Archive for the ‘Gretsch News’ Category

The Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Elmhurst College’s Unique Musical Endeavor

Elmhurst College Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

Ensembles of various descriptions are a staple of music education programs at colleges and universities across the country. Most tend to be based on stylistic or ethnic themes, such as big band ensembles, classical string ensembles, Latin jazz ensembles, etc. But the music program at Elmhurst College in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois boasts an ensemble based on a rather unusual instrumental grouping. This is the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble.

While virtually all other ensemble opportunities for electric guitarists have only one guitar chair, the GEGE features five electric guitarists, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. This provides a unique opportunity for guitarists to learn to play with each other, emphasizing blend, balance, phrasing, dynamics, and articulation.

There are actually two electric guitar ensembles at Elmhurst, and they date back to 1992. Through an audition process at the start of each academic year, the top five guitarists are placed in the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble—so named in 1993 to honor the support and contributions of Gretsch Company president (and Elmhurst College alum) Fred W. Gretsch. Since the early 1990s the Gretsch Family has generously funded student scholarships in music and music business, as well as the development of the Gretsch Recording Studio at the college.

The GEGE has had four directors since its founding. Current director Mike Pinto has led the group since 2007. The Ensemble is part of the jazz department, and while the repertoire certainly includes jazz, it also includes fusion, rock, blues, and pop. Says Pinto, “I feel that electric guitar students studying jazz here at the college need to be versatile and learn to apply jazz skills to other electric guitar-oriented styles. We play only arrangements written specifically for five guitars, bass, and drums. Charts of this type are available for sale, but there aren’t a ton of them. So I write many arrangements for the group, and students are encouraged to write arrangements as well. We’ve performed many student charts over the years that I’ve directed the group.”

Students register for the Ensemble as a class, and it is an educational experience for them. But with an eye to “the real world,” Mike Pinto teaches and directs the group within the context of preparing for professional performances. To support this approach the Ensemble performs three to five times per semester, both on- and off-campus.

After the Ensemble was named in his honor, Fred Gretsch donated a Gretsch Country Gentleman Junior guitar to the group. Mike Pinto is now entrusted with that guitar, and he uses it to teach with. It’s also occasionally played by students in the Ensemble.

Speaking of students, the current roster of the GEGE includes five very talented young guitarists, along with equally talented gentlemen on bass and drums. Most are seniors who are concluding their tenure in the group…and at the college. Individually, they are:

Andrew Ecklund (guitar). A senior music business and jazz studies major at Elmhurst, Andrew has been a member of the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, the Elmhurst College Jazz Band, and jazz combo. His talent and dedication earned him the Gretsch music scholarship for the 2011/2012 school year. Andrew is also active in the Chicago music scene, playing with numerous rock bands and big bands. He appreciates the opportunities that music gives him to share and teach, and he does so as a member of the GRAMMY Foundation team.

Peter Jump (guitar). Peter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree and a Performance Certificate from Elmhurst College. He’s a composer and arranger of a number of works for solo guitar, guitar quartet, and various types of ensembles. He has composed music for several student films and video games, which is his primary career interest. Some significant influences to his guitar playing are David Gilmour, Buckethead, and Greg Howe.

Matt Richter (guitar) Matt is a senior who’ll be graduating with a degree in Music Business. His involvement in music includes playing classical and jazz guitar, as well teaching students of various skill levels at a local music store. Matt plans to go on to graduate school to obtain his masters degree in classical guitar performance.

Owen Szorc (guitar). Owen is a senior in his third year with the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble. He’ll be graduating from Elmhurst College with joint degrees in Music Business and Jazz Studies.

Dan Weiss (guitar). Dan is an exercise science major (with minors in music and business administration) who played his first two years at Elmhurst in another one of Mike Pinto’s electric guitar ensembles, and the most recent two in the Gretsch Ensemble. Dan is also passionate about drums and percussion, as well as tinkering with any kind of instrument he can get his hands on.

Richard Stancato (bass). Richard is a senior Music Business major. He’s been playing bass with the Gretsch Guitar Ensemble for one semester. He cites his main influences on the bass as including Jaco Pastorius, Les Claypool, and Stanley Clarke.

