Archive for 2011

Jack Gavin Revisits His Youth at The CMT Awards

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

For any country musician, performing on the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards Show is an exciting experience. But for Gretsch artist Jack Gavin, this year’s show—which aired live from Nashville to 90 million people this past June 8—provided a special thrill.

Anchoring the show’s house band was a fun gig for the veteran drummer whose credits include long stints with country greats Tracy Lawrence, Mel McDaniel, the Charlie Daniels Band, and presently Tanya Tucker who will soon be departing for some European tour dates. During the show Jack was kept busy backing artists including Hunter Hayes, The Jandear Girls, Thompson Square, Kid Rock, Wynona, Hines Ward, and Colt Ford, as well as playing for every presenter and every commercial break.

Jack's 1970s Gretsch kit was in pretty sad shape to begin with.

But while Jack certainly enjoyed performing behind all of these talented artists, it was the Gretsch drumkit he was doing it on that made the evening unique. That kit has a special place in Jack’s heart, because it’s the one that Jack’s dad gave him when he was starting his career as a young drummer in the 1970s.

Jack practiced and “played out” on that drumset while growing up in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo, New York area, so it held many fond memories for him. But, as will happen with professional players, Jack moved on to other kits over the years, and the ’70s Gretsch kit wound up gathering dust on a shelf. That is, until early in 2010, when Jack’s drum tech Kendal Kramer undertook the challenge of restoring the vintage kit to like-new condition so that Jack could use it for performances again.

First the old covering had to be removed, exposing the old adhesive beneath.

The shells had to be sanded smooth.

Kendal’s task involved stripping the shells of the existing covering and adhesive, working with Gretsch to obtain parts, having new bearing edges cut, plugging holes from the original hardware, and re-covering the drum with a new wrap. Then he had to drill holes for new hardware—including new lugs necessary to convert the drums from single-headed concert toms to standard double-headed toms. It was a long process that had to be done with loving care. But the outcome of that process was a like-new version of that classic Gretsch kit, now covered in a white satin finish that Kendall describes as, “classy, but with an electrifying look under stage lighting.”

Holes from old hardware were carefully plugged.

When Jack Gavin sat atop the drum riser at the CMT awards, he had still another reason to be thrilled: His parents were in the audience. There they could not only enjoy Jack’s playing, but could also enjoy the new look, the great sound—and the fond memories—produced by his beautifully restored Gretsch set. It was a special night for the Gavin family.

A beautiful new White Satin wrap was applied.

A very proud Jack Gavin sits behind his restored kit.

A Birthday Salute to Charlie Watts

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

From the GretschDrums.com website:

This past June 2 marked the 70th birthday of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. And While Gretsch Drums and the whole Gretsch family join the drumming world in congratulating Charlie on this milestone, we have a reason of our own to celebrate. Charlie is the longest-running Gretsch endorsing artist. He’s played Gretsch drums for his entire career…starting even before he joined “The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” in 1963.

Charlie Watts in 1969

As Charlie puts it, “I’ve always used Gretsch. I still use the same one that Max Roach advertised you should buy, which was the soft [rack] tom-tom, bass drum, deep [floor] tom-tom, and a snare drum.” That simple four-piece kit has anchored The Rolling Stones over a history that spans forty-eight years, more than thirty record albums, and dozens of legendary (and sometimes infamous) tours.

Although he established his reputation as one of the simplest and steadiest—and yet most recognizable and emulated—of all rock drummers, Charlie’s own musical tastes run toward jazz. In the late ’70s he joined fellow Stone Ian “Stu” Stewart in the retro boogie-woogie party band Rocket 88, which featured many of the UK’s top jazz, rock, and R&B musicians. In the 1980s, he founded and toured worldwide with a big band that included such jazz/rock luminaries as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine, and Jack Bruce.

In 1991 Charlie founded a quintet to honor his personal hero, Charlie Parker. Two years later that quintet recorded the critically regarded Warm & Tender, which reached #6 on the Billboard jazz charts. All told, Charlie recorded seven jazz albums between 1986 and 2004. And as recently as 2010 Charlie was gigging with a quartet called The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie, together with pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters, plus Charlie’s childhood friend Dave Green on bass.

There’s much more to this story.  To read the rest of it, click here!

