Archive for the ‘Gretsch Events’ Category

Fred and Dinah Gretsch Presented With Henry H. Arnold Award

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Fred and Dinah Gretsch Presented With Henry H. Arnold Award and Sponsor First Annual John Calabro Night of the Arts Celebration at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch are presented the Henry H. (Hap) Arnold Award to recognize their support of the John A. Calabro Music and Arts Program at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. From left to right: Brigadier General Timothy Trainor, Dean of the Academic Board; Colonel (Retired) Robert L. McClure, President and CEO, West Point Association of Graduates; Dinah Gretsch, and Fred Gretsch. Photo by Kristin Sorenson, VP of Development, WPAOG.

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Fred and Dinah Gretsch were presented the General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold Award for helping sponsor the First Annual John Calabro Night of the Arts celebration and awards ceremony at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. The April 10 event, coordinated through the Department of English and Philosophy and the Cadet Fine Arts Forum, showcased cadet creativity and talent in music, photography, film, poetry, prose, and fine art.

This year’s event began a new tradition of honoring the late retired Colonel John A. Calabro, Jr., a 1968 USMA graduate and former Academy Professor of English, and Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the West Point Association of Graduates. Calabro, a revered Soldier and scholar, was also an accomplished musician, creative writer, and fine artist, and a strong advocate for the important role the arts played in the overall development of officers. He was a longtime friend of Fred Gretsch, President of the Gretsch Foundation.

“John Calabro was a true Renaissance man, a lifelong learner, and an ideal blend of ‘Athens and Sparta’ here at West Point,” said Gretsch. “We’re very proud that the Gretsch Foundation can support the Music and Arts Program named in John’s honor, and be associated with the United States Military Academy, one of the most respected and historic brands in America for over 200 years.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gretsch were invited to attend the inaugural event at West Point and spent the day touring the museum and many historic buildings at the nation’s oldest continually occupied military post. They enjoyed having lunch with over 4,400 cadets at the Academy’s famous mess hall on the first floor of Washington Hall.

“It was a wonderful experience. How can you not be impressed with the history and tradition of America’s most esteemed military academy,” said Dinah Gretsch. “And the talent and creativity we saw in the cadets, both women and men, at the celebration and awards ceremony was outstanding. The Gretsch Foundation is happy to honor John Calabro’s legacy with this sponsorship.”

The sponsorship not only makes the John Calabro Night of the Arts celebration and awards ceremony an annual event, but also includes an outreach program that will connect members of the Cadet Jazz Forum, the USMA Band’s Jazz Knights, and students from local middle and high schools through music appreciation and performances. This year’s ceremony included a performance by the Jazz Ensemble, a band comprised of USMA cadets and students from West Point Middle School and James I. O’Neill High School.

About the Gretsch Foundation:

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch family, has a mission of enriching lives through participation in music, and has long been involved in music education through its sponsorship of concerts, festivals, clinics, workshops and direct assistance to schools.

In addition to providing music scholarships at Berklee College of Music, Elmhurst College, Georgia Southern University, and the University of West Georgia, the Foundation’s unique GuitarArt program donates guitars to schools for students and major artists to paint, decorate and auction off for fundraising efforts. Please visit www.guitarart.org for more information.

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Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . and Hitters

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Chick Webb: The Little Giant

by Fred W. Gretsch

The inaugural article in this new series featured Tony Williams, who was indisputably one of the most innovative and influential drummers in jazz. This time, we’ll take a step further back and examine the career of Chick Webb, who, as the editors of Modern Drummer stated in 2006’s The Drummer: 100 Years Of Rhythmic Power And Invention, “set the standard for how a drummer should drive a band.”

William Henry “Chick” Webb was a small man who possessed an unconquerable spirit and an astounding musical talent. For many jazz fans, he remains arguably the greatest swing drummer to have ever played the instrument. His accomplishments as a musician are all the more impressive because he had to overcome significant physical handicaps in order to achieve them. A childhood accident crushed several vertebrae in his back, and he never grew to full size. He also suffered from tuberculosis of the spine, which left him a hunchback, with a large face and broad shoulders.