Joel Baer
(drums). A senior and a jazz studies major, Joel began playing and learning drums from his father Jeff. He alater became interested in jazz while studying with Jack Brand. Joel works regularly around Chicago, playing with bluesman Pistol Pete, progressive rock guitarist Clark Colborn, and several jazz groups.

To document the talents of the current edition of the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, the group has produced a professional recording of one of their unique arrangements.

Click below to check out the video and enjoy the sounds of this exceptional musical group.

Elmhurst College Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

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The Great Gretsch Jazz Drummers Summit of 1973

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

An Audio Portrait of Four Percussive Legends

by Fred Gretsch

On July 7, 1973 the Gretsch Drum Company sponsored a unique musical event: A live concert that brought together a bevy of the company’s top artists. This “summit” of Great Gretsch Drummers featured the cream of the jazz drumming world.

The host for this historic event was promoter/producer George Wein, who has been called “the most famous jazz impresario” and “the most important non-player” in jazz history. Among his many accomplishments, Wein founded the Newport Jazz Festival—probably the best-known jazz festival in America—as well as the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and the  New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But in 1973 Wein was at the Wollman Amphitheater in New York’s Central Park, acting as emcee for the Great Gretsch Drummers summit.

The full roster included performances by virtually all of the top jazz drummers of the day. These included established star Max Roach, the then-young-phenomenon Tony Williams, and the unique drum-and-percussion collective led by Roach called M’Boom. Regrettably, those performances were not captured for posterity.

However, four other Great Gretsch Drummers on the bill were recorded. That stellar group included Elvin Jones, Mel Lewis, Freddie Waits, and “Papa” Jo Jones.  Their remarkable presentations have been made available for listening at Wolfgang’s Vault HERE.

ELVIN JONES: FIRE AND PASSION

Elvin Jones

The first recorded performance is by Elvin Jones, who, by 1973, had already set the jazz world on its ear during his six-year stint in the John Coltrane Quartet. In fact, many music critics regard Elvin as the most influential drummer in the history of jazz. His revolutionary multilayered rhythmic approach transformed the drums as a traditional time-keeping instrument, serving as an inspiration for drummers seeking greater improvisational freedom.

Critic and historian Leonard Feather explained Elvin’s significance this way: “His main achievement was the creation of what might be called a circle of sound, a continuum in which no beat of the bar was necessarily indicated by any specific accent, yet the overall feeling became a tremendously dynamic and rhythmically important part of the whole group.” With this freewheeling approach Elvin helped lay the foundation for the avant-garde and fusion jazz movements.

For his Gretsch Summit performance Elvin begins with a polyrhythmic exploration of the kit. Then he’s joined by Moog synthesizer player Joe Galavant and wah-wah-inflected guitarist Paul Mitsky. Their far-out, futuristic fusion jam—fueled by Elvin’s signature rolling thunder on the kit—is the edgiest and most freewheeling of the day’s performances. At the climax of the jam, Elvin lashes into the toms, driving the electronic mix to Hendrixian heights and prompting emcee George Wein to announce: “Elvin Jones, ladies and gentlemen! Strange things are happening!”

Wein then presents Elvin with his award as #1 drummer in the Down Beat International Critics Poll for 1973. In his unmistakable basso croak, Elvin responds with a gracious speech of acceptance.

MEL LEWIS: TASTE AND MUSICALITY

Mel Lewis

As co-leader of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Mel Lewis was widely recognized for bringing a tasteful, small-group approach to his big-band drumming. In an interview, Mel once described his subtle but highly musical style as “not pushing or pulling, but supporting.”

Mel didn’t lack for technique; he could play at break-neck tempos for lengthy periods and hardly break a sweat. But he was never one for blazing fills around the drums. For him, chops had to do with control of the instrument, a sense of color, and, above all, the ability to swing. “I learned that the power of the drums was in this smooth glide of rhythm,” he once told Stanley Crouch. “It wasn’t the volume.” So Mel wasn’t flashy or loud—just tasteful, and highly musical.

When it came to sound, Mel was a purist. He insisted on playing genuine Turkish-made cymbals, favoring lightweight models that were dark and rich with overtones. His standard setup included a 21″ ride, a 19″ crash-ride, and a 22″ “swish-knocker” with rivets. The sound of these cymbals, combined with the rich, warm sound of his wood-shell Gretsch drums equipped with natural calfskin top heads produced a sonic identity that was uniquely Mel’s.

