Archive for the ‘Gretsch.com’ Category

Art Blakey – The Driving Force

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The history of Gretsch drums is inseparably linked to the history of American music. And never was that more true than during the “Golden Age” of jazz that began at the end of the 1940s and ran through the early 1960s. In those years jazz dominated New York’s legendary 52nd Street club scene, with groups powered by stellar drummers playing on Gretsch drumsets.

“First among equals” in a group that included Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and “Philly Joe” Jones was the inimitable Art Blakey. Art’s unique drumming style combined a primal force and an elemental simplicity. With a driving 2/4 hi-hat pulse, a hissing ride cymbal sound, and loud snare and bass drum accents in triplets or cross-rhythms, Art streamlined the swinging groove of bebop, making it less busy and spasmodic.

Art established himself in the 1940s, working as a sideman for some of the biggest jazz artists of the day. During that same period he visited West Africa—after which he converted to Islam and took the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina (which led to his nickname of “Bu”).

In the early 1950s Art formed the Jazz Messengers, a group based on his belief that a jazz group should be a solid cohesive unit, not just “five guys blowing on the same changes.” Accordingly, the Jazz Messengers rhythm section didn’t just play time behind the horns. Instead they backed up the horn section solidly and would set up the soloist—who, in turn, would listen and pick up cues that would be thrown his way.

For more than thirty years this legendary group served as the launching pad for young players who would influence music for generations to come. Just a short list of Messengers alumni includes Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, and Wynton Marsalis.

One of the pinnacles of Art’s career was his appearance on the unparalleled jazz classic album Gretsch Drum Night At Birdland. Recorded live at the famous New York City nightclub in 1960, this remarkable album documents performances by four great Gretsch drum artists: Blakey, Charlie Persip, Elvin Jones, and “Philly Joe”Jones.

Long-time Gretsch AR director Phil Grant said of Blakey, “Art was everybody’s all-time drummer. He was an individualist, a soloist. Not the greatest technician, by far. But he made up for that with his ideas and innovations; the way he did things. When he played a roll, it wasn’t the greatest roll, but it did things for you. He was quite a guy.”

Art continued to perform with the Jazz Messengers into the late 1980s. Over the years his force and fury on the drums eventually cost him much of his hearing. At the end of his life he often played strictly by instinct. Art died in 1990, leaving behind an enviable legacy and an approach to jazz that’s still the model for countless hard-bop players.

Enjoying Art Blakey

YouTube has an abundance of clips that showcase Art Blakey in his innovative prime, as well as clips from his later years when he was as much a musical mentor as a bandleader.  To begin with, check out a great Blakey drum solo from 1965 here.

Who says jazz can’t groove? Listen to “Moanin’,” performed by Art and The Jazz Messengers live in Belgium in 1958 here.

Art’s dynamic approach is evident on “Dat Dere,” played with the Messengers on a TV appearance in 1961 here.

A trademark drum intro and a dynamic solo by Art spice up a super-cool jazz waltz called—appropriately enough—“Kozo’s Waltz”—from the classic  ANight In Tunisia album. A clip from the record can be seen here.

You can see and hear the terrific interplay between Art and the various soloists in the Messengers playing “Close Your Eyes” on another TV clip from the 1960s. The sidemen are Lee Morgan – trumpet, Wayne Shorter – sax, Jymie Merritt – bass, and Walter Davis – piano. The clip can be seen here.

Art Blakey’s discography as a solo artist, as a sideman with other jazz greats, and as the leader of The Jazz Messengers is a study in itself, which you can pursue at WikiPedia or AllMusic.com. Just to get you started, three classic Blakey recordings to check out include The Big Beat (Blue Note, 1960), A Night In Tunisia (Blue Note, 1960), and Ugetsu—Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers At Birdland (Riverside, 1963). They’re available through Amazon, CDUniverse, and other online sources.

Fred Gretsch & Randy Bachman Together In Edmonton

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Two Music Greats Meet In The North

Every so often fate aligns to bring major figures in music history together unexpectedly. Such an alignment occurred this past September 26.

Two Icons of The Music Industry: Randy Bachman and Fred W. Gretsch.

