Archive for the ‘Gretsch.com’ Category

Tribute to Mulgrew Miller

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Like the rest of the music world, I’m saddened by the passing of jazz piano great Mulgrew Miller. Although the Gretsch brand is best known for drums and guitars, the Gretsch Family is keenly interested in all aspects of music—and in the great players, like Mulgrew, who have blessed us by their creation of that music.

Along with his personal accomplishments as a soloist and bandleader, Mulgrew lent his instrumental prowess to several groups as a sideman. Perhaps most notable of these was his tenure as pianist in the Tony Williams Quintet from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s. It was while he held this chair that he appeared with Tony at Gretsch’s 110th anniversary dinner and concert at the NAMM show in Anaheim in 1993. My wife Dinah and I met him there, and we came to appreciate him as a warm, gentlemanly individual as well as a prodigious talent. We visited with Mulgrew many times in the ensuing years, and we always enjoyed spending time with him.

For those who might not have seen or heard Mulgrew with Tony’s quintet, I recommend the links below, which showcase the group at a live show in New York in 1989. The clips also feature Tony’s great drumming on his legendary yellow Gretsch drumkit. Both gentlemen are gone now, but their musical legacy lives on for us to hear and enjoy.

Fred W. Gretsch

Video Clip 1

Video Clip 2

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Happy Birthday Bill!

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

by Fred W. Gretsch

This coming July 13th is an important date to me. It’s the 90th birthday of Bill Hagner—a gentleman who figures highly in the history of Gretsch musical-instrument manufacturing. In fact, for many years Bill was personally responsible for seeing that that manufacturing was conducted smoothly and efficiently.

Bill started working at Gretsch on December 1, 1941—six days prior to Pearl Harbor day. In a 2009 interview with Gretsch Family publicist Rick Van Horn, Bill recalls, “I had just finished high school, and I answered an ad in the paper for someone to work in the Gretsch factory in Brooklyn. I was essentially a clerk. One day I went in to the office of Phil Nash, who was a vice president, and he said to me, ‘I want to tell you something right from the start: Someday this is going to be big company. So I advise you, if you have any interest [in a career], learn what you’re doing and stay with it.” Bill took Mr. Nash’s advice to heart.

Because he was working for Gretsch in 1941, young Bill had the opportunity to interact with my grandfather Fred Gretsch Sr. during the last year that Grandpa was running the company. In that same 2009 interview Bill tells the following story about one such interaction: “Fred Gretsch Sr. came in one day and showed me a little piece of chrome-plated metal, about three inches long. He said, ‘I took this off of a can opener. Some day you’re going to need a piece just like this to use as a throw-off for a snare strainer.’ That’s the foresight this man had.”

One of Bill’s early jobs was to prepare the payroll for the factory workers. All jobs were done as “piece work” at the time, and Bill had to review and approve individual pay slips for each job. When he didn’t understand an operation that was being paid for, he’d go to the worker and say, “Explain what you’re doing to me.” In that way he eventually became knowledgeable about every operation taking place—preparing him to become plant manager down the road.

During World War II American industry turned much of its efforts toward war-related production, and Gretsch was no exception. Speaking of these days in Chet Falzerano’s Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of “That Great Gretsch Sound,” Bill recalls, “We manufactured musical instruments during the day, till 5:00 p.m. Then I set up a night shift to work till 1 a.m. making wooden parts for gas masks. We made one-inch-wide hoops, like for a bass drum, but only ten to twelve inches in diameter. They were used in the bottom and top sections of the gas mask. Those were the only war products that we made. We also manufactured musical instruments for the government.”

Bill remained with Gretsch after the war, eventually becoming plant manager at the Brooklyn factory at 60 Broadway. The 1950s and early 60s were heady days for Gretsch drums, with great endorsers like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams on the jazz side, and future superstars Charlie Watts and Phil Collins on the rock side. Those drummers would visit the factory, and Bill would give them the grand tour, showing them every detail of how their drums were made.

When my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., sold the company to Baldwin in 1967, Bill stayed on. He eventually moved to Booneville, Arkansas when the drum factory was relocated there. But after operations were established by Baldwin, they brought in their own people to run things. Bill found himself transferred to Baldwin’s Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters as Sales Manager.

Bill Reading Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of “That Great Gretsch Sound” by Chet Falzerano

In Chet Falzerano’s book Bill recalls, “[Baldwin] really didn’t have anybody familiar with the drum situation. From there on it went downhill. About a year later Baldwin’s vice president in charge of all their factories came to me in Cincinnati and said, ‘You know Bill, I have to apologize. I should have let you run [the Booneville factory] the way you ran it in Brooklyn.’ It was really a nice thing to say, but it was too late.”