Mel opens up his Great Gretsch Summit performance slowly, using mallets and sticks to play deliberate strokes on his toms and cymbals. Extending the solo musically as well as rhythmically, he artfully orchestrates a thoughtful and dramatic piece that highlights the melodic potential of the complete drumkit.

FREDDIE WAITS: POWER AND INTENSITY

Freddie Waits

Next up was Freddie Waits. While never the jazz superstar that Elvin Jones was or that Tony Williams would become, Freddie was the embodiment of the solid, in-demand working drummer during the late 1960s and early ’70s. While in college Freddie played blues with Ivory Joe Hunter and Percy Mayfield. Later he became a “house drummer” for Motown Recording Studios in Detroit, where he worked with such legendary artists as The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder. (Freddie drummed on Stevie’s first hit Fingertips.)

Freddie entered the jazz scene after moving to New York, where he became a member of the original New York Jazz Sextet. He went on to tour with Ella Fitzgerald, and to work with such other greats as Betty Carter, Donald Byrd, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, and Johnny Hodges.

Freddie also devoted a great deal of his time and energy to the versatile percussion group M’Boom. The ensemble featured Max Roach, Omar Clay, Roy Brooks, Joe Chambers, Warren Smith, Fred King, and Ray Mantilla, all of whom contributed a tremendously wide range of ideas and influences to the group’s collective percussive identity.

For his part of the Summit, Freddie opens with an audacious eruption on the kit. Employing a take-no-prisoners approach from the outset he dives in headfirst and continues to blaze unabated over the course of eight minutes. Midway through this dynamic percussive deluge Freddie is joined by fellow M’Boom member Joe Chambers on marimba and assorted hand percussion. Together they bring the intensity of the performance to a breathtaking crescendo.

PAPA JO JONES: A SIGNATURE APPROACH

Papa Jo Jones

When Papa Jo Jones took the stage, he was the acknowledged elder statesman among the drummers on the bill—and among jazz drummers worldwide. As one-fourth of the legendary All-American Rhythm Section in the Count Basie band (with Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, and Walter Page on bass) from 1936 through 1948, Papa Jo provided the swinging momentum for that legendary musical organization. In so doing, he established a standard for style and taste on the drums that influenced drummers for generations to come.

More than any other drummer in history, Papa Jo Jones developed the hi-hat into an instrument of great rhythmic and tonal variety. His hi-hat style has been characterized as swinging and driving, but never obtrusive. So it isn’t surprising that Papa Jo’s Great Gretsch Drum Summit solo spot features the hi-hat—only the hi-hat.

According to jazz author and historian Michael Steinman, “Legend has it that the young Tony Williams and the middle-aged Max Roach came out and did their best to show all the ways in which they could make sounds by using every part of their drum kits. Sly and subversive, Papa Jo came out with only his hi-hat cymbals and a pair of sticks and ‘washed them all away.’” The sixty-two-year-old drumming great held the crowd spellbound with his myriad of hip approaches to playing his signature instrument.

It’s a shame that these classic performances were not filmed so that we could have a visual as well as an audio record. But if you’re a drummer—or even just a drumming aficionado—it’s really not hard to imagine what it might have been like to witness these Great Gretsch Drummers in action. Just listen…close your eyes . . . and enjoy!

Gretsch Remembers Louie Bellson

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Story reposted from 2009:

Gretsch Salutes Louie Bellson and Gretsch Drums, “Partners in Innovation”

By Fred Gretsch, 4th Generation Drum Maker

Louie Bellson’s career was remarkable for many reasons. In musical terms, few, if any drummers, could match his achievements. He began playing with Ted Fio Rito, and he replaced Gene Krupa in Benny Goodman’s band by the time he was seventeen years old. He performed and recorded with such jazz legends as Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, as well as with great vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Mel Torme’, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan, and Tony Bennett. Louie also led his own successful big bands and small groups for more than forty years.

In addition, Louie established himself as a gifted composer. He wrote and arranged more than a thousand tunes, including the drum-feature classic “Skin Deep,” which he made famous with the Ellington orchestra.