Spotlight: Gretsch USA Custom

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From the Gretsch Drums website:

The epitome and legend of “That Great Gretsch Sound.” The USA Custom series is hand-crafted every step of the way in our Ridgeland, SC factory by highly experienced and skilled drumsmiths. Our legendary Gretsch formula 6-ply shell is the cornerstone of our legendary sound. Shells are completed with 30-degree bearing edges, Silver Sealer, die-cast hoops and custom finishes – ingredients all combined to make a sound long recognized for its classic clear timbre, balanced tone and explosive projection. Custom design your Gretsch dream kit “a la cart” by choosing your desired drum sizes, colors and hardware options. The Gretsch legend continues.

Get all the details here.

Chet Atkins Honored by Country Music Hall of Fame

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

“Years from now, after I’m gone, someone will listen to what I’ve done and know I was here…they’ll hear my guitars speaking for me.” – Chet Atkins

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME ® AND MUSEUM TO HONOR “MISTER GUITAR” CHET ATKINS WITH BIOGRAPHICAL EXHIBIT

Sideman.  Studio musician.  Performer.  Recording Artist.  Producer.  Record Executive.  In an industry known for multi-talented individuals, perhaps no one has achieved such a vast and varied resume as the inimitable Chet Atkins.  The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will pay tribute to this versatile and visionary artist with the cameo exhibition Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player, which opens in the Museum’s East Gallery on August 12, 2011, and runs through June 2012.  The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company.  Additional support will be provided by Great American Country Television Network.

“Chet Atkins was country music’s ultimate Renaissance man, one of the greatest instrumentalists in American music history and a true musical savant,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “His signature guitar licks shaped recordings by scores of legendary artists, including the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley and Kitty Wells, and his playing influenced future rock gods Duane Eddy, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and many more.  As a producer, Chet was an architect of the ‘Nashville Sound’; he was also a brilliant record executive who signed and propelled a generation of country artists – including Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Charley Pride – to fame.  Chet’s guiding hand shaped much of the bedrock of country music, and we’re honored to tell his story, one we know will resonate with country fans old and new.

“We’re also honored to have the Gretsch Company as this exhibition’s title sponsor,” Young continued.  “Gretsch is an important part of American music history, and enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Chet.”

“My uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., first signed Chet as a Gretsch signature guitar artist in 1954,” said Fred W. Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company.  “Our company is proud of its long association with Chet,¬ and our family cherishes the special relationship that we shared with such a unique individual.  Today, we’re proud to support this special exhibition by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We share the Museum’s commitment to ensuring that Chet’s unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.”

Chester Burton Atkins was born on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tennessee, a remote town nestled in the hills of Appalachia.  He grew up in a musical family – his mother sang and played piano, and his father was an itinerant music teacher – and at the age of eight Atkins began to learn the guitar and fiddle.  When Atkins’ parents divorced, his father relocated to Georgia, and his mother remarried. Young Chester, along with his brother, sister and stepfather, began playing regularly at square dances.  In 1936, an asthma attack forced him to live with his father in Georgia, where the more favorable climate made it easier for him to breathe.  While there, a teenaged Atkins heard Merle Travis on the radio; Travis’s thumb-and-finger picking style fascinated Atkins, who soon created his own thumb-and-two-finger variation.

After attending high school in Georgia, Atkins landed a job at WNOX in Knoxville, fiddling for singer Bill Carlisle and comic Archie Campbell.  He soon became a featured player on the station’s popular daily barn dance show, as well.  Over the next decade, Atkins worked as a musician for numerous artists and radio stations, including a memorable stint at KWTO in Springfield, Missouri.  It was there that station official Si Siman gave him the nickname “Chet.”  Siman, impressed with Atkins’ abilities, brought him to the attention of RCA Victor Records, and in 1947 the label’s Steve Sholes signed Atkins as a singer and guitarist.  Chet’s initial RCA recordings were not hits, and he returned to WNOX in 1948, working first with Homer & Jethro and then joining Maybelle and the Carter Sisters as lead guitarist.  He soon went back to KWTO, this time with the Carters.

When the Carters moved to Nashville in 1950 to become members of the Grand Ole Opry, Atkins joined them.  With the help of his mentor, Steve Sholes, and music executive Fred Rose, Chet became one of Nashville’s “A-Team” session musicians, recording with Johnnie & Jack, Hank Williams and others.  He also appeared on the Opry as a solo act and returned to making his own records; his first chart hit, a cover of the pop song “Mr. Sandman,” came in 1955, followed by a hit guitar duet with Hank Snow on “Silver Bell.”  Soon after, fans began to refer to Atkins as “Mr. Guitar,” and Gretsch Guitars introduced a model bearing his name.

