NAMM Show Inspiration on Display at Gretsch in Pooler

March 21st, 2017

Music truly is a universal language for Dinah and Fred Gretsch

Inspirational music signs find their way from Anaheim’s NAMM Show to the Gretsch Company in Pooler

Dinah and Fred Gretsch, CFO and fourth-generation president of the Gretsch Company respectively, which has been manufacturing world-famous guitars and drums since 1883, recently attended the annual Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, California. In addition to showing off the newest lines of Gretsch guitars and drums (and getting a slight tan), Dinah and Fred also brought back a few mementos: inspirational NAMM Show promotional signs that are now displayed in the front windows of their Pooler office.

Colorful NAMM Show promotional signs are displayed at the Gretsch Company headquarters in Pooler.

“These signs just speak to us. They’re colorful and eye-catching, and I really like their messages,” added Fred. “One reads, ‘Where words fail, music speaks’, and another reads, ‘Music is for every single person that walks the planet.’ Those messages really sum up the special connecting power of music. Whether you live in the state of Georgia, or the country of Georgia over in Eurasia, music is the universal language that connects everyone.”

The Winter NAMM Show is the world’s largest trade show for the music products industry. This four-day, star-studded annual event at the Anaheim Convention Center in California is the music industry’s “Super Bowl” where over 1,700 exhibiting companies (representing 7,000 brand names) show their newest musical products to more than 107,000 attendees from 125 countries. The show is not open to the public, and is the only place in the world where practically all of the distributors and dealers in the music industry come together under one big roof.

The Gretsches were busy being brand ambassadors and connecting with friends and business acquaintances at the Gretsch Guitar and Gretsch Drum booths as well as the Bigsby booth, the guitar and guitar vibrato company Dinah and Fred purchased in 1999. They also took a sixth-generation family member, grandson Logan Thomas, a junior at Thomas Heyward Academy in Ridgeland, S.C., to the Anaheim show.

“It was really special having Logan with us to experience his first Winter NAMM Show,” added Dinah. “He was blown away by how big it was and all the live music events, especially the Gretsch Guitar-sponsored concert featuring rock guitar legends Duane Eddy and Jeff Beck.” Eddy performed on his new line of Gretsch Duane Eddy Signature electric guitars, and Jeff Beck flew over from England to honor one of his guitar heroes:  50s rockabilly legend Cliff Gallup of Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps. Beck performed on one of Gretsch’s new Cliff Gallup Signature Duo Jet guitars; a reproduction of Gallup’s famous 1954 black Duo Jet guitar.

Dinah and Fred Gretsch, along with grandson, Logan Thomas, after an Anaheim dinner with long-time friends and business acquaintances. From left to right: Tauna Tuokkola of TV Jones, Inc., Dinah Gretsch, Tom Jones of TV Jones, Inc., Fred Gretsch, Logan Thomas, and Gretsch guitar endorser Duane Eddy.

When asked about his favorite memories of the trade show, Logan said he really enjoyed attending meetings with his grandparents where they were conducting business with people from around the world, including Japan, Korea, Germany, and China. “It amazes me how people can do business together when they do not speak the same language,” shared Logan. “But, those who didn’t speak English had a translator, and the meetings were very productive and very educational for me.”

Like his grandson, Fred Gretsch attended NAMM Shows as a teenager when his uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., was president of the family’s Brooklyn-based music manufacturing company.  “In the 50s and 60s, the NAMM Show was a much smaller event and held at the historic Palmer House Hotel in Chicago,” Fred added. “Music companies rented out rooms on the hotel’s floors and you literally went room-to-room to see the latest products. It was a far cry from today’s 800,000-square-foot Anaheim Convention Center extravaganza and floor show.”

Fred also shared that the NAMM Show signs he brought back to Pooler also reinforces the mission of the Gretsch family: to enrich lives through participation in music. Fred and Dinah are both actively involved in foundations they created. The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Company, has a long history of providing financial support, scholarships, instruments and more, to schools and organizations across Georgia and the United States. Dinah’s Mrs. G’s Music Foundation was established in 2010 and provides funding and instruments for local music programs in Savannah-area schools. “Over 40% of people playing music today got started in school,” added Fred. “That’s why music education in school is so important.  Nothing makes us happier than seeing a child smiling and channeling that inner joy through making music.”