Bill eventually left the Baldwin Company, and for a short time he manufactured his own line of drums. But marketing problems impeded his start-up efforts, and his venture was not successful. So for a while he took his talents out of the music business completely.

Meanwhile, under Baldwin’s management Gretsch’s fortunes continued to decline. By 1983 they were looking to sell the company altogether. Baldwin’s loss became my gain in January of 1985, when we formally closed a deal that returned the Gretsch Company to family ownership. This was the realization of a dream for me.

Shortly thereafter I wanted to move drum-making operations out of Arkansas and into Ridgeland, South Carolina—where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today. Who better to help me in that effort than Bill Hagner? I got in touch with Bill, who was living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the time. He offered his services to help in the move of both machinery and inventory. That help proved invaluable in getting the drum-making operation up and running in its new home.

All in all, Bill Hagner spent fifty-eight years associated with Gretsch. His contributions over those years are a significant part of the Gretsch legacy. So, on behalf of the Gretsch Family and all Gretsch fans everywhere, I want to say, “Thanks, Bill…and Happy Birthday!”

Fred W. Gretsch

Bill Hagner

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Gretsch’s Double Anniversary Party!

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Any anniversary celebration is special. But when it’s a double anniversary, that’s extra-special. And when one of those anniversaries marks 130 years . . . well, that’s unique.

So it was with the Gretsch 130th Anniversary celebration, which was held this past May 4 at Randy Wood’s Pickin’ Parlor in Bloomingdale, Georgia. The location was appropriate, since Bloomingdale is just “down the road a bit” from Pooler, which is where Fred and Dinah Gretsch (company president and CFO, respectively) reside. And the Gretsch USA Custom Drums factory is located just across the river, in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The setting for the event had a somewhat rural feel, with a big white tent covering the table area and the aroma of authentic southern barbecue in the air. And despite grey skies and occasional showers, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the 100-plus guests in attendance.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch display the cake commemorating their wedding anniversary.

The event was made all the more special by the fact that it also celebrated Fred and Dinah’s wedding anniversary. Friends, business associates, and a substantial array of family members were on hand to help the anniversary couple commemorate this unique occasion. Guests were presented with personalized I.D. badges on classic Gretsch-logo lanyards. Each badge also contained a special 130th Anniversary pin as a token of the family’s appreciation.

Dinner began with a benediction delivered by Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and the Benedictine military school in Savannah. A long-time friend of the Gretsch family, Archabbot Nowicki regularly sends them photos of Gretsch drums and guitars that he sees on his travels around the world.

Guests then enjoyed a down-home barbecue meal provided by Mac’s Place (attached to the Pickin’ Parlor). Dessert consisted of three special cakes: two in celebration of the Gretsch Company’s anniversary and one for Fred and Dinah’s wedding anniversary.

Fred Gretsch (center with wife Dinah) represents the fourth generation of the Gretsch family business. The generations continue with (from left) cousin Paul Getchell, granddaughter Abbey Gretsch, grandson Will Gretsch, daughter Lena Thomas, and grandson Logan Thomas.

Comments made by Fred and Dinah during the event highlighted their pride in the Gretsch family’s history. As Fred put it, “I’m a fourth-generation member of the family business. My grandfather first brought me to the factory in the 1950s. I started working full-time in 1965, and I’m still here some forty-eight years later.  Dinah’s business skills and warm, outgoing personality have made her an integral part of the Gretsch operation—and my indispensable partner—for thirty-four years. And for more than nineteen years Dinah and I have been ably supported by our daughter Lena Thomas, who is a skilled administrator and operations guru. Between Lena, Dinah, and me, that’s just over 100 combined years of ‘sweat equity’ in the family business. And I’m pleased to report that the sixth Gretsch generation includes sixteen-plus grandchildren, many of whom are pursuing educational tracks that will help them continue the family legacy for years to come.”

Of course, no Gretsch celebration would be complete without music, and the 130th Anniversary event was no exception. Once all the guests had finished dinner and dessert, everyone moved into the Pickin’ Parlor—a stage venue that brought performers and audience together in an intimate setting.

The musical husband-and-wife team of Richard Smith and Julie Adams provided stellar entertainment for the event.

First on the bill was the husband-and-wife team of Richard Smith and Julie Adams. Richard is a finger-picking specialist in the style of (and heavily influenced by) legendary Gretsch guitar artist Chet Atkins. He was ably accompanied on cello and vocals by his lovely wife, and together they delivered a varied and highly entertaining set of pop standards, country favorites, and instrumental classics. Richard made a point of telling the audience about one of the guitars he was playing: a custom-built prototype created in association with the late, great Paul Yandell (Chet Atkins’ long-time bandleader and confidant), who died in 2011. Only the second one built (the first went to Paul), the guitar was loaned to Richard for this occasion by the current owner . . . Fred Gretsch himself.