Throughout the 1950s, Atkins’ work relationship with the New York–based Sholes deepened; in 1952, Atkins began organizing sessions for Sholes, and shortly thereafter Sholes began trusting Atkins to produce sessions whenever Sholes’ schedule prevented his coming to Nashville.  In 1955, Sholes made Atkins manager of RCA’s new Nashville studio, a space rented as needed from the Methodist Television Radio and Film Commission.   Two years later, Sholes and Atkins convinced the label to commission its own office and studio in Nashville.  The resulting building, known today as RCA Studio B, opened in November 1957, adding impetus to the growing Music Row area. Sholes installed Atkins as head of the label’s Nashville artist & repertoire operation, and ten years later made him a company vice president.

As rock & roll eroded country music’s record sales and threatened its viability, Atkins’ production skills came to the foreground.  Atkins – along with Decca’s Owen Bradley, Columbia’s Don Law and Capitol’s Ken Nelson – began to craft recordings that would appeal to pop listeners as well as country fans.  The style of these recordings, in which singers were backed by neutral rhythm sections and steel guitars, and fiddles were replaced by vocal choruses, came to be known as the “Nashville Sound.”  Atkins mined gold from the new approach immediately, first producing Jim Reeves’ 1957 crossover hit “Four Walls” and, later that year, producing Don Gibson’s 1958 double-sided smash “Oh Lonesome Me” / “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Atkins assumed production of established stars, including Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves and Hank Snow, and produced hits by new stars including Bobby Bare, the Browns, Floyd Cramer, Skeeter Davis, Dottie West and many more.

During the 1960s, Atkins continued to record and perform:  Always a jazz lover, he increasingly explored the genre in his performances and appeared at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival; he also played for President Kennedy the following year.

By the middle of the decade, Atkins was producing more than two dozen acts for RCA.  During this time, he signed a cadre of now-legendary country artists, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed and Connie Smith.

As the 1970s dawned, Atkins reduced his producing commitments and focused more on his own recordings and live performances.  He embarked on a series of collaborative albums, working with Les Paul, Jerry Reed, Merle Travis, Doc Watson and others.  However, he still found time to facilitate additions to the RCA roster, including Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens and Steve Wariner.

Atkins’ virtuosity was undeniable, and his mantle quickly filled with the hardware to prove it.  In 1973, Atkins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He went on to earn 14 Grammy awards and nine Country Music Association awards during his career.

In 1982, Atkins relinquished his RCA executive role and left the label to record for Columbia in 1983.  He also gave himself an honorary degree:  Atkins christened himself a “Certified Guitar Player” and began signing his name as “Chet Atkins, C.G.P.”  Atkins would later bestow this “degree” on several legatees, including Jerry Reed and Steve Wariner.

For the remainder of his life, Atkins continued to record and play; he collaborated on albums with George Benson, Suzy Bogguss, Mark Knopfler, Mark O’Connor and others, exploring and expanding the boundaries of country, jazz and pop.  In 1993, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Atkins died on June 30, 2001.  He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout the exhibit’s duration.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org  or by calling (615) 416-2001.

Fred & Joe Show at Abbey Road

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Abbey Road on the River is happening in Louisville, KY over Memorial Day weekend and will feature a near-constant lineup of bands, guest speakers, films, contests, and other special events, all of which to celebrate the still-thriving legacy of the legendary Beatles.  The tenth year of “the world’s largest Beatles-inspired music festival,” Abbey Road on the River will take place from Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 31 at the Galt House Hotel and Belvedere Festival Park.  Gretsch Guitars is co-sponsoring the event.

Fred Gretsch & Joe Carducci

Gretsch enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a personal appearance, dubbed the Fred & Joe Show, by Fred Gretsch and Gretsch Guitars product specialist Joe Carducci on Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m.  Attendees will be treated to a multimedia presentation covering the history of the Gretsch Company beginning in 1883 when Fred Gretsch’s great-grandfather, Friedrich Gretsch first started making musical instruments in Brooklyn, New York.  Also discussed will be the musicians who have woven the Gretsch sound into the fabric of modern pop culture since the 1930s when Gretsch guitar production began.  Finally, a special tribute to George Harrison will be featured along with prizes and chance to win a Gretsch guitar!

Abbey Road on the River takes place twice a year, once in Louisville over Memorial Day weekend and then again in National Harbor, MD (Washington, D.C.) over Labor Day weekend.