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Women of “That Great Gretsch Sound.” Generation 2: Charlotte

March 15th, 2017

Gretsch’s First Lady during the decades of great growth.

Charlotte Gretsch was at her husband, Fred Sr.’s, side to help build the Gretsch Company into the nation’s largest musical instrument manufacturer in 1920.

Charlotte Sommer was born on December 16, 1880 in New York City to American-born parents who owned a successful grocery store in Manhattan. She was the sixth of eight children and grew up in a house with five brothers.

In January 1904, 23-year-old Charlotte married Fred Gretsch, Sr. in a small ceremony at her parent’s home. Charlotte most likely sailed with Fred to Europe on a business trip as part of their honeymoon. Annual musical instrument buying trips to Europe with her husband became part of Charlotte’s life.

Charlotte and Her Three Sons

On March 10, 1905, the first of three sons, Fred Gretsch, Jr., was born. A year later, William Walter (Bill) was born and in 1908, Richard (Dick) Gretsch was born. Bill was stricken with polio as a child which, no doubt, took more of Charlotte’s care and time than her husband’s expanding company. Fred Sr. and Charlotte exposed their children to the family business early. The brothers worked many Saturdays doing everything from packaging phonograph needles to picking up drum heads at the tannery.

The first two decades of the 1900’s were years of astonishing growth and innovation for the Fred. Gretsch Manufacturing Company. In 1916, the growing company expanded again and moved into the famous 10-story Gretsch Building in the Williamsburg District of Brooklyn at 60 Broadway. This landmark building was built by partners, Fred Sr., brother Walter, and their mother, Rosa Gretsch.

Shortly thereafter, Fred Sr. invented the industry’s first “warp-free” multi-ply drum lamination process. This revolutionary new construction method had tremendous advantages over the then-current method of steam bending wood. Drum shells and hoops were not only lighter, but were more perfectly round and stronger.

In April 1928 with her husband and oldest son, Fred Jr., in Europe on business, Charlotte became seriously ill and was admitted to St. Catherine’s Hospital in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, she lost a battle to ovarian cancer and died on May 12, 1928 at the age of 47.

Like Rosa Gretsch, Charlotte was a strong, loving, independent woman who played a key role in supporting and assisting her husband during a critical growth period of the Gretsch Company. She exposed her three sons to the family business at an early age and felt strongly that her sons should attend college (although Fred Sr. did not). She also took up golf when it became a big part of her husband’s life and helped Fred Sr. plan the first unofficial world golf championship in 1921 at the Soundview Club in Long Island. Like Rosa, Charlotte had a big heart and was involved with and supported Goodwill Industries. She was known to often visit stores and pay bills for less fortunate families.

Learn more about Charlotte at www.lookingoppositely.com.

Women of “That Great Gretsch Sound.” Generation 1: Rosa

February 27th, 2017

Rosa Gretsch: Gretsch’s “First” First Lady to founder, Friedrich Gretsch

Next to her husband, Friedrich, Rosa Gretsch is the second most important person responsible for today’s Gretsch legacy and continued family dynasty.

Born Rosa Behman on June 18, 1856 in Brooklyn, New York to German-born parents, Rosa’s parents died in a Cholera epidemic when she was a baby. Fortunately, she was adopted by friends of her parents who had no children.

In February 1879, 22-year-old Rosa married Friedrich Gretsch who had immigrated to Brooklyn from Germany six years earlier and was working at Albert Houdlett & Son, a drum and banjo manufacturing business.

A year after getting married, Rosa and Friedrich started the Gretsch family legacy with the first of seven children. Fred Gretsch, Sr. was born on February 10, 1880. A second son, Walter, followed two years later. Being a talented piano player herself, Rosa was very encouraging to her husband to start a family musical instrument business. In April 1883, Friedrich “Americanized” his name to Fred and opened a small music shop in Brooklyn manufacturing banjos, tambourines, and drums for music wholesalers.

Five more children (Louis, Elsa, Helen, Hertha, and Herbert) were born between 1885 and 1891, and Friedrich’s small music manufacturing shop prospered and expanded to 12 employees. Rosa’s life was nearly shattered in 1895, however, when Friedrich, while in Germany on business, was stricken with Cholera. He was only 39 when he died.