Chick was born in 1909 in Baltimore, Maryland. He bought his first set of drums with his earnings as a newsboy there, and he began playing in bands on pleasure boats at the age of eleven. After moving to New York in 1925, he led bands in various clubs before settling in for long regular runs at Harlem’s famous Savoy Ballroom, beginning in 1931.

Chick powered that band ferociously from behind a custom-made Gretsch-Gladstone drumkit that’s depicted on the cover of the 1939 Gretsch Drums catalog. It was a console-type kit that moved on wheels. A trap table, including temple blocks, was set in the center across the bass drum. Surrounding the table were his snare (with wooden rims) made personally by Billy Gladstone, a 9×13 tom-tom on the bass drum, and a 14×16 floor tom. The striking finish featured a white pearl covering inlayed with green-sparkle “chicks” around the center of each drum. The bass drum head was painted with a massive crown, depicting Chick’s status as “The Savoy King.”

Chick used this unique setup to create complex and thundering solos that paved the way for later drum greats like Buddy Rich (who studied Chick intensely) and Louie Bellson. He couldn’t read music, so he memorized each high-energy arrangement flawlessly. Those arrangements, along with a crisp ensemble sound and Chick’s drum pyrotechnics, became the band’s signature style. In 1935, Chick hired a teenaged Ella Fitzgerald and rebuilt his show around her. In return Ella provided Chick with his biggest hit record, “A-Tisket A-Tasket,” in 1938.

How important is Chick Webb to drumming history? According to drum historian Chet Falzerano in his book Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of That Great Gretsch Sound: “Webb’s prowess as a big band drummer during the 1930s was best summed up by Buddy Rich. ‘He represented true hipness. His playing was original, different, completely his own. Only about a half-dozen of the top drummers since then have anything resembling what he had.’”

Falzerano goes on to describe a legendary battle of the bands at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom between Chick’s band and Benny Goodman’s, when drum superstar Gene Krupa was playing for Goodman. “Gene got to the heart of the matter when he said, after the battle, ‘I’ve never been cut by a better man.’ Before the night was over Gene stood up on Benny’s stand and bowed to Chick, as if to say, ‘You’re the king.’”

The band’s fame continued to grow, fueled by its reputation as a giant-killer in the Savoy battles and a continuous string of Decca 78s that featured such irresistible numbers as “T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and the B-side of “Tasket,” titled “Liza.” But Chick’s frail health began to deteriorate, and in 1939 he passed away at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After his death Ella Fitzgerald fronted the band until it finally broke up in 1942.

Regrettably, the primitive recording techniques of the 1930s could not adequately capture Chick Webb’s spectacular technique and wide dynamic range. Still, some re-mastered recordings and radio broadcasts do exist to help us appreciate the talent of the man who was one of the first Gretsch drumset endorsers—and who indisputably earned his nickname of “The Little Giant.”

Here are a few YouTube links to check out:

A classic recording of “Stompin At The Savoy”.

A performance of “St. Louis Blues” taken from a radio broadcast from the Savoy Ballroom in early 1939.

A 1937 recording of “Harlem Congo” (from The Smithsonian Collection/Big Band Jazz [From The Beginnings To The Fifties] Volume ll).

Chick’s importance to jazz history is also made clear in a feature film titled THE SAVOY KING: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America. Check out the full film if you can. In the meantime, watch an excerpt clip.

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Gretsch News From NAMM: A Report On What’s Changing And What’s Not

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Shortly after the turn of the new year it was announced that the license to manufacture and distribute Gretsch drums had been acquired by Drum Workshop. Not surprisingly, this set off a storm of rumor and speculation about the future of the brand and of the drums themselves.

In order to address the concerns of the drum community, a presentation for the music-industry press was held on Friday, January 23 at the NAMM musical instrument trade show in Anaheim, California. There, comments were offered by key figures from both companies, including DW founder Don Lombardi and Gretsch Company president Fred Gretsch.

Don was careful to stress the respect that he and everyone at DW shares for the legacy of Gretsch drums, as well as for the passion for quality displayed by the folks who make them at the Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. He stated unequivocally that there are no plans to make any changes to that manufacturing operation.