Next up was a truly international trio led by Australian-born guitar phenom and Gretsch artist Joe Robinson, backed by Brazilian bassist Marcelo Bakos and Portugese drummer Tito Pascoali. Joe’s original music knows no stylistic limitations, as evidenced by a set that ranged from Zappa-esque progressive rock to a lush solo rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”—with funk, reggae, and pop stops along the way. Virtuoso playing was the order of the day, and the 100-plus guests rewarded the performers with rousing ovations.

After a brief break Joe Robinson and Richard Smith returned to the stage for an impromptu jam session. Seated side-by-side, the two stellar guitarists took turns accompanying each other, with one taking the lead while the other offered musical support. Joe displayed his own brand of deft finger-picking, and when he and Richard launched into the classic Chet Atkins instrumental “Happy Again,” everyone in the room smiled as one, basking in the talent of these two tremendous players.

After leading his own trio in an exciting performance, guitar star Joe Robinson (left) joined Richard Smith for an impromptu finger-picking session that brought the house down.

Good company, great food, and terrific musical entertainment . . . what more could you ask for to celebrate the history—and the ongoing legacy—of the Gretsch Company, the Gretsch Family, and “That Great Gretsch Sound.”

Additional photos from the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration may be seen in this online album.

Additional video clips from the evening’s entertainment can be seen at the Gretsch Company’s YouTube Channel.

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Gretsch: 130 Years and Four Generations . . .

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

An Excerpt From The Savannah Morning News:

Gretsch: 130 years and four generations of strummin’ and drummin’

The small forest of guitars is tucked into what Fred W. Gretsch calls his “studio.”

To anybody who can play even a few chords, it’s more a Shangri-la.

Colorfully decorated Gretsch Super Axes flank richly wooded acoustic guitars and stylish Thunderbirds. Renowned Chet Atkins models dot the rows.

One instrument in particular garners Gretsch’s attention. The banjo is perhaps the most unassuming of the lot. The strings and head reflect its great age — it is a 1920s model — and the aluminum rim doesn’t shine like the metal parts of its peers in the collection.

But to Gretsch, the instrument signifies what has sustained his family’s business for 130 years.

Innovation and dedication.

“We started using aluminum for banjo rims in the 1920s, and the advances we made from there we drew on in building drums in the 1930s and 1940s,” Gretsch said. “What we learned from drums we put into practice at the dawn of the rock and roll era in the 1950s and on and on. We are a company that’s consistently built on its past.”

The company is celebrating that history this year. Gretsch is the fourth generation of his family to head the Pooler-based business since his great-grandfather, German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch, opened a small music shop in Brooklyn in 1883.

The original shop specialized in banjos, drums and tambourines. The company grew as the accordion and other band instruments gained popularity in the first half of the 1900s. Rock and roll guitars and drums made Gretsch a household name starting in the 1950s.

Fred Gretsch expects the company to thrive for several more generations and continue to be renowned for the “great Gretsch sound” made famous by music legends such as Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Charlie Watts, Davy Jones, Bono, Bo Diddley and Brian Setzer.

“Antonio Stradivarius also made amazing stringed instruments and led a prosperous life,” Gretsch said of the famed violin maker. “But his family did not benefit from his name and his designs. I want to ensure that the Gretsch family remains a key part of this company for the next 100 years of business.”

See Photos and Read the Entire Article at SavannahNow.com.


TIMELINE – 130 YEARS OF THAT GREAT GRETSCH SOUND!

1883 Friedrich Gretsch, 27, who emigrated from Germany at 16, opens a small music shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., making banjos, drums, and tambourines.

1883 - Friedrich Gretsch Opens Small Music Shop in Brooklyn.

1895 Friedrich Gretsch becomes ill while traveling in Germany and dies at age 39. Fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, Sr., takes over family business.

1916 Company moves to 10-story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1916 - Gretsch Opens Ten-Story Building at 60 Broadway, Brooklyn (sketch).

1918 Fred Gretsch, Sr. develops revolutionary multi-ply drum lamination process resulting in the world’s first “warp free” drum hoop.

1920 Gretsch’s manufacturing facility expands to become the world’s largest music instrument manufacturing factory.

1927 Company introduces historic Gretsch-American drum series, featuring the industry’s first multi ply drum shell. Gretsch uses its own name on guitars for the first time, rather than just selling to wholesalers.

1935 Broadkaster drum line introduced. Duke Kramer begins his 70-year career at Gretsch. Known as “Mr. Guitar Man,” Kramer would become pivotal in making Gretsch® electric guitars what they are today.

"Mr. Guitar Man" Duke Kramer

1937 Historic partnership with master drummer and inventor Billy Gladstone begins. The Gretsch-Gladstone drum line is introduced.