Louie was also a legendary clinician and educator. The eternal student himself, he was always eager to share his knowledge and his skills with young drummers.

And on top of everything else, Louie was an innovator. His vision of what a drumset could be literally revolutionized the design of the instrument, blazing a trail that would be followed by generations of creative drummers. And when Louie first sought to turn his vision into reality, he turned to the Gretsch Drum Company.

Bellson Beginnings

Gretsch Advertisement with Louie Bellson and Dick Shanahan

Gretsch Advertisement with Louie Bellson and Dick Shanahan

Louie established his lifelong pattern of constant study and self-improvement at a very early age. Besides taking lessons from the top teachers in his hometown of Moline, Illinois, as well as in Chicago, Louie played regularly with his high school big band. He also kept abreast of what the top bands in the country were playing by studying the records that were sold in his father’s music store.

In 1980, Louie told Modern Drummer author Robyn Flans, “I was aware of all the bands that were coming into the picture, like Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Harry James, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. I was very fortunate to sit in with those guys when they came to town-partly because they’d heard that I’d won the Gene Krupa Drum Contest [Louie won that contest in 1941 at the age of 16], and partly because my friends would yell, ‘Hey! Get my friend up there to play!’”

One such incident proved to be the turning point in Bellson’s career. When Ted Fio Rito’s band came into town, seventeen-year-old Louie sat in with the band. Fio Rito’s drummer was leaving, and the bandleader offered Louie a job on the spot. Louie opted to finish high school first, but joined the band immediately after graduating. His first job was in California, at the Florentine Gardens on Hollywood Boulevard, in 1942.

Three months later Benny Goodman heard Louie playing with Fio Rito’s band, and invited the youngster to audition for him. The next day Louie went to Paramount Studios, where Benny was doing a movie, and sat in with the Goodman Sextet. After playing only one number, Louie had the job. The seventeen-year-old wunderkind quickly established himself as a drummer to watch-no small feat considering that he was following in the footsteps of Gene Krupa.

After a year with Goodman, Louie was called into service in World War II. He was sent to the Walter Reed Hospital Annex in Washington, D.C., which had a large orchestra, a concert band, and a jazz band. These bands performed for wounded soldiers being treated at the hospital. After serving three years in the Army, Louie returned to Ted Fio Rito’s band for three months. That three-month period saw yet another historic development in Louie’s career.

It Started as an Idea

Louie Bellson with his 1946 double bass kit

Louie Bellson with his 1946 double bass kit

Louie’s return to the Ted Fio Rito band in 1946 marked his first use of two bass drums. But he’d actually had the idea back in 1938, when he was still in high school. That idea was at least partly prompted by the fact that Louie was completely ambidextrous.

“One thing in the drummer’s favor,” Louie told Robyn Flans in 1980, “is to be able to manipulate the right hand or the left hand equally as well, and vice versa with the legs. I didn’t go out for sports much because they kept me so busy in bands while I was in school. But I did go out for track. I was an exceptionally fast runner, and my track coach, who was also the football coach, said I’d be a great halfback. I couldn’t leave band to do that, but I did fool around some with a football, and I discovered that I could kick with either foot. This caused me to sit down one day and think, ‘How would it be to have another drum over there . . . to still utilize the hi-hat, but have another bass drum?’ So I drew up a design of the double bass drumset.”

When Louie first took his design to various drum companies in 1939 and 1940, they were-to put it mildly-not very receptive. “I was just getting started as a player,” Louie told Robyn Flans in 2004. “When I approached one drum company, they told me, ‘You and Buck Rogers ought to go to the moon. You’re crazy.’”

The Gretsch Connection

It took a few years, but eventually Louie found one drum company that didn’t think he was crazy. In fact, when he approached the Gretsch Company in 1946, their craftsmen took his design as a challenge.

Gretsch’s effort to help Louie realize his vision was spearheaded by drum promotion and sales manager Phil Grant. A former percussionist with the Goldman Band in New York, Grant was also an inventor. He was as knowledgeable about drum construction as he was about drumming.

“Phil Grant was the right man for Gretsch to hire,” Louie Bellson told Chet Falzerano in his book, Gretsch Drums: The Legacy Of That Great Gretsch Sound. “He was a very fine drummer himself, and he was sympathetic to all the artists who were using Gretsch drums. He listened to what all of us had to say, and then he’d ask ‘What can we do to make the drumset better?’”