For his part, Fred Gretsch stated that throughout the 132 years of Gretsch history, the goal of the Gretsch Family has been to manufacture the best drums in the world, and today the family is pleased to have a new partner in that effort. He went on to note the strong parallels between Gretsch and DW, including that fact that, like Gretsch, DW is “a family-owned company run by people who have a genuine understanding of–and respect for–the art of top-quality custom drum manufacturing.”

Fred concluded by saying, “I’m confident that this new partnership will generate continued expansion of the world-wide market for Gretsch drums, while honoring the time-tested design and unique legacy that are so much a part of ‘That Great Gretsch Sound.’”

In addition to the press presentation, the continuity of Gretsch drum production was dramatically illustrated by a display of beautiful kits and snare drums. These included:

A new Broadkaster kit finished in Satin Copper Lacquer.


A Brooklyn Classic configuration in Satin Dark Ebony.

A flagship USA Custom kit finished in Dark Walnut Gloss.


A kit from the new Renown Walnut series, in natural gloss. It features 6-ply walnut-maple-walnut shells.


Wood Burned Snare Drums developed in conjunction with drum star Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean.

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From Around the NAMM Show 2015

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

At the 2015 NAMM Show, the first major industry event of the year, the throngs of eager music-gear-minded in attendance each day were treated to an exciting array of new and unique products to see, hear, and test out.

We’ve captured some (because we couldn’t possibly have gotten it all) Gretsch-related photos and postings from around the show.

NAMM Show Eve:

Posted by Bigsby – (To see all Bigsby Twitter posts, follow @Bigsby.)

It all started Wednesday night as the Bigsby/Gretsch booth began to come together -

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NAMM Show Day 1:

Posted by @Bigsby –

Fender custom beauty.


Posted by Gretsch – (To see all Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @Gretsch.)

Gretsch drum artist Mark Guiliana wowed folks as he demo-ed Sabian cymbals atop a new Broadkaster kit.

Posted by Fred Gretsch – (To see all Fred Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @FredGretsch.)

To cap off a terrific first day: a special dinner with friends including from Kanda Shokai, Fender, and guitar artist Joe Robinson.

Posted by Gretsch Guitars -  (To see all Gretsch Guitars Twitter posts, follow @GretschUSA.)

The newly updated Brian Setzer Professional Collection of Gretsch Hollow Body guitars was unveiled.

Joe Carducci and Jeff Cary hanging with Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick.

The great Billy Duffy was hanging at Gretsch Guitars’ “backstage” area.

They had everyone feasting their eyes on these beauties.

Posted by Gretsch Drums – (To see all Gretsch Drums Twitter posts, follow @GretschDrums.)

Gretsch Broadkaster in the house with this gorgeous Satin Copper with Vintage Hardware.

At the Gretsch Drums booth you’ll find this USA Custom in Dark Walnut Gloss Lacquer.

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NAMM Show Day 2:

Posted by @GretschUSA Guitars -

Gretsch (RED) Bono Signature Model

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Mark Guiliana and Mike Johnston at the Gretsch Drums booth!

There’s a whole lot of drumming going on at the Gretsch Drums booth!

Posted by @Bigsby -

In case you didn’t hear, Bigsby goes great on an acoustics too!

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NAMM Show Day 3:

Posted by @FredGretsch -

A mix-and-match Gretsch kit belonging to Taylor Hawkins part of the Zildjian display.

At the Gretsch Guitars booth with Spanish Gretsch endorsee Al Dual.

Had a nice visit with the fine folks from Lane Music, Memphis. Another family-owned business.

Posted by @Gretsch -

Here’s a close-up of a Gretsch Wood Burned Snare developed in conjunction with drum artist Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean of PyroKraft.

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Steve Ferrone visits the Gretsch Drums booth!!

Posted by @GretschUSA -

The G9555 New Yorker

Gretsch Guitar booth getting crowded.

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NAMM Show Day 4 (Final Day):

Posted by @GretschUSA -

Brian Setzer Beauties!

Posted by Other Sources -

Thanks Matt Sorum (@MattSorum) for posting this fabulous photo of you and Mr. Gretsch!

And also for this photo of you (@MattSorum) and Mathieu Jean (@MathieuJean7) with the Wood Burned Gretsch Snares.

