Control Bridge, String Mutes, Padded Backs, the Standby Switch, Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar, the Tone Twister, the Floating Sound Unit, and one of his most bizarre: the T Zone Tempered Treble slanted fret experiment.

Throughout the 1960s, Webster was the primary force behind many of Gretsch’s product changes and new model introductions. In 1961 and 1962, Gretsch guitars drastically changed into thinner, twin-cutaway models with sealed bodies and stencil-painted fake f-holes. Webster even created a new name for their new line of guitars: Electrotone. He also was responsible for some of the more unusual products to be introduced including the unconventional-looking Astro Jet and the seven-string George Van Eps signature model guitar.

After Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967, Webster continued working and even conducted some of his famous Gretsch Guitarama shows across the country. Over time though, Webster worked less and less and eventually stopped working altogether for the company he had helped establish and promote. Although Webster died in 1978 at the age of 69, many of the guitars he designed and launched-the White Falcon, Silver Jet, Chet Atkins 6120, and many more-are still being admired and produced over fifty years later. This is a true testament to the genius, vision, and imagination of one of the guitar’s more colorful ambassadors: Jimmie Webster.

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Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . and Hitters

December 29th, 2014

Tony Williams: The Innovator

by Fred W. Gretsch

Music is, and always has been, an ever-evolving medium. Styles are developed, made popular, changed, and re-developed as something new again. And just as it takes a drummer to propel a band, it often takes a drummer to propel these stylistic changes.

I’m proud to say that many of the drummers who have provided this propulsion over the past decades have done so on Gretsch drums. And while each of those drummers has had his or her own distinctive playing style and sound, the “Great Gretsch Sound” of their drums has been the starting point.

From time to time I’m going to take the opportunity to share with you just a few performances by some of those great Gretsch drummers. I hope they’ll encourage you to do your own exploration to see and hear what made these incredible artists so important to the history of music.

Tony Williams - The Early Days

There’s simply no better drummer to start this series with than the great Tony Williams. While not the earliest “Great Gretsch Drummer” (and we’ll get to those earlier drummers in the future), Tony is arguably the single most influential drummer of the 20th century. Initially identified as a “jazz” drummer—mainly because he arrived on the scene as a member of Miles Davis’s legendary 1960s quintet—Tony quickly demonstrated that he was not to be pigeonholed within any style. His playing encompassed elements of jazz, rock, R&B, and Latin music. He combined these with formidable technique and unbridled passion to create dynamic performances that electrified audiences around the world—and sent millions of drummers racing to their practice rooms. Many of today’s greatest drum figures cite Tony Williams as their most important influence.

Tony and his Big Gretsch Kit

So check out the following YouTube clips as a starting point for your own exploration into the talent, passion, and undeniable uniqueness that defined Tony Williams:

1.  This is a performance by the Miles Davis Quintet at the Stadthalle in Karlsruhe, Germany, in November of 1967. Tony was only twenty-one years old at this time, but he had already become recognized as the drummer to watch on the jazz scene.  WATCH.

2.  By 1979 Tony was leading his own groups. At this performance in France Tony gets funky –and incredibly dynamic—on a tune called “Wild Life.”  WATCH.

3.  From the same concert, here’s Tony’s drum solo from “There Comes The Time.”  WATCH.

4.  For an idea of how Tony drove a band, there’s no better example than this recording made live in New York in 1989 by Tony’s Quartet. This clip is Part 1.  WATCH.

5.  And here’s Part 2. What it must have been like to be in the audience for this show!  WATCH.

6.  Here’s another incredible drum solo from Tony, performed at the International Jazz Festival in Berghausen, Austria, in 1989.  WATCH.

Enjoy!

Tony's Famous Yellow Gretsch

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