Rosa Gretsch with Her Seven Children

A strong, independent woman for her time, Rosa was determined to pass along her husband’s successful musical instrument manufacturing business to her children. Today’s Gretsch legacy and family dynasty started with Rosa’s bold decision to turn her husband’s company over to their oldest son, Fred, Sr., who was only 15 years old at the time. This proved to be a wise decision as Fred, Sr. guided Gretsch for 47 years, leading it to become one of the world’s largest and most respected manufacturers of musical instruments.

In addition to being remembered as a loving mother, totally dedicated to her seven children and large German-American extended family, Rosa also encouraged and worked with her two oldest sons, Fred Sr. and Walter, to keep the family business growing. In 1905, Rosa, Fred Sr., and Walter also incorporated the Fred Gretsch Realty Company with all three serving as directors.

During her life, Rosa was dedicated to the local Goodwill Industry chapters in New York. Rosa was a great cook and found time to bake and play piano at Goodwill fundraisers and enlisted her children to volunteer as well. Rosa later remarried David Kling (a friend of Friedrich’s who was also born in Mannheim, Germany) and passed away in 1934 at the age of 78. When Rosa’s household effects were inventoried, her most prized possession was her beloved Steinway Walnut Parlor Grand Piano.

Learn more about Rosa at www.lookingoppositely.com.

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Great Gretsch Educators: Mark Guiliana

January 12th, 2017

by Fred W. Gretsch

We’ve featured Mark Guiliana before, as one of the Gretsch Greatest Hits…and Hitters. He is indisputably a superstar on the jazz scene. And on the fusion scene. And, frankly, on just about any scene he cares to take part in. Recently, he added the “education scene” to his resume, with the release of an eighty-eight page book and accompanying three-hour video, titled “Exploring Your Creativity On The Drumset.”

Of course, just listening to Mark play is an education in itself, and I highly recommend that you check out his playing on any of his recordings. (Some YouTube clips are included below for your enjoyment.) But Mark’s book/video package has already received so much acclaim that it’s been nominated in the “Best Educational Project” category in the prestigious Modern Drummer magazine 2017 Readers Poll. Not bad for his first effort in this area.

What makes Mark a Great Gretsch Educator is the way he shares his information. Instead of claiming to have a secret formula for success or a quick way to get good, Mark simply lays out the practice methods that he himself used to achieve his unique voice on the drums. He doesn’t suggest that you learn to play exactly like he does; he simply suggests that you might benefit from studying the way he learned to play that way.

Mark’s system involves what he terms “D.R.O.P.,” which stands for dynamics, rate, orchestration, and phrasing. Each of these concepts has a section in the book defining and explaining it, with plenty of challenging material to work on.

In the accompanying high-quality video Mark personally demonstrates many of the exercises contained in the book. There’s also a great studio performance featuring two of Mark’s long-time collaborators—bassist Tim Lefebvre and keyboardist Jason Lindner—that puts all of Mark’s instruction into a clear and entertaining musical context.

In their December 2016 review of Mark’s project, Modern Drummer called it “a rare look inside the systems and practices of one of the most distinctive and influential drummers of the past decade.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Video Clips:

Mark in clinic performance at the 2015 Percussive Arts Society International Convention. (PASIC).

Here’s Mark soloing (in 7/4, no less) with the group Now vs. Now, recorded back in 2010. He was remarkable even then.

Not a playing clip, but a nice backstage interview with Mark at the 2016 London Drum Show, where he discusses how he unlocks creativity.

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Today’s Tech and Young Thumbs

December 21st, 2016

Today’s technology helps Millennials discover – and learn – fingerstyle guitar playing.

By Fred W. Gretsch

Today’s young guitarists are taking advantage of the thousands of guitar and recording app options they can download onto their smartphones and tablets. Without a doubt, digital technology has played–and will continue to play–a huge role in the day-to-day lives of these young musicians. The rise and success of these young guitarists can still be attributed to good, old-fashioned drive, hard work, and hours upon hours of practice…but with some help from today’s technology to boot.

Okay, now about these “Young Thumbs”…

“Who are these kids, and why are they winning these awards?” That was the question fingerstyle guitar fans were asking back in 2013 and 2014, as a wave of young guitarists – many of them barely teenagers – were not only competing against adults in national guitar competitions, they were also winning.