Check out this incredible photo posted by Sam Ash Music (@samashmusic).

Nice shot of Bigsby Vibratos on display by Guitar World Magazine (@GuitarWorld).

Love this shot of Michael W. Stand of the Altar Billies (@TheAltarBillies) with the world renowned Joe Carducci.

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Webster-Designed Gretsch White Falcon Turns 60

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Gretsch Remembers Jimmie Webster, the Musician, Inventor, and Traveling Ambassador for Gretsch Guitars who, among many other important contributions, designed the Gretsch White Falcon.

Jimmie Webster

The Early Days.

Jimmie Webster was born on August 11, 1908 in Van Wert, Ohio into a very musical family. Both parents played as well as taught piano and his sister, Virginia, became a well-respected jazz pianist. Keeping the family tradition alive, Webster excelled at piano but also had a passion for the guitar.

In the 1930s Webster was a professional musician in the New York City area and married L’Ana Hyams, one of the first women jazz bandleaders. Webster was also an in-demand professional piano tuner, ran a small music store, and began doing a little consulting work for the Gretsch Company.

During World War II Webster served as a musician in the U.S. Air Corps in Iceland. After the war, Webster moved to Long Island, N.Y. where he became more involved with the Gretsch Company. Webster’s long association with Gretsch guitars would span four decades.

The 1950s: A Golden Decade for Jimmie Webster and Gretsch Guitars.

In 1951 Gretsch informed the music industry (and market leader Gibson) it was serious about manufacturing a professional line of electric guitars. Webster led a successful, three-day promotional show for music dealers and professional musicians at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel. Webster demonstrated the new Gretsch single cutaway Electromatic and Electro II hollow body electric guitars. Based on industry trade journals, the event was well attended and very successful in getting Gretsch the awareness and exposure the company needed.

Throughout the decade, Webster proved to be Gretsch’s main “idea man” in his quest to distinguish Gretsch guitars from the competition. Webster and Gretsch led an industry “color revolution” and took guitars beyond their conservative natural or sunburst finishes. It was Webster’s idea to cover the top of the solid body Silver Jet guitar with a flashy, sparkle drum finish from Gretsch’s drum department. He also took marketing cues from the auto industry by introducing guitars finished in Cadillac Green, Jaguar Tan, and Copper Mist and conducting traveling “Guitarama” shows and demonstrations around the country.

1954 was truly a banner year for Gretsch and Jimmie Webster. At the July Summer NAMM Show Webster unveiled the ultimate “dream guitar”, the opulent White Falcon. Designed more as a concept “guitar of the future” than an actual production guitar, Webster’s stunning white and gold beauty caused such a stir with sales reps that Gretsch had no choice but to offer it in their 1955 lineup. It was-and remains today-the “Cadillac of Guitars”.

In an effort to match Gibson’s recent endorsement of Les Paul, Webster set his sights in 1954 on landing Gretsch’s first signature guitar with one of the industry’s most talented guitarists, Chet Atkins. Although he resisted at first (Atkins was happy with his self-modified D’Angelico), Atkins finally agreed once Webster told him he could design his own signature guitar. The result was the legendary Chet Atkins Hollow Body Model 6120. Launched in 1955, this milestone electric guitar with its distinctive orange finish, fire-branded “G”, and western-themed appointments put Gretsch on the map and forever changed the company’s fortunes and popularity.

Ever the inventor and in search of the next innovation, Webster patented and introduced a line of Project-O-Sonic stereo guitars in 1958. With split Filter’Tron pickups and dual amplifiers, Webster proclaimed it to be the biggest revolution in guitar engineering since electrification.

Jimmie's Album, Wester's Unabridged, Was Produced by Chet Atkins.

The stereo guitar sounded impressive when played by a talented guitarist and Webster proved that with his landmark Webster’s Unabridged LP. Not only did it showcase his Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar, but it also captured his revolutionary two-handed tapping technique. Webster is known as the “Father of the Touch System” and transferred his piano playing abilities to the guitar by developing a two-handed tapping technique. Webster played guitar with both hands producing bass lines, chords, and melodies simultaneously. Webster even wrote an illustrated instruction book entitled Touch System for Electric and Amplified Spanish Guitar that was published in 1952. Those fortunate to have seen and heard demonstrations of Webster’s unique Touch System were left amazed and impressed.