1939 Gretsch introduces its first electric guitar – the Electromatic – and the Synchromatic archtop guitar series. Jimmie Webster, guitar innovator and player, joins Gretsch. Distinctive triangle sound hole appears on Gretsch acoustic guitars.

1942 Fred Gretsch, Sr. retires from the company, leaving the day-to-day operations to his sons, Fred Gretsch, Jr. and William “Bill” Gretsch, both of whom had been active in the business since 1927. Gretsch stops instrument production to assist in war efforts. After a brief term at the company’s helm, Fred Gretsch, Jr. leaves the company to serve as a commander in the U.S. Navy. Bill Gretsch becomes president.

William "Bill" Gretsch and Fred Gretsch, Jr. pictured with Brother Richard Gretsch.

1946 Gretsch resumes instrument production. Phil Grant, master percussionist and innovator, joins Gretsch. Gretsch and Louis Bellson team up to introduce first production double bass drum kit.

Louie Bellson with his 1946 double bass kit.

1947 Gretsch forges relationship with legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York, N.Y.

1948 Bill Gretsch dies from illness. Fred Gretsch, Jr. assumes control of the business, kicking off a new age of prosperity for the company–the age of rock ‘n’ roll.

1951 First cutaway bodies appear on Electromatic and new Electro II guitar models.

1953 Duo-Jet production starts, sparking the entire Jet line of Gretsch solid-body guitars.

1954 Jimmie Webster strikes a deal with guitarist Chet Atkins to develop a Chet Atkins-designed Gretsch guitar. Gretsch begins its eye-catching “color revolution” by introducing sparkling Silver Jet and famous Western Orange, Cadillac Green and Jaguar Tan finishes. First Bigsby® vibratos offered on Gretsch electrics.

1955 Gretsch introduces White Falcon and 6120 Chet Atkins models.

Gretsch White Falcon

1957 Gretsch begins production of Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar model. The model would soon rise to popularity with other legendary guitarists.  Twang is born: Duane Eddy purchases new 6120 at Ziggie’s Accordion & Guitar Studio in Phoenix, AZ.

The King of Twang Duane Eddy

1959 Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar system introduced. Gretsch builds Bo Diddley his futuristic Jupiter Thunderbird guitar. Gretsch drum endorsee Jimmy Cobb records “Kind of Blue” with Miles Davis.

1960 George Harrison buys a used ‘57 Gretsch Duo Jet, the guitar featured during The Beatles’ earliest recordings and tours. “Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland” is recorded by four legendary Gretsch drum endorsees: Art Blakey, Charlie Persip, Elvin Jones and “Philly” Joe Jones.

Harrison Tribute Duo Jet

1962 Double-cutaway Electrotone thinline series introduced.

1964 “Beatlemania” is born on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison’s use of a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar ignites frenzy among aspiring guitarists.

1965 George Harrison adds a Gretsch Tennessean to his guitar collection.

1967 Fred Gretsch, Jr. retires and sells The Gretsch Company to Baldwin Music Company. His nephew, Fred W. Gretsch, vows to buy the company back.

1969 The Rolling Stones tour the U.S. with Charlie Watts playing Gretsch drums.

1970 Baldwin moves Gretsch drum & guitar production to Booneville, Ark.

1972 Baldwin moves Gretsch’s New York business offices to Chicago. Chet Atkins’ “Super Chet” guitar introduced.

1973 Baldwin signs over production duties to Bill Hagner and his newly formed Hagner Musical Instrument Corp. Two major fires damage Arkansas guitar & drum plant.

1977 Chet Atkins’ “Super Axe” guitars introduced.

1978 Gretsch drum & guitar production reverts from Bill Hagner back to Baldwin.

1979 Baldwin moves Gretsch sales and administration offices to Chanute, Kansas.

1980 An attempt by Baldwin to re-launch guitar production in Juarez, Mexico fails after only a handful of guitars are built. Baldwin shuts down Gretsch guitar production.

1982 Rockabilly returns with Gretsch guitar slinger Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats releasing their first U.S. single, “Rock This Town.” The group also features Slim Jim Phantom on Gretsch drums.

1985 Eighteen years after the company was sold to Baldwin, Fred W. Gretsch, great-grandson of the company founder, fulfills his promise to buy the company back and return it to the family fold. Gretsch establishes drum manufacturing center in Ridgeland, S.C.

1988 George Harrison collaborates with Gretsch to produce the unique Traveling Wilburys collector guitar.

1989 Modern Gretsch guitar production begins in earnest. Gretsch introduces professional line of Gretsch electric and acoustic guitars.

1993 Gretsch begins production of Brian Setzer signature guitar model.

Setzer Signature Guitars

1998 Gretsch announces budget-priced “Electromatic,” “Synchromatic,” and “Historic” guitar lines.

1999 Gretsch purchases Bigsby Accessories from owner and former Gibson CEO Ted McCarty. Bo Diddley signature rectangular guitar re-introduced.