It happened when Gretsch Company president Fred W. Gretsch and Canadian rock great Randy Bachman (founding member of The Guess Who) met in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Fred was there—in tandem with Gretsch Guitars product manager Joe Carducci—for the pair’s popular “Fred & Joe Show”, Canadian tour edition. Randy was there to sign copies of his recently released book, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories.

“The Fred & Joe Show” is the only event of its kind in the music industry. Where else can guitarists and music fans learn about the history of Gretsch instruments, the Gretsch Company, and the Gretsch family—all directly from the man whose name is on the products? The show combines rare film clips and photos with Fred’s personal reminiscences and anecdotes, creating a direct connection between the past, present, and future of Gretsch guitars.

Guess Who Founding Guitarist Randy Bachman (Center, Left) and Gretsch Company President Fred W. Gretsch (Center, Right) are Flanked by Angela Owen and Al Dobish, Owners of Edmonton’s WestEnd Rock Shop.

Over the past four years Fred Gretsch and Joe Carducci have logged thousands of miles, taking their uniquely educational and entertaining presentation to music stores and guitar shops across North America. The Canadian tour included stops at GuitarWorks in Calgary, the Edmonton Fall Guitar Show, and Edmonton’s WestEnd Rock Shop.  These shows were extra special due to the addition of a George Harrison tribute–a traveling exhibit of George Harrison memorabilia commemorating the Gretsch G6128T-GH George Harrison signature Duo Jet guitar.  View more tour pictures.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories
features tales and anecdotes taken from Randy’s popular Saturday-night show on Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) radio. Included are stories about making music, discovering new guitar licks, and the often meandering route to achieving commercial success in the music business. Randy’s stories are told with humility and a folksy charm. Though a star in his own right, he describes the euphoria associated with meeting his own music idols, including Gretsch guitar great Chet Atkins. To bring the reader more closely into the musical context of the book, each chapter ends with a suggested playlist, while other individual cuts are referenced throughout.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories is full of incredible stories about many of rock’s greatest artists—taken from the memory vault of one of the best-known among them.  Read a review.

Gretsch Foundation Supports Savannah Folk Music Fest

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The Gretsch Foundation—the charitable arm of The Gretsch Family—is proud to support the 2011 Savannah Folk Music Festival. The event will present concert performances in Savannah’s Ellis Square on Friday, October 7, and in Forsythe Park on Sunday, October 9. In addition, an old-time country dance will be held at the Notre Dame Academy gym on Saturday, October 8.

The Festival serves as a showcase for the quality and diversity in musical talent found among members of the Savannah Folk Music Society. Performances will span the range of traditional, old-time, blues, international, folk revival, and contemporary musical styles. All events are free and open to the public.

"The Garden" by Barbara Gentry

In support of the Festival, the Gretsch Foundation has donated fourteen Historic Series acoustic guitars that have been individually and originally painted, carved, and sculpted by some of Savannah’s most creative and talented artists. All fourteen of these Art Guitars will be sold at silent auction during the Friday and Sunday concert events at Ellis Square and Forsythe Park.

The Sunday concert will also feature a second special auction, at which a playable Gretsch guitar—signed by all the performers—will be the prize item.

“Goodnight Irene” by Joni Bishop

According to Fred Gretsch, president of the Savannah-based Gretsch Company, “Gretsch guitars have been an important element of folk music for generations. So I’m proud that fifteen uniquely crafted Gretsch guitars will be a part of this year’s Folk Music Festival.” Fred himself is currently scheduled to promote the Festival with a personal appearance on WTOC Channel 11’s Mid Morning Live program on Wednesday, October 5.

"Trumpeting the Spring" by Kathy Miller

The Gretsch Art Guitar exhibit is viewable from now until October 7 at the Ellis Square Visitor Center in downtown Savannah. The Center is open from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Photos of the guitars are also available for viewing at the Savannah Folk Music Festival’s website.

For more information about the Savannah Folk Music Festival, including performer names and schedules, go to the “Festival” page at savannahfolk.org.