For his part, Grant had this to say about Bellson: “Louie was a great innovator and an excellent drummer. Regardless of what phase of drumming you were in, you looked up to Louie because he had hands and feet that wouldn’t stop. He was way ahead of his time with that double bass set. Since then, quite a few big band drummers have used two bass drums. But most of them didn’t know why the second one was there. It just looked good.”

A Drum Kit Is Born

Louie Bellson with a later double bass kit

Louie Bellson with a later double bass kit

The kit that Grant and the Gretsch team created with Louie in 1946 featured two 20×20 bass drums, in accordance with Louie’s original concept. But it went further than that. It also featured a unique combination of tom-toms. The center tom was a 26×18 floor tom placed directly in front of the snare drum. Symmetrically mounted on either side were 9×13 and 7×11 toms, with the whole assembly connected and supported on legs. The floor toms were 16×16 and 16×18.

The drums on the kit featured Gretsch’s cross-laminated three-ply shells, with 1/16″-thick veneers of maple on the inside and outside, with a 1/8″-thick middle layer of poplar. Gretsch laminated the plies as they molded the shell, joining them in three different places. This eliminated the need for reinforcing rings, which the craftsmen at Gretsch believed “broke up the sound waves” inside the drum. The thin shells also allowed for a very thin bearing edge, which promoted projection and resonance.

Jazz drumming great Charlie Persip was a contemporary of Louie Bellson’s, though a few years younger. Commenting on the construction of Gretsch drums in Chet Falzerano’s book, he said, “Gretsch really came up with a drum that had the right sound for the music of the day. That’s why everybody went with them. Gretsch toms sang like a mockingbird.”

The Kit on Stage

Louie Bellson with Duke Ellington
Louie Bellson with Duke Ellington

Louie’s futuristic configuration would be right at home on many stages today. But it didn’t catch on immediately in the big band era. Louie debuted the kit with Ted Fio Rito’s band in 1946, but the bandleader didn’t choose to feature it. And Benny Goodman, with whom Louie next worked, preferred a more standard drum kit. But when Louie joined the Tommy Dorsey orchestra in 1947, things were different.

“Tommy made a big thing out of the kit,” Louie told Robyn Flans, “because Tommy liked drummers. He had had Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, and he wanted a guy who could swing with the band and yet be a soloist. When he saw my two-bass drum idea, he flipped out. We came up with the idea of a revolving platform. Tommy would press a button and the platform would go around in the middle of my solo. That way, people could see and understand what I was doing.”

Louie’s revolutionary kit established him as one of the most creative and imaginative drummers on the big-band scene. It also launched a twenty-year association with Gretsch Drums. Over those years Louie would continue to develop as a drum superstar, and his drum kit would continue to evolve. When he played with Duke Ellington, the bass drums were bigger, and the toms were fewer. By the advent of the bebop era in the early 1950s, the bass drums were smaller, and the toms fewer still. But he always retained the double bass design that had become his trademark.

“I had a wonderful relationship with Gretsch,” Louie told Chet Falzerano. “Twenty years, that’s a long time! Their drums always had a great sound.”

A Musical Philosophy

Speaking with Robyn Flans in 1986, Louie summed up his philosophy regarding the “big kit” design that he maintained throughout his career. “I always go by what I’m doing musically,” he said. “If I hear something, then I want to put it in.”

In 1991 Louie reminisced a bit, this time with Modern Drummer author Rick Mattingly. “When Buddy Rich first saw my 1946 set, with all those drums surrounding me, he looked at me and made a classic remark. He had his hand on his chin, like a Jack Benny pose, and he said, ‘Are you having a baby?’ But I told Buddy, ‘You know, I use all this stuff.’”

Truer words were never spoken.

Charlie Watts Will Boogie Down In New York This Weekend

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

New York City music fans, you’re in for a treat!  Great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts is coming to town with the unique jazz instrumental group The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie. The band gets its moniker from the first-name initials of its members: pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters, drummer Charlie Watts, and bassist Dave Green.