1999 - Gretsch Acquires Bigsby

2000 Kaman Music (KMCMusicorp) becomes exclusive Gretsch Drums worldwide distributor.

2002 Gretsch grants Fender Musical Instruments Corporation exclusive rights to develop, produce, market, and distribute Gretsch Guitars worldwide.

2006 Gretsch teams up with legendary Bo Diddley and Billy F. Gibbons to design the “Billy-Bo” Jupiter Thunderbird guitar. Stephen Ferrone signature series drums introduced.

2007 Chet Atkins’ name once again adorns extensive line of Gretsch electric guitars.

2008 Gretsch celebrates 125th anniversary.  Endows scholarship at Berklee College of Music in honor of Jimmie Webster.

For Gretsch's 125th Anniversary in 2008, a Portrait of Four Past Presidents was Commissioned. Artist: Amy Hahn-Lind.

2011 Gretsch introduces George Harrison Duo Jet tribute guitar. Chet Atkins Exhibit opens at The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.

Chet Atkins Exhibition

2012 New Brooklyn drum series, Rancher Acoustics, and Roots Collection introduced.

2013 Gretsch celebrates 130th Anniversary.  Iconic Round Badge returns to Gretsch Drums.

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Remembering Robert Zildjian

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

With the passing of Sabian Cymbals founder Robert Zildjian this past March 28 the percussion industry has lost one of its genuine originals. And I’ve lost a colleague that I respected and admired.

Bob Zildjian’s life and career—which were completely inseparable—covered more than six decades. He was a living bridge between the era when drum and cymbal companies were owned and run by individuals (with last names like Ludwig, Zildjian, Slingerland, Paiste, and, of course, Gretsch) and today’s incredibly expansive percussion industry.

Most drummers know something about Bob’s story, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief synopsis: Bob was the son of Avedis Zildjian, who established the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company in the Boston suburb of Quincy, Massachusetts in 1923. Along with his older brother Armand, Bob worked for his father from a very young age, learning every aspect of the cymbal business. That business became everything to Bob, and he approached it with a passion that remained his driving motivation for the rest of his life.

Bob took extended time off from the cymbal business only twice. The first was to attend Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1945. It might surprise some people to learn that Bob’s degree was not in business, but in history and philosophy. But anyone who had the pleasure of spending time with Bob soon learned that his brusque, plain-spoken manner disguised a keen intellect and a philosophical outlook on the world.

Bob’s second “break” from the cymbal business was a stint in the infantry during World War II. Upon his return, he joined a friend’s hunting party on the St. John River in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada. He fell in love with the picturesque setting, and when it came time for the Zildjian Company to expand its production and export capacity with a second factory, Bob established that factory in Meductic. There the company first made AZCO cymbals, and later made hand-hammered K Zildjian models.

When Bob’s father died in 1979, disagreements between Bob and his brother Armand over the company’s future ultimately led to an irresolvable conflict. Bob was given the choice of taking a cash buyout and leaving the cymbal business altogether, or taking ownership of the Meductic factory in order to stay in the business. But he couldn’t use his own family’s name in any advertising. In effect, at middle age and with a wife and three children to support, he’d have to start all over again.

This prospect might have daunted other men, but not Bob. With the support of his family, he launched a totally new cymbal brand. At his wife Willi’s suggestion, the company’s name was created from the first two letters of their children’s names: SAlly, BIll, and ANdy. Cymbals were first introduced to Europe and Asia in 1982, and to the American market in 1983.

From that time until shortly before his passing, Bob remained totally dedicated and deeply involved in the development of Sabian, taking pride in the growth of that company into an international leader. Although he relinquished the day-to-day reins to his son Andy in 1996, he retained the title of “Chairman,” and his presence was a constant inspiration to everyone in the company—as well as to the percussion industry at large.

History includes quite a few connections between the Gretsch and Zildjian families, with Bob a major figure within them. When he worked for the Zildjian company in the 1940s he dealt closely with my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr.—who was president of the company for most of that time—as well as with my father, Bill Gretsch, who ran the company briefly while my uncle served in the navy during World War II. In fact, Bob was one of the few people in today’s music business who knew my father, who passed away in 1948.

Bob and I also had somewhat of a personal connection—if only coincidentally. He founded Sabian in 1982 and first brought cymbals into the US market in 1983—thus establishing his own family business. In that same year I purchased the Gretsch Company from Baldwin—thus returning that business to family ownership.