Appreciating Sonny Payne

Friday, September 16th, 2011

by Fred Gretsch

I recently came across a terrific YouTube link leading to a rare early TV clip that showcases the Count Basie Orchestra performing at New York City’s legendary Birdland club in the mid-1950s. Among the many great moments in this clip are several shots of drummer Sonny Payne driving the band in his inimitable style.

Because Gretsch drums are so strongly identified with the small-group drummers of the be-bop era, people sometimes forget that they were also the choice of some of the greatest big band drummers ever to play, including Louie Bellson, Don Lamond, Sam Woodyard—and Sonny Payne.

Vintage Gretsch Ad Featuring the Great Sonny Payne

Sonny played with the Count Basie band from 1955 through 1965. And though initially it might have been a challenging task for him to follow his predecessors—the inimitable “Papa” Jo Jones and the vastly underappreciated Shadow Wilson—Sonny brought his own special brand of dynamic technique and showmanship to the drum chair.

No less a drum giant than Elvin Jones said of Sonny: “I first saw Sonny in the early 1950s with Count Basie. Swinging…dynamics…intensity. He was happy—a pure showman. But a showman who knew what he was doing. He just made that band come alive.”

Louie Bellson added, “For a while everybody was criticizing Sonny [because] he was a [drumstick] juggler. But boy, he kicked that Basie band. The minute you walked in and heard Basie’s band, right away your eyes went up to Sonny Payne. Basie himself summed it up, when he said ‘No question about it, Sonny Payne was the spark plug in my band.’”

Sonny Payne and That Great Gretsch Sound

Sonny left the Count Basie Orchestra in 1965. He worked with a number of different artists over the next several years, but his main gig was drumming for Harry James, whose high-energy band was a perfect fit for Sonny’s high-energy style. Sonny drummed with the Harry James band from 1966 until his untimely passing in 1979 at the age of fifty-four.

You can find additional terrific clips of Sonny’s drumming at YouTube:  Sonny Solo and  Zurich Concert.  All great viewing and listening!

Bigsby & Gretsch to Exhibit at USPTO Trademark Expo

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Congressional Record–USPTO Trademark Expo 2011

Update:  Congressional Record Published Honoring USPTO Trademark Expo

Note: The Congressional Record is published by the United States Government Printing Office and is issued daily when the United States Congress is in session.

Update:  Special Musical Performance

A special musical performance took place at the Bigsby/Gretsch booth on Friday and Saturday.  Read more here.





The Bigsby Division of the Gretsch Company will once again be exhibiting at the National Trademark Expo presented by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The 2011 Expo will take place on Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15, at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia at 600 Dulany Street and admission is free. The two-day event is designed to educate the public about the value of trademarks in the global marketplace.

Last year’s Expo attracted over 10,000 visitors of all ages. This year’s Expo will highlight such themes as “Unusual Trademarks” and “Brand Evolution,” and will feature educational workshops for adults and children, exhibits of authentic and counterfeit goods, and costumed characters.

Over one hundred companies applied to exhibit at the Expo yet Bigsby was one of only 27 companies who were eventually selected. The distinctive trademarked shape of Bigsby’s famous vibrato tailpieces will be in good company, however, with other internationally-familiar trademarks belonging to other such notable exhibitors as Mattel Inc., Segway Inc., The U.S. Department of the Army, Bridgestone Corporation, Caterpillar Inc, Geico, and The Hershey Company.

Gretsch guitars have featured Bigsby vibrato tailpieces for more than fifty years.  The Bigsby/Gretsch display at the USPTO Expo will include information on the company’s history, including the fact that Gretsch owns a registration for the configuration of a Bigsby-design guitar, as well as for the surname Bigsby. The display will also demonstrate the importance of Bigsby trademarks and the impact they have as source identifiers in the marketplace. Like most effective trademarks, the very shape of Bigsby tailpieces identifies them—even at a distance, when the brand name cannot be read. This allows Bigsby-equipped guitars to be recognized on concert stages and video broadcasts.

The inherent distinctiveness of the Bigsby tailpiece design has aided the Gretsch Company in getting the protectable portions registered. This, in turn, has helped Gretsch to pursue its campaign (as part of the Electric Guitar Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) to stem the proliferation of counterfeit instruments wherever they are manufactured.