Young Thumb members pose for a group photo at the 2015 Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention. From left: Evan Twitty, Gracie Constable, Chelsea Constable, Samuel Grounds, Parker Hastings, Kirby Jane, Tanner Duckworth, Sojourner McClure, and mentor John Knowles CPG. Photo: Jennifer Keller Easler.

John Knowles CGP (left) and Parker Hastings performing together at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN. Photo courtesy of Parker Hastings.

Sixteen-year-old Sojourner McClure placed first in the Traditional Category at the 2013 International Home of the Legends Thumbpicking Championship, held annually at the Merle Travis Music Center in Powderly, Kentucky. The following year, history was made at the competition when 14-year-old Parker Hastings won BOTH the traditional and the contemporary thumbpicking categories (and history would be made again two years later when two young ladies swept the thumbpicking event for the first time).

In Nashville, the same youth movement was being noticed at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) Convention. Although not a competition, the largest gathering of fingerstyle guitar fans and performers in the country saw an increase of young attendees who were jamming with each other in the hotel lobby, and signing up for as many Open Mic slots as possible at the four-day event. Older, more established performers were noticing too, with several of them inviting these young up-and-comers onstage to play and get exposure.

At the 2014 CAAS Convention, John Knowles and Tommy Emmanuel, two legendary master guitarists who were both awarded Certified Guitar Player (CGP) honors from their mentor, Chet Atkins, were impressed and excited with this infusion of new talent at the Convention. John and Tommy decided the time was right to gather these teenagers in a room and have them perform for each other for the first time. The result was magical. The room was packed, the young players were jaw-dropping good, and the older players realized the future of fingerstyle playing was in very good hands. As a result, a new club was formed: The Young Thumbs. “At some point, someone suggested calling the players the Young Guns,” said John Knowles. “But I said, no, this isn’t a shootout. It’s a family. What about the Young Thumbs? It was a paraphrase of Young Guns and everyone liked it.”

The original goals of the Young Thumbs were to get them noticed at the CAAS Convention so they could perform their own sets onstage; help them make connections with the older, established guitarists and find a mentor; and encourage them to connect with each other. Two years later, these initial goals have been met. The Young Thumbs currently total about 25 male and female members up to the age of 21, with some residing as far away as New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, and Australia. In addition to the invaluable advice and encouragement they receive from John Knowles and Tommy Emmanuel, there’s also a small support group of adults volunteering their time to manage the Young Thumbs’ Facebook page and assist them with basic marketing and promotion.

When talking with these young guitarists and asking them about influences, two answers come up regularly: Tommy Emmanuel and YouTube. “I think it’s Tommy’s world travels and YouTube that are the two biggest factors,” said John. “Tommy is the gateway to this style of guitar playing now because there’s more people hearing him and there’s an electrifying energy in what he does. They’ll find Tommy on YouTube, then click on the recommended links and discover who came before Tommy and influenced his playing: Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and Merle Travis.”

Katelyn Prieboy, Grand Champion (left), and Bella Speelman, Runner-Up, with mentor John Knowles CGP, after receiving their Gretsch guitars for being the first females to sweep the Legends Thumbpicking Championship. Photo by Ron Denny.

Two Young Thumbs members, Katelyn Prieboy and Bella Speelman, made history at the recent 2016 International Home of the Legends Thumbpicking Competition in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, by being the first females to place first and second in the 28-year history of the event. And, both credit YouTube as being their primary teacher.

“YouTube has been simply invaluable. I don’t know how many hours a week I’m on it,” shared 19-year-old Grand Champion Katelyn Prieboy. “There’s so much music for this genre available that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s such a great resource for watching videos of your guitar heroes and learning from them.”

Runner-Up Bella Speelman, 17, and a senior in high school added, “My teacher didn’t know this style, so YouTube played a big role in me finding Chet Atkins and learning how to play like him. Although I’ve listened a ton to Chet and I’ll listen to a song at least 50 times before I try to learn it, it’s so helpful watching a video of Chet; seeing where he played things and learning by watching his movements on the fretboard.”

Fellow Young Thumbs member Parker Hastings added, “YouTube is a pretty powerful tool to see footage of Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau and other artists. Literally with a click, it is all at your fingertips; an endless supply of visual inspiration. Plus, YouTube now has a feature that lets you slow the video down if you’re trying to learn or steal a lick without affecting the song’s pitch. A far superior method to how the older pickers learned back in the day: loading a turntable with coins or weights to slow the record down.”