Space Control Bridges, String Mutes, and Tone Twisters

As Gretsch’s main guitar sales and marketing man, Webster had an endless imagination for new gadgets, inventions, and innovations. Many of Webster’s ideas were granted patents. During the 1950s and 1960s Webster was responsible for such memorable Gretsch features as the Space Control Bridge, String Mutes, Padded Backs, the Standby Switch, Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar, the Tone Twister, the Floating Sound Unit, and one of his most bizarre: the T Zone Tempered Treble slanted fret experiment.

Throughout the 1960s, Webster was the primary force behind many of Gretsch’s product changes and new model introductions. In 1961 and 1962, Gretsch guitars drastically changed into thinner, twin-cutaway models with sealed bodies and stencil-painted fake f-holes. Webster even created a new name for their new line of guitars: Electrotone. He also was responsible for some of the more unusual products to be introduced including the unconventional-looking Astro Jet and the seven-string George Van Eps signature model guitar.

After Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967, Webster continued working and even conducted some of his famous Gretsch Guitarama shows across the country. Over time though, Webster worked less and less and eventually stopped working altogether for the company he had helped establish and promote. Although Webster died in 1978 at the age of 69, many of the guitars he designed and launched-the White Falcon, Silver Jet, Chet Atkins 6120, and many more-are still being admired and produced over fifty years later. This is a true testament to the genius, vision, and imagination of one of the guitar’s more colorful ambassadors: Jimmie Webster.

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“Fluke” Holland: Drummer for The Man In Black

Monday, December 15th, 2014

A Rock & Roll Pioneer On Gretsch Drums

By Fred Gretsch

Fluke with Gretsch Kit

On a recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee, my wife Dinah and I had the opportunity to visit the Johnny Cash museum (an experience we heartily recommend). In addition to all the fascinating information and memorabilia on display about the legendary “Man In Black,” we discovered a particular exhibit that immediately captured our attention: a classic 1950s-era Gretsch drumkit. This was the kit played during Johnny Cash’s early touring years by W. S. “Fluke” Holland, who was Johnny’s one and only drummer throughout the singer’s storied career.

As a member of Carl Perkins’ band in the mid-’50s Fluke recorded many of Carl’s hits at Memphis’ Sun Recording Studio. These included such classics as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Matchbox,” and “Honey Don’t.” Fluke toured with other rock pioneers—including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison—and was the first musician to play a full set of drums on the stage of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Fluke on Snare with Johnny Cash

Holland went on to perform on the “Million Dollar Quartet” session that featured Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. This brought him to Johnny’s attention, and in 1960 the singer asked Fluke to join his band for what was to be a two-week tour. But instead of two weeks, Fluke stayed with “The Man In Black” until the singer’s retirement in 1997. Along the way Fluke played in all of Johnny’s backing bands, including The Tennessee Three, The Great Eighties Eight, and The Johnny Cash Show Band.

Fluke is also heard on many of Johnny’s famous recordings, including “Ring of Fire.” The sound that became famous on virtually all of Johnny’s hit records (known as the “Tennessee Three sound”) was largely developed by Fluke’s “train-like” rhythms and driving beat.

The Gretsch drumkit that caught our eyes in the Johnny Cash museum is the one that Fluke played first with the Carl Perkins band and later for many years on the road with Johnny. It’s also the kit that was the first to grace the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In addition to its “Great Gretsch Sound,” the kit has a unique feature. Its bass drum has a front head made of Naugahyde, with a zipper that opens to provide access to the inside of the drum. When Fluke toured in the early days with Johnny, they traveled in a car, with very little room for instruments and luggage. So, in true “road warrior” style, Fluke opened the zipper on the bass drum and packed his clothes inside!

For more information on W. S. “Fluke” Holland, visit his website. You can also check him out on YouTube. Suggested clips include an interview with Fluke, a live performance of “I Walk The Line,” and a 1963 performance of “Ring Of Fire.” (Note Fluke’s “backwards setup,” with his hi-hat on his right. He says he set the drums up this way on his first recording session with Carl Perkins because he’d never played a drumset before!)