Spotlight: Duane Eddy Signature G6120

Monday, April 25th, 2011

From the Gretsch Guitars website:

. . . Gretsch announced the new G6120DE Duane Eddy Signature Hollow Body guitar model with an awesome animated video of the original-era hit maker and true rock ‘n’ roll innovator. 

The instrument is a single-cutaway beauty with classic styling and full, resonant sound that combines features based directly on his original 1957 G6120 model with modern Gretsch features that all together pay fitting tribute to the undisputed King of Twang.

Eddy is still going strong in 2011, and he will be forever revered as an original guitar hero who put a deep and resounding twang into rock ‘n’ roll. On a string of late 1950s and early ’60s instrumental hits, he used dramatic single-note melodies on the lower strings of his guitar, pronounced tremolo and vibrato, and liberal doses of echo to produce a signature sound that evoked souped-up cars on Saturday night one minute and the wide-open vistas of the Wild West the next. With unmistakably distinctive hits including “Rebel Rouser,” “Forty Miles of Bad Road,” “Cannonball,” “The Lonely One,” “Shazam” and “Some Kinda Earthquake,” he became the most successful instrumentalist in rock history, charting 15 top 40 singles from 1958 through 1963 and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

For the full story, click here.

Gretsch Duane Eddy Signature G6120DE

Dinah Gretsch Featured In Pooler Magazine

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Dinah Gretsch's Pooler Magazine Cover

Already one of the best-known women in the musical instrument industry, Dinah Gretsch can now add “cover girl” to her list of credits. The Gretsch Company CFO (and wife of company president Fred W. Gretsch) was recently the subject of the cover story in Pooler magazine. The publication is a regional title that focuses on key personalities and events in the Savannah, Georgia suburb for which it’s named. Fred and Dinah Gretsch live in Pooler, and the community is just a short drive from the Gretsch drum factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

In addition to outlining the 127-year history of the Gretsch Company, the Pooler Magazine cover story also spotlights Dinah Gretsch’s current personal efforts as an activist for music education, including the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation. Dinah founded that organization in 2010 to help local schools keep music instruction in their curriculum. The article quotes Dinah as saying, “I love kids, and kids love music. There are some rural schools in our area that never had music education. So the foundation is helping to start those programs from scratch.” So far the Mrs. G’s Foundation has brought the World Drumming Program to Savannah’s Notre Dame Academy and to Ridgeland’s Thomas Heyward Academy, in addition to funding music teachers and a visiting-artist program that’s already presented drummers Mark Schulman (Pink) and Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and guitarists Bob Sabellico, Richard Kiser, and Joe Robinson. In addition, a collaboration with the Lexington, Kentucky-based Foundation For Music Learning, has resulted in music instruction being placed in eight Headstart programs in Savannah.

For more information on Dinah Gretsch’s Pooler Magazine cover story, go to Pooler Magazine’s website.

Dinah Gretsch Sponsors THA’s Got Talent Event

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Mrs. G’s Music Foundation Supports Celebrity Judges at Local Contest

The Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, created by Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch to support music education in rural schools, recently sponsored the THA’s Got Talent contest at Thomas Heyward Academy in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Held this past March 15, the competition presented performances in vocal, dance, and variety by kindergarten through twelfth grade THA students.

THA's Got Talent Judges

On hand to serve as a celebrity judges for the evening were Stephen Ferrone and Joe Robinson. Currently a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Ferrone’s touring and recording credits include The Average White Band, Chaka Khan, Paul Simon, George Benson, and Eric Clapton. Robinson is a guitar prodigy who won the 2008 edition of Australia’s Got Talent at the age of sixteen and has since headlined shows around the world. Completing the panel of judges was Felicia Lem, a local dance instructor and THA alumnus.

Stephen & Joe Perform

In addition to the talent contest, the event featured a performance by Ferrone and Robinson. They were later joined by a battery of THA fifth and sixth graders playing percussion instruments. Ferrone then congratulated all the contestants and saluted the parents for supporting their children’s musical endeavors.

The Mrs. G’s Music Foundation was established in 2010. Since then, the organization has funded a variety of instructional music programs, as well as seminars, workshops, and concerts by visiting artists. The artist visits serve double-duty as teaching programs and motivational sessions.

THA's Got Talent Winners

“I believe that music has the power to change children’s lives for the better,” said Dinah Gretsch. “If we can reach young children with that power, we can set them on a positive path for the rest of their lives.”