Kirby Jane

Kirby Jane, 22 and a Young Thumbs “Alum,” is one of several female fingerstyle guitarists making a name for herself in Nashville. When asked about the importance of YouTube, Kirby shared, “I was one of those kids that started with YouTube. Joe Robinson is one of the first guitar stars of the YouTube generation. He taught himself primarily through YouTube because, like me, he lived in a small town. Joe’s videos on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ led me to Tommy Emmanuel’s music, then Tommy’s music lead me to John Knowles. I can still remember watching Edgar Cruz’s `Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Tommy Emmanuel’s ‘Beatles Medley’ videos on YouTube. They’re the two videos that lit a spark and led me down this road to learning fingerstyle playing.”

In addition to YouTube, today’s young guitarists also take advantage of the thousands of guitar and recording app options they can download onto their smartphones and tablets. GarageBand and JamUp are two apps that give them access to dozens of stompbox effects and amps and makes recording easy. GuitarToolkit is a popular app containing scales, chords, a metronome and a tuner, and Audacity TempoSloMo, and BestPractice are apps that let them import and export audio files and slow songs down for practicing and learning. Many Young Thumb artists also use OnSong, an app that replaces binders and paper, and digitally stores music and set lists. And, Skype is a very popular tool these young musicians use for staying in touch, sharing songs they’re working on, and swapping guitar licks back and forth in real time from practically anywhere in the world.

Without a doubt, digital technology has played – and will continue to play – a huge role in the day-to-day lives of these young musicians.  And, with one hour of video being uploaded onto YouTube every second, (that’s right, every second!), it will continue to be the primary site musicians go to for learning and inspiration. But, these young musicians are quick to point out that technology is only a tool. The human element of playing together with other people, jamming, sharing guitar licks, and getting feedback and encouragement from fellow musicians is still vital to their growth and development as artists. John Knowles, the main mentor of the Young Thumbs, shared, “I haven’t seen any parents pushing their kids to play like Chet Atkins. Each of these Young Thumbs found this fingerstyle playing in their own way, but once they heard it, something clicked, and from then on they were relentless like I was, like Tommy was, like Chet was, like all of us were. The Young Thumbs are all self-motivated, and they’ve gotten this far by being self-learners, self-motivated learners.”

Check out these great videos from these fantastic Young Thumbs:

Bella Speelman performing “Black Mountain Rag” at the 2016 Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention in Nashville, TN:

Parker Hastings performs an original composition “Looking for Licks” at 2016 CAAS Convention:

Katelyn Prieboy performing one of her favorite Chet Atkins arrangements, “Swedish Rhapsody,” from Atkins’ 1956 “Finger-Style Guitar” album:

Kirby Jane performing her arrangement of Randy Newman’s “Lonely at the Top”:

Parker Hastings and John Knowles CGP, performing “Cold, Cold Heart” at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN:

More videos from the 2016 CAAS Convention can be enjoyed on The Gretsch Company’s YouTube Channel.
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Gretsch Greatest Hits…and Hitters

December 14th, 2016

Alvino Bennett: The Road Warrior

by Fred W. Gretsch

If you’re looking for a drummer who can do it all—and, in fact, who has quite literally done it all—you need look no further than Alvino Bennett. A veteran of stage and studio, Alvino has made a career out of providing whatever a given artist needs from a drummer. And he’s done it with his own brand of style, taste, and musical skill.

To say that Alvino got an early start is an understatement. He was only ten years old when he joined the William Penn Elementary School drum and bugle corps in his home town of Chicago. Only a few years later he was playing for various local bands, and by the age of fourteen he was traveling the country on the club circuit. When he was seventeen he was spotted in a club by blues legend KoKo Taylor, who tapped him to lend his talents to her act. This led to calls from other blues and R&B luminaries including Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Cash McCall, and Mighty Joe Young.

But blues and R&B were just a part of Alvino’s skill set. In 1974 he was called to tour with the great pop songstress Minnie Ripperton. This, in turn, led to a whole new variety of projects, including recording with The Sylvers and several other Motown artists.

