Archive for 2017

NAMM Show Inspiration on Display at Gretsch in Pooler

Tuesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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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