Authentic Bigsby Vibrato Alongside Look-alike on Permanent Display at USPTO

The worldwide proliferation of counterfeit instruments underscores the importance of strong trademark protection, along with the impact of creative and recognizable trademark designs. One of the fundamental purposes of the USPTO Expo is to highlight these issues and the displays from Bigsby and the other participants shall all be designed to serve that goal.

For more information on the Expo, go to www.uspto.gov.

For more information on Bigsby products and the Gretsch/Bigsby connection, go to www.bigsby.com.

Paul Yandell: The Last “Certified Guitar Player”

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Throughout the history of the music industry, there have been artists who’ve gained tremendous acclaim and recognition for their accomplishments. Such an artist was guitar legend Chet Atkins, whose multiple claims to fame are well known and undisputed.

But there are also artists whose talents, accomplishments, and contributions to the industry somehow don’t garner them the recognition that they genuinely deserve. Such an artist is Paul Yandell, the long-time bandleader for, and confidant of, Chet Atkins—and a stellar guitarist in his own right.

At one point in his career Chet Atkins coined the term “Certified Guitar Player” to describe an artist who personified the ultimate in performance skill and musical quality. Chet personally bestowed the C.G.P. title on only four guitarists:  Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, the late Jerry Reed, and Steve Wariner. But there was one more name that needed to be added to the list.

From left: Merle Atkins Russell, Certified Guitar Player award recipient Paul Yandell, and Steve Wariner at the presentation ceremony on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

So it was that at a program held this past August 13 to mark the opening of the new Chet Atkins exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum in Nashville, Chet’s daughter Merle Atkins Russell asked Steve Wariner to help her continue her father’s tradition and read a proclamation that officially conferred the final C.G.P. title on Paul Yandell.

The proclamation read, in part: Whereas, long a fixture as Chet’s band leader and confidant, Paul Yandell was truly invaluable. Whereas, he is no stranger to accolades for his many contributions to country music, the Nashville recording community, and the guitar world in his own rights. Whereas, observing that Paul Yandell was involved in the distribution of all the C.G.P. honors as Chet’s assistant, and being extremely humble and modest, recused himself of that very honor.

Be it resolved by the Atkins family that throughout the land Paul Yandell, thumbpicker supreme, be known as the last and final C.G.P., certified guitar player.  Paul, you are truly the C.G.P.’s C.G.P.!

From left: Steve Wariner and Merle Atkins Russell presented the final Certified Guitar Player award proclamation to Paul Yandell on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

“I was thrilled to be invited to help honor Paul like this,” said Wariner. “Paul Yandell is my hero, and he deserves this more than anyone.  He’s an incredible player and a dear friend to me, as he was to Chet. What a cool, classy thing for Merle and the Atkins family to do. So completely right!”

An accomplished player by the time he left high school, Paul Yandell moved from western Kentucky to Nashville in 1955. He began his career with The Louvin Brothers, working with them until 1959. After serving in the Army, Paul played for Kitty Wells from 1961-1970. He joined Jerry Reed in 1970, where, as he puts it, he “went to college” learning from Jerry. Paul joined Chet Atkins in 1975 and spent the next twenty-five years supporting Chet in his career.

As a top Nashville session player, Paul played on hit records with Atkins, Reed, Dolly Parton, Steve Wariner, Hank Thompson, Perry Como, Roger Whitaker, Kitty Wells, The Louvin Brothers, Les Paul, Woody Herman, The Everly Brothers, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. He also appeared on TV shows such as The Dinah Shore Show, The Tonight Show, Today, The Pat Sajak Show, The Merv Griffin Show and Nashville Now.