Then came 1978 and membership in the million-selling R&B band L.T.D. Alvino’s five-year stint in this group boosted his reputation to first-call status, and he quickly became the go-to drummer for such stars as Cheryl Lynn, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Loggins, Bryan Ferry, Robin Trower, Sheena Easton, Little Richard, Slash’s Blues Ball, Patrice Rushen, Little Richard, Soul II Soul, Chic, Bo Diddley, and many more.

In 1996, at the summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Alvino became part of history. He was playing with Jack Mack & The Heart Attack (on Tony Williams’ Gretsch drumkit, no less!) when a bomb exploded nearby.

“We had played two or three songs when we realized that something had happened out in the park,” Alvino recalls. “I was sitting directly under the Jumbotron that showed everything that was going on. It was moving. We saw the audience running in all directions. We thought one of the big amplifiers had gone out. But it was the bomb that went off.” (You can read the full description of this event on Gretsch.com. The blog is: The Gretsch Drumkit That Made Olympic History.)

So how do you follow being part of a historic event? You go on tour with a historic artist. Since 2002 Alvino has been anchoring the touring band for 1960s icon Dave Mason. Best known for his soulful voice and unique guitar playing, Mason is a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame alum as a member of the legendary 1960s band Traffic. His song “Feelin’ Alright” is a rock and roll anthem, and his other hits include “We Just Disagree” and “Only You Know And I Know.” He has enjoyed a lengthy solo career and continues to play to sold-out audiences—with the able support of Alvino Bennett. According to Mason, “Alvino is a treasured member of the band.”

Alvino with Fred Gretsch.

Alvino has been with Dave Mason for a long time…but he’s been part of the Gretsch family of artists even longer. As he puts it, “To be part of the Gretsch family is great. They’ve always been there for me. I played Gretsch drums as a kid and a young adult. Gerry Brown introduced me to Fred and Dinah Gretsch a year or two before they re-acquired the company, and then I re-introduced myself to them a few years later. We established a relationship in 1986, and it’s been wonderful. And I don’t say this just because I’m with them, but I love the drums.”

Audio And Video Clips

Enjoy a full-length interview with Alvino conducted in 2016 by noted drum writer/radio personality Robyn Flans.

In addition to playing for others, Alvino is a recording artist in his own right. You can listen to five separate clips from his recent solo album Journey.

Alvino doesn’t get much screen time, but his groove is undeniable in this clip with blues/rock artist Lance Lopez from October of 2016.

Solid pocket playing from Alvino is the order of the day, with Dave Mason and others at the Bluesapalooza Festival in 2010.

Alvino’s funk/rock chops are front and center on “Prisoner Of Love,” a track from guitarist Robin Trower’s live tour album This Is Now, ’74-’98.

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Celebrating Paul Bigsby’s Birthday

December 2nd, 2016

December 12, 2016 marked the 117th birthday of Paul Adelbert Bigsby. When it comes to guitar history, names like Leo Fender, Adolph Rickenbacker, and Les Paul may be more widely known. But their work would not have been possible without the man who designed and built the first solidbody electric guitar.

Paul Bigsby

Paul Bigsby

A skilled motorcycle machinist—and also a music fan—Paul Bigsby got into the world of guitars in the mid-1940s when he designed a replacement vibrato mechanism for C&W artist Merle Travis’s Gibson L-10. Paul’s device set a new standard, and it rapidly became the vibrato of choice for most guitar manufacturers the world over—a reputation it still enjoys today.

In late 1946, Travis approached Bigsby with a concept for a new guitar. Travis’s rough sketch depicted a solidbody electric with all six tuning pegs on one side of the headstock. Bigsby, whose personal philosophy was “I can build anything”, immediately went to work to make the concept a reality. When the guitar was completed, Merle Travis played it on recordings, on radio, and on public performances. The revolutionary design caught the eyes and ears of guitar players and builders alike—and it changed the sound and look of guitars forever.

Paul Bigsby continued to hand-craft custom guitars and vibrato units for the next twenty years. But by 1965 health issues prompted him to sell the Bigsby name and inventory to his friend Ted MCarty. That sale that was effective on January 1, 1966. Paul Bigsby died on June 7, 1968, leaving a legacy of innovation and craftsmanship for which every guitarist today should be grateful.

On May 10, 1999, the Gretsch Guitar Company purchased Bigsby Accessories from Ted McCarty.