Fluke Holland’s contribution to rock & roll and the signature sound of Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three has earned him recognition the world over as a true American music pioneer. Dinah and I are proud that—as has happened so many times—a Gretsch drumset helped to make such an important contribution to music history.

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Christmas 4 Kids Charity Auction

Monday, December 8th, 2014

From Christmas 4 Kids:

The 14th Annual Charlie Daniels and Friends Concert to benefit Christmas 4 Kids was held on Monday, November 24 at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The concert is the cornerstone of Christmas 4 Kids fundraising efforts.  This year The Gretsch Foundation provided two wonderful guitars for a silent auction.

Fred Gretsch with Gary Morgan

The first was a Keith Scott 6120KS Nashville featuring a brilliant gold top that contrasts beautifully with dark walnut stained sides and back.  The 24 ½” scale neck has an ebony fingerboard with humped block position markers on a rock maple neck.  The 16” wide multiple bound body also featured oversized f-holes, master and individual pickup volume controls, tone control and Gretsch’s Space Control bridge.  Gretsch single coil DynaSonic pickups give the Keith Scott model the tone of the mid-fifties guitars, duplicating the pickup that was used until 1958.  This beauty came complete with 24k gold plated hardware and Gretsch Bigsby vibrato and included a Gretsch padded carry bag as well as a 6120 Gretsch book by Ed Ball.  This guitar was purchased by Gary Morgan from Batavia, OH for $3,600!

Fred Gretsch and Jason DentonThe second guitar was a Gretsch acoustic guitar which was made into “historic guitar art”.  It is entitled “POWER OF ME” and was painted by Alexis Vear.  This beautiful guitar was purchased by Jason Denton, Lebanon, TN for $1,100.  Jason actually shopped with us as a child and has been a wonderful supporter of our organization for several years, volunteering his legal services and coming to shop with our kids.

Congratulations and our sincere Thanks! to both Gary Morgan and Jason Denton for purchasing these wonderful guitars to support Christmas 4 Kids.

For over 20 years Christmas 4 Kids has provided the joy of Christmas for thousands of Middle Tennessee elementary school children who might not otherwise experience it.  Each December local businesses, volunteers celebrities, recording artists, and bus drivers set aside two days from their busy schedule for these special children.  To learn more about this great organization please via the web site at www.christmas4kids.org.

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A Great Gretsch Weekend-Plus In Nashville

Friday, October 24th, 2014

This past September 20 through 23 saw Fred and Dinah Gretsch in Music City USA—Nashville, Tennessee. The extended weekend was packed with activities involving Gretsch history, Gretsch drums, and Gretsch artists.

Nashville Drum Show

To begin with there was the Nashville Drum Show, held September 20 and 21 at the Nashville Expo Center on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Gretsch Drums was proud to be an exhibitor and supporter. This popular event—which drew over 1,000 attendees—connects consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors. There’s also a grass roots swap meet/drummers’ hang component that includes vintage drum collectors and dealers, used gear sales and consignments, a drum museum sponsored by Not So Modern Drummer, and drumkits set up outside for attendees to play and show off.

The show also presents drum performers in clinic appearances, and Gretsch artists were key among those. Veteran country drummer Pat MacDonald (of the Charlie Daniels Band) was on hand—just having arrived from Oklahoma City, where he was helping his boss celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. Also performing was stellar drummer/educator Bob Harsen, who has performed with Tiger Okoshi, Randy Brecker, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, as well as teaching at the Berklee College of Music.

Fred Gretsch’s personal narrative about the history of the Gretsch Family and the Gretsch Company was a big hit with show-goers.

But if anyone was to appear on behalf of Gretsch Drums, who better than Fred Gretsch himself? On Saturday afternoon the fourth-generation drum maker fascinated attendees with his historical presentation regarding the Gretsch Family and its conduct of Gretsch company business over more than 130 years.