Following Chet Atkins’ passing in 2001, Paul released a solo CD entitled Forever Chet, which featured songs that Chet had performed throughout his career. Paul’s 2004 Dream Train release featured many of his own tunes—and was largely performed on the Gretsch “Nashville Classic” guitar that he co-designed. Paul released In the Groove in 2005 and Drive On in 2006. In 2009, he performed at the ceremony at which Chet Atkins was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

From left: Fred Gretsch, Paul Yandell, and Dinah Gretsch together at the August 10th reception celebrating the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s new tribute exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. (Donn Jones Photography)

Fred and Dinah Gretsch (president and CFO of The Gretsch Company, respectively) were on hand for the festivities surrounding the opening of the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum. They had the opportunity to meet with Paul Yandell, personally and on behalf of Gretsch Guitars, after Paul had received his C.G.P. award. “We spoke with Paul on Saturday and Sunday,” said Fred Gretsch, “and we know how happy he was. We were equally happy for him. Paul is a tremendous artist, and we’re honored by his long association with Gretsch Guitars. Dinah and I offer our sincerest congratulations to Paul, as well as our kudos to the Atkins family for their thoughtfulness in presenting Paul with his much-deserved C.G.P. title.”

It’s A Family Thing!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Three Gretsch Generations Celebrate at The Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum

by Fred Gretsch

The Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum will run through June of 2012. The museum is located in Nashville. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Three Generations of the Gretsch Family attended the opening ceremonies. From left, Will Gretsch, company president Fred W. Gretsch, and Fred Gretsch Jr. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

This past August 10 was a special day for me. I was honored to be asked to speak at the opening ceremonies for the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum’s new exhibition honoring guitar great Chet Atkins. And I was extremely proud to be joined not only by my wife Dinah, but also by my son Fred Gretsch Jr. and grandson Will. So I was pleased to be able to say that I was speaking on behalf of six generations of the Gretsch family, three of which were present at the event.

Within the Gretsch family, we consider “enriching lives through participation in music” to be a core mission. So we’re especially pleased that this wonderful tribute to Chet features elements of the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum’s School and Family Educational Programs. These  include a Teachers’ Guide and an Exhibit Family Guide, both of which are made available free of charge. These publications are designed to help school classes and families alike get the most educational value from their visit to the exhibition.

As a guitar manufacturer, Gretsch is proud of its long association with Chet Atkins. We’re honored to be the title sponsor for the Country Music Hall of Fame’s tribute to Chet, and we share the Hall’s commitment to ensuring that his unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.

For more information on the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition, go to countrymusichalloffame.org. For more information on Gretsch, go to gretsch.com.

Stanton Moore Brings N’Awlins Down Under

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Stanton Moore

Gretsch drum great Stanton Moore recently completed a whirlwind clinic/performance tour of Australia, where he delighted drummers with his New Orleans-flavored funky style. Stanton’s appearances were part of the Drumscene Live Australia Tour 2011, sponsored by Drumtek, the country’s largest percussion retailer.

From August 14 through August 21 Stanton and his tour mates crossed the continent, entertaining drummers in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, and Adelaide. They finished up at the 2011 edition of Australia’s Ultimate Drummers Weekend & Drum Expo in Melbourne, where Stanton conducted master classes on Saturday the 20th and closed the show on Sunday the 21st.

As a native son of New Orleans, Stanton is especially connected to that city, its culture, and its collaborative spirit. Inspired by a thriving music scene that includes such greats as Professor Longhair, Doctor John, and The Meters, Stanton is now regularly mentioned amongst these Big Easy mainstays.

In the early ’90s, Stanton helped found the New Orleans-based essential funk band Galactic. Their first album, 1996’s widely acclaimed Coolin’ Off, led to intense touring over the next ten years. Six additional albums later, Galactic continues to amass a worldwide audience.

In 1998 Stanton launched his solo career, aided by guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter and saxophonist Skerik. The group’s All Kooked Out! release evolved into another project, leading to the first Garage a Trois release, Mysteryfunk (1999). In 2000 the trio was joined by percussionist Mike Dillon and has since released three more albums: Emphasizer in 2003, Outre Mer in 2005, and Power Patriot in 2009.

Stanton is also highly regarded as a clinician and educator. His Groove Alchemy book/DVD/CD package has been hailed by drummers and teachers alike, and was named best educational book and DVD in the 2011 Modern Drummer Readers Poll.

More information on the Drumscene Live tour is available at drumtek.com.au. More information on Stanton Moore is available at Gretschdrums.com and StantonMoore.com.