When Bob was still working for Zildjian in the 1950s and ’60s he was involved in a dispute between Zildjian and Gretsch concerning the ownership of the K Zildjian trademark and the distribution of K Zildjian cymbals. That dispute went on for several years, and many of the exact details have been lost to time. In an effort to rectify that situation I had the pleasure of sharing a breakfast meeting with Bob and his wife Willi at the 2011 NAMM show. I listened avidly as Bob regaled us with story after story about Zildjian history, and how it related to Gretsch history as well. He even told me some things about my uncle Fred that I hadn’t known before.

My wife Dinah and I spoke with Bob and Willi again in July of 2011 when we visited their home town of Brunswick, Maine. Regrettably, circumstances prevented our accepting an invitation to visit with them at their house—for the second time. (A freak snowstorm had forced us to cancel a planned visit some years earlier.)

It was a pleasure to know Bob, whose unique personality and hands-on, no-nonsense style set him apart from the “corporate” image that has come to identify many of today’s music-industry leaders. His like will not be seen again, and I will miss him tremendously.

Fred Gretsch

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Building the Great American Drum Set for 130 Years

Friday, January 25th, 2013

FROM THE GRETSCH DRUMS WEBSITE:

Since 1883, Gretsch has proudly been making drums in the USA. For many, owning an American-made Gretsch drum set is a dream come true–a hard-earned return on the investment a drummer makes to become the best player they can be.

Gretsch Drums is proud to celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2013 with a limited run of commemorative USA made drum sets and snare drums that will be released throughout the year. Each drum will include a special 130th anniversary interior shell label that is numbered to signify its production sequence. Drum sets will also include a hand signed Certificate of Authenticity.

Anniversary Drum Sets and Snare Drums

The original Gretsch factories were located in Brooklyn, New York. It was there that a design formula was developed that would result in what drummers all over the world would come to recognize as “That Great Gretsch Sound.™” Today, Ridgeland, South Carolina is the home of Gretsch Drums and the craftsmen there are still using the same techniques and formulas to build the highly coveted Gretsch USA Custom Drums and Gretsch Brooklyn Series Drums.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SATIN BIRDSEYE MAPLE

This classic five-piece USA Custom Drum Set features a breathtaking Birdseye Maple veneer. The wood was carefully hand selected for its unique figuring and its grain and color consistency. Only 30 sets will be produced world-wide. The shells are hand sanded and are finished with a clear, non-tinted Nitrocellulose Satin lacquer to preserve the wood’s natural beauty. The shells interiors are finished with Gretsch’s time-honored Silver Sealer and include numbered 130th Anniversary commemorative shell labels. The set also includes matching Birdseye Maple bass drum hoops and Gretsch Permatone drum heads by Remo® with 130th Anniversary logos. All drums are fully made to USA Custom specifications in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SILVER SATIN FLAME

Globally limited to only 35 sets, this USA Custom 130th Anniversary kit features a spectacular Silver Satin Flame Nitron. Silver Satin Flame is a classic finish used by Gretsch during the late 1960s. The kit comes with numbered and serialized 130th Anniversary interior shell labels and Certificate of Authenticity. All drums are precision made to Gretsch USA Custom specifications.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SATIN VINTAGE CHERRY BURST

The Gretsch Factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina, USA developed one of the most stunning finishes ever to celebrate the company’s 130th Anniversary. Vintage Cherry Burst is a Nitrocellulose Satin Lacquer that is warm and captivating and, with only 30 sets being produced for worldwide distribution, this six-piece kit is sure to become an immediate collectable.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED GOLD SATIN FLAME

For those looking to go completely retro, this limited edition four-piece set has all of the classic styling to suit your taste. Built in traditional sizes, this USA Custom Anniversary kit features a Gold Satin Flame Nitron finish and truly quintessential hardware appointments. Shell interiors are finished with Gretsch® Silver Sealer and carry a numbered commemorative shell label. Only 35 of these incredible drum sets will be manufactured and each comes with its own Certificate of Authenticity.

130TH ANNIVERSARY BROOKLYN SERIES LIMITED PEWTER SPARKLE

The USA Factory has also created a celebratory limited edition of the Gretsch® Brooklyn Series. This incredible four-piece set is finished in a stunning Pewter Sparkle Nitron. This beautiful finish must be seen to be believed. The silver-gray Nitron flakes reflect ambient light in a fashion that produces subtle yet striking colors, ranging from a shimmering silver to a gleaming lavender. The four-piece configuration is a “playe’r’s” kit that drives strong grooves in a variety of musical styles. Each set comes with 130th Anniversary internal shell labels and signed Certificate of Authenticity.

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Limited Edition Snare Drums

Gretsch® has released three special limited edition snare drums to celebrate the company’s 130th Anniversary. The interior of each shell carries a commemorative label with the drum’s hand-written individual production number. These drums will only be offered in 2013.