Commenting on Fred’s presentation, Gary Forkum (owner of top Nashville drum retailer Fork’s Drum Closet and a supporter of the Nashville Drum Show) says, “Fred has done a ton of research about his family history. That’s very interesting to me, and I think it’s interesting to most serious drum people who have a respect for drum history. I think it’s vital for them to know that there was somebody named Gretsch who started things. There are a lot of drum companies where there’s no Mr. Gretsch, Mr. Ludwig—or Mr. Anybody—who stands for the company. Fortunately, Fred was able to get the company back into the family and has been able to keep it going. I definitely

The Great Gretsch Drums team: (from left) Fred Gretsch, product marketing manager John Palmer, and factory production manager Paul Cooper.

have customers to whom it matters that Fred is involved…that there’s a human face to the company, and not just a corporate one. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that I personally like the Gretsch company so much. Gretsch was the very first line that I carried in my store when I started, thirty-two years ago. And I’ve been playing Gretsch drums myself ever since. I know the drums are distributed by another company today, but Fred is still involved. And the people that are involved in the day-to-day of the business, like John Palmer, Paul Cooper, and Joe Mazza, are passionate about it too.”

Meeting Mr. Gretsch

Following Fred Gretsch’s presentation, show attendees were pleased to have an opportunity to meet Fred in person, have a photo taken with him, and share with him their feelings about Gretsch drums past and present. “I was proud to meet so many Gretsch fans,” says Fred, “and to hear their comments—especially since I was the only person present at the Nashville Drum Show whose name was actually on many of the drums on display.”

Broadkasters Are Back

Gretsch Drums used the occasion of the Nashville Drum Show to launch the newly re-introduced Broadkaster drum series. This legendary line originally debuted in 1937.

And speaking of “drums on display,” the Nashville Drum Show was the setting for the launch of the newly re-introduced Gretsch Broadkaster drumset, which was personally conducted by Fred Gretsch (with the able assistance of key Gretsch personalities Paul Cooper, Joe Mazza, and John Palmer). This legendary drum series was originally introduced in 1935, and the new versions faithfully re-create the 3-ply non-reinforced shell that gave them their rich, warm tone. As part of his introduction, Fred Gretsch commented, “No other drums made today offer the unique sound—and the equally unique pedigree—of this historic line.”

When asked his opinion of the Broadkaster launch, Gary Forkum replies, “I think it’s a home run. It’s still early on, but we’ve sold a few kits already. It’s a different sound with the 3-ply shell. And it’s resurrecting a period of Gretsch manufacturing that’s been very popular in terms of used vintage kits. So now, with the USA Custom and the Brooklyn Series Gretsch has three US-made product lines with three distinctive sounds. That’s very valuable.”

At least one show-goer agreed; after having his photo taken with Fred Gretsch in front of a Broadkaster kit, he came back later to purchase that very kit.

Pat MacDonald of the Charlie Daniels Band presented his clinic on a Broadkaster kit.

The versatile and talented Bob Harsen gave his clinic on his personalized Gretsch USA Custom kit.

The versatile and talented Bob Harsen gave his clinic on his personalized Gretsch USA Custom kit.

Bob Harsen's Gretsch Kit.

Drummer and Gretsch fan Perry Curtis got a thrill from playing on a new set of Broadkasters at the Gretsch booth.

All photos above courtesy of Bob Campbell.

Going To A Party

Following the close of Saturday’s show, Fred and Dinah Gretsch were Gary Forkum’s guests at a music festival that Gary hosts each year on his South Creek farm just outside of Nashville. Officially called the South Creek Music Festival but nicknamed “Forkfest” by most locals, the event brings the Nashville music community together. Says Gary, “We have a couple of bands, plenty of food. This year we had about 250 people who came and enjoyed the great weather, the camaraderie, and the music. It was a good night with lots of fun.

The Music Didn’t Stop

Fred and Dinah enjoyed another night of music on Tuesday, September 23, when they attended the Tom Petty concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Tom’s band, the legendary Heartbreakers, is anchored by great Gretsch drummer Stephen Ferrone, and the Gretsches made a point to visit with Steve prior to the opening of the show. They were accompanied by Gary Forkum and his son Matt, and by Gretsch Drums production manager Paul Cooper. Paul had brought with him a snare drum made expressly for Steve, and the visitors all took pleasure in seeing his response. Steve was so pleased, in fact, that he took it on stage and played it that very night!

Matt and Gary Forkum with Fred Gretsch and Paul Cooper.

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