To learn more about the life and story of Paul Bigsby, check out of The Story of Paul Bigsby: Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar by Andy Babiuk.  A standard edition as well as a special collector’s edition are available at GretschGear.com.

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Dinah and Fred Gretsch Presented With RESPECT Award From the Otis Redding Foundation

September 29th, 2016

Dinah and Fred Gretsch are honored during the Otis Redding 75th Birthday Celebration. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Otis Redding 75th Birthday Celebration

Dinah and Fred Gretsch were presented the RESPECT Award from the Otis Redding Foundation in recognition of their long history of leadership in music education and outreach programs. The prestigious award, which recognizes the “tireless dedication to education through music,” was presented onstage to Dinah and Fred Gretsch by Karla Redding-Andrews, Otis Redding’s daughter and Foundation Director, at the September 11 Otis Redding “Evening of Respect” Tribute Concert at Macon’s historic City Auditorium.

The high-energy Sunday evening concert wrapped up a weekend of events that celebrated 75 years of the legendary King of Soul, Otis Redding. The star-studded show featured the Otis Redding Foundation’s DREAM Choir; The Redding’s, featuring Otis’s sons Dexter and Otis III; plus Mark Lockett; St. Paul and the Broken Bones; Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Andra Day; Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell; and Stax Records legends Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, and William Bell. Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie also performed and received a RESPECT Award from the Foundation. Proceeds from the event benefited the Otis Redding Foundation and DREAM Academy–Georgia’s first authentic statewide arts-integrated public charter school.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch have been president and chief financial officer, respectively, of the Savannah-based Gretsch Company for more than 30 years. The husband-and-wife team represent the fourth generation of the Gretsch family, which has been manufacturing world-famous guitars and drums since 1883. Both are actively involved in not one, but two foundations they created: The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch family, and Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, which Dinah established in 2010 to fund music teachers and in-school music education programs. Both foundations support the Gretsch family’s mission of enriching lives through participation in music.

Dinah and Fred Gretsch. Photo: Tracy Crum/Platinum AVP.

“It is really a great honor to win a RESPECT Award, especially from the Otis Redding family,” said Dinah Gretsch. “Karla and I have worked together for many years, and we’ve always focused on enlightening children’s lives and we both think music is very important. I believe music has the power to change children’s lives for the better. I find that music makes children happy; it gives them satisfaction, and they become better overall citizens. And anything we can do to give children these opportunities is something I want to do every day.”

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch family, has been involved in music education for many years by providing scholarships, instruments, and financial support to various colleges and universities. The Foundation also sponsors a long list of festivals, concerts, clinics, and workshops, including the Gretsch Institute, a music, art, and dance camp for elementary and middle school children. It has donated dozens of used Gretsch guitars through the unique GuitarArt program, where guitars are painted, decorated, and auctioned off for school fundraising efforts. The Foundation has also donated professional-level Gretsch guitars that have been signed by musicians from such bands as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Sugarland, and The B-52’s, and auctioned off to raise money for music and arts education programs.

In 2010, Dinah established Mrs. G’s Music Foundation to fund music teachers and in-school music education programs, and provide opportunities for children to participate in music. In addition to donating instruments to schools, the Foundation sponsors a visiting artist program that brings top professional musicians like drummers Mark Schulman and Steve Ferrone, and Australian guitarist Joe Robinson into schools for seminars, workshops, and concerts. Dinah’s Foundation also sponsors professional musicians to perform and conduct clinics at Little Kids Rock and School of Rock camps, and gives scholarships to children to attend guitar and drum camps across the United States.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch visiting the Otis Redding Memorial Marker in Gray, GA.

In addition, the Gretsch Company supports several music education initiatives including the “Georgia On My Mind” Benefit Concert; the annual fundraiser for the Georgia Music Foundation where Dinah currently serves as a board member. In 2015, the Company provided funding for the Dinah and Fred Gretsch Family Gallery at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum in Nashville. This state-of-the-art interactive exhibit helps children learn how to write and record songs, mix a band, and more.

“Over 40% of people playing music today got started in school. That’s why music education in school is so important,” shared Fred Gretsch. “My father, Bill, was a strong believer in the value of music education and personally established a scholarship for a talented clarinet player at the University of Michigan in 1946. It was a large part of my father’s business philosophy, and a tradition that Dinah and I are proud to continue for the Gretsch family.”

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