130TH ANNIVERSARY SATIN BIRDSEYE MAPLE SNARE DRUM

6.5″x14″ Satin Birsdeye Maple snare drum; 6-ply Gretsch maple shell with Satin Nitrocellulose Lacquer Birdseye veneer; Silver Sealer with 130th Anniversary interior shell label. 30-degree bearing edge; Lightning throw-off and butt plate, batter side muffler, 16 lugs, Snap-in key holder, 42-strand snares.

130TH ANNIVERSARY CLARO WALNUT SNARE DRUM

6.5″x14″ Solid Claro walnut with Claro walnut reinforcement rings, finished in Satin Nitrocellulose lacquer; Natural interior with 130th Anniversary interior shell label; 30-degree bearing edge; Gretsch Round Badge; Lightning throw-off and butt plate, 10 lugs, 20-strand snares.

130TH ANNIVERSARY FLAT BLACK SOLID ALUMINUM SNARE DRUM

7″x14″ Flat Black Solid Aluminum snare drum; Black Hardware; 45-degree bearing edge; Gretsch Round Badge; Black Lightning throw-off and butt plate, Black Suede Ambassador batter drum head, 20 lugs, 42-strand snares.

For more information, photos, and specs on these and other Gretsch Drums, visit their website.

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Gretsch’s New Anniversary, Professional, and Center Block Guitars

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Gretsch Guitars Press Release:

In celebration of Gretsch’s 130th anniversary, the iconic guitar company is releasing two limited anniversary models, a new addition to the Professional Collection, as well as the new Center Block series.

Custom Shop Anniversary Models

Custom Shop 130th Anniversary Hollow Body

To commemorate Gretsch’s 130th anniversary, the Gretsch Custom Shop introduces the beautiful new U.S. Custom Shop 130th Anniversary Hollow Body guitar. Its 2 1/2″-deep single-cutaway three-ply maple body has a 15 1/2″ lower bout, arched top and back, and trestle bracing. The guitar is a striking beauty with its two-tone gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in Metallic Gold on the top and Black on the back and sides, with multiple silver-sparkle bindings. The three-piece maple neck has a 12″-radius ebony fingerboard with 22 medium vintage frets, mother-of-pearl Neo-Classic™ “thumbnail” inlays and polished aluminum nut; and a mother-of-pearl Gretsch 130th Anniversary headstock logo. Other premium features include dual TV Jones® Filter’Tron™ Classic pickups, a black pickguard with 130th Anniversary logo, “G” Arrow control knobs and chrome hardware, an Adjusto-Matic™ bridge with pinned ebony base and Bigsby® B6C tailpiece, and Gotoh® open-back tuners. The guitar comes in a deluxe black faux-alligator skin TKL hard-shell case with a Gretsch 130th Anniversary leather strap, embroidered  utility bag and certificate of authenticity signed by Gretsch Custom Shop Senior Master Builder Stephen Stern.

G6118T-LTV 130th Anniversary Jr.

Gretsch is proud to introduce a beautiful new Professional Collection guitar—the G6118T-LTV 130th Anniversary Jr. model—as part of its anniversary celebration. Its 2 1/4″-deep single-cutaway three-ply maple body has a 14″ lower bout, arched top and back, and spruce “ML” bracing. Especially striking is the nitrocellulose lacquer finish, which is Black on the top and Metallic Gold on the back and sides, with single-ply binding. Other premium features include a three-piece maple neck; 12″-radius ebony fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, pearloid Neo-Classic “thumbnail” inlays and bone nut; Anniversary model plaque and pearloid Gretsch logo on headstock; and dual TV Jones® Power’Tron™ pickups. The guitar also has a metallic gold pickguard, “G” Arrow” control knobs and chrome hardware, an Adjusto-Matic™ bridge with pinned ebony base and Bigsby® B3CB tailpiece, and Sperzel® locking tuners. Available in right- and left-handed models, and deluxe hard-shell case included.

Professional Collection

G6128T-DCM Duo Jet

The Gretsch Professional Collection now also includes the striking new G6128T-DCM Duo Jet™, which features a double-cutaway chambered mahogany body finished in black and a three-ply arched maple top finished in Dark Cherry Metallic with single-ply binding. The one-piece mahogany neck has a single-ply bound headstock with pearloid Gretsch logo, 12″-radius ebony fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets and pearloid Neo-Classic “thumbnail” inlays, a bone nut and a zero fret. Other features include dual High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups, “G” Arrow control knobs and chrome hardware, Adjusto-Matic bridge with pinned ebony base and Bigsby B3C tailpiece, Grover® Sta-Tite™ tuners and Schaller® strap locks. Deluxe hard-shell case included.

Center Block Series

Gretsch is extremely proud to introduce the Center Block series, which feature a long spruce center block. The center block runs the entire length of the body and imparts several sonic advantages. First, it minimizes body-resonant feedback and creates a more “high gain-friendly” performance. Second, it’s made of spruce, which produces a spirited, lively tone. Third, the center block itself is chambered at the lower bout to minimize weight. Fourth, the pinned wood bridge base extends over the sides of the center block about 5/8″ on either side, transferring string-vibration energy to the two f-hole-vented body chambers to produce a full-bodied tone.

G6137TCB Panther Center-Block

The brand-new Professional Collection Center Block model, the G6137TCB Panther Center-Block, features a beautiful 1 3⁄4″-deep double-cutaway three-ply maple body with a 16″ lower bout, arched top and back and elegant f holes. Other premium features include a three-piece maple neck, 12″-radius bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets and pearloid Neo-Classic “thumbnail” inlays, single-ply bound headstock with pearloid Gretsch logo, and dual High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups. The guitar also has a top- mounted output jack, “G” arrow control knobs and chrome hardware, an Adjusto-Matic bridge with pinned rosewood base and Bigsby B6C tailpiece, Grover Sta-Tite tuners and Schaller strap locks. Available in Black and White. Deluxe hard-shell case included.

G6139CB Falcon Center-Block Single Cutaway

The Gretsch Professional Collection introduces an innovative new version of the venerable Falcon design with the arrival of the G6139CB Falcon Center-Block Single Cutaway guitar. It features a beautiful 1 3⁄4″- deep single-cutaway three-ply maple body with a 16″- lower bout, arched top and back, multi-ply sparkle appointments and oversized f holes. Other premium features include a three-piece maple neck; 12″-radius ebony fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, pearloid Neo-Classic “thumbnail” inlays and multi-ply sparkle appointments; Gretsch “winged/vertical” sparkle logo; and dual High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups. The guitar also has jeweled-arrow knobs and gold hardware, an Adjusto-Matic bridge with pinned ebony base and Cadillac® “G” tailpiece, Grover Imperial™ tuners and Schaller strap locks. Available in White with Gold Sparkle appointments and Black with Silver Sparkle appointments. Deluxe hard-shell case included.

G6139T-CBDC Falcon Center-Block Double Cutaway

The Gretsch Professional Collection introduces another new Falcon, the G6139T-CBDC Falcon Center-Block Double Cutaway guitar. It features a beautiful 1 3⁄4″-deep double-cutaway three-ply maple body with a 16″ lower bout, arched top and back, multi-ply sparkle appointments and oversized f holes. Other premium features include a three-piece maple neck; 12″-radius ebony fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, pearloid Neo-Classic “thumbnail” inlays and multi-ply sparkle appointments; Gretsch “winged/vertical” sparkle logo; and dual High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups. The guitar also has jeweled-arrow knobs and gold hardware, an Adjusto- Matic bridge with pinned ebony base and Bigsby B6G tailpiece, Grover Imperial tuners and Schaller strap locks. Available in White with Gold Sparkle appointments and Black with Silver Sparkle appointments. Deluxe hard-shell case included.

For more information on these and other Gretsch guitars and accessories, visit the Gretsch Guitars website.

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Round Badge Makes Return to Gretsch USA Custom Drums

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As the Gretsch Company celebrates it’s 130th anniversary in 2013, it is also reintroducing the iconic round badge.  Made of brass with a vent hole, the badge will be included on all USA Custom drums, including the G-4000 Series Metal and G-5000 Series Wood Snare Drums.

The newly-designed Gretsch Round Badge shares many of the same characteristics of the original version. Both are made from brass, yet the new version has only the Gretsch name embossed. (On the original brass badge, all of the graphic elements were embossed.) To enhance the look of the new badge, a simulated “patina” is applied giving it a textured, rustic appearance. The new badge will be affixed to the drums’ vent hole using a pneumatically pressed brass grommet. And, a grommet will be used for all drums whereas on the original round badge series the toms used a tack since there was no venthole on round badge era toms. Only the round badge era snares and bass drum had ventholes.

The Gretsch Round Badge was used on all Gretsch USA-made drums between 1930 and 1970 and grew to become an iconic symbol. Gretsch Drums manufactured during this period continue to be highly collectable and extremely valuable throughout the vintage drum community.

Even though Gretsch has introduced several alternative badge styles since 1970, the Round Badge continued to make periodic comebacks for special commemorative products like the 120th Anniversary Edition Products in 2003 and the 125th Anniversary Drums in 2008. In January 2012, a silver version of the traditional Round Badge was introduced on the newly released, USA-made Brooklyn Series.

“The reintroduction of the Round Badge to our USA-made product is a welcome return to a classic and very emblematic Gretsch Drum design,” said John Palmer, Director of Product for Gretsch Drums. “As we approach the company’s 130th anniversary, we are very proud to combine key elements of our rich heritage with our continuing advancements in drum making.”

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