The band will be appearing Thursday, June 28 at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center, in Damrosch Park, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza. Ticket info is available at  www.midsummernightswing.org and www.lincolncenter.org. They’ll then do a four-night stand at New York’s famed Iridium jazz club, running from Friday, June 29 through Monday, July 2, with two shows each night. The Iridium is at 1650 Broadway (at 51st Street). Ticket info for the shows there is available by phone at   (212) 582-2121, or at www.theiridium.com.

Boogie woogie music has been fascinating audiences with its youthful freshness for more than 100 years, making it uniquely appealing to new generations of enthusiastic musicians. But there’s more to it than that: Boogie woogie is one of the most important roots of modern popular music—especially rock ‘n’ roll. Charlie Watts himself has mentioned boogie woogie as a foundation of the Rolling Stones’ music.

Alex Zwingenberger is the key figure of the boogie woogie revival. He and his bandmates toured Europe this past March. They played several dates in Germany and in Austria, along with a memorable show at London’s Pizza Express Soho. Regarding that show, Times critic Clive Davis raved, “Jazz lover Charlie Watts looked more than happy to be sandwiched between the pianos of his old friend (and German boogiemeister) Axel Zwingenberger and our own Ben Waters. Watts has rightly won praise for his previous forays into bebop, but the visceral roar of a boogie-woogie riff is even more intoxicating.”

Charlie Watts with Fred Gretsch in Vienna

My wife Dinah and I had the great pleasure of visiting with Charlie and the band prior to one of their performances at the Weiner Metropole in Vienna. Charlie and I chatted about the 125th Anniversary Gretsch poster, and we had a good time looking at old Gretsch photos and catalogs dating back to 1912. Charlie then mentioned that he planned to call noted vintage drum dealer Steve Maxwell to arrange for a loaner Gretsch kit for the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’s New York City dates. So look for that kit if you go to one of the group’s shows.

And by the way, if you do plan to go, get your tickets right away. When I saw the band play in Vienna, the club was literally packed with boogie woogie fans.  I’ve no doubt it’ll be the same in New York!

June 30 is Gretsch Day at Cream City Music

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Gretsch guitars and Cream City Music are excited to announce the “Gretsch Day” Event, featuring “The Fred & Joe Show,” taking place on Saturday, June 30, 2012, from 11 am to 4 pm CDT at the Cream City Music store on 12505 West Bluemound Road in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

The event, which is free of cost to all guests and open to the public, will feature continuous musical performances beginning at 2:00 p.m. by Bluegrass guitar pickers Nik & Sam, fingerstyle guitarist Bobby Gibson, and acoustic guitar sensation Jake Allen. Guests making very special appearances include Fred Gretsch, the fourth-generation owner of the iconic Gretsch Guitar Company, and Gretsch Guitars Product Specialist, Joe Carducci.

In addition, guitar artist Sarah Gallenberger will unveil her newest masterpiece painted on a Gretsch G6120 guitar. This one-of-a-kind Gretsch will be up for grabs in an online auction benefitting the Milwaukee-based charity Guitars for Vets.

Special offers on Gretsch products and guitars will be available to attendees throughout the day along with a special Gretsch gift bag for the first twenty guests through the door.

For more information, call Cream City Music or visit their website.

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About Cream City Music
Cream City Music is on a constant search for great deals to pass on to its customers. Whether it is new, used or vintage items you are looking for, Cream City Music probably has a better price. Its staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and they also like to share their expertise. With a broad assortment of new, used, discontinued, and scratch and dent deals, there is a lot to choose from. Cream City Music takes pride in giving detailed, accurate descriptions of everything they sell, and is trying to provide the best one-on-one customer service available on the planet. For more information, visit their website.

About Guitars for Vets
Guitars for Vets, Inc. (G4V) is a federally registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that enhances the lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and music instruction. Through self-expression and the healing power of music, it is our intent to restore the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma. For more information, visit their website.

Chet Atkins: CGP Exhibit To Close with Slew of Special Programs

Monday, June 18th, 2012

From The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum:

Slate of Finale Programs Includes a Special June 30 Performance by Earl Klugh, Tribute Concerts, Film Screenings and More.

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is preparing to bid farewell to the cameo exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible by the Gretsch Company, which opened in the museum’s East Gallery on August 12, 2011.  In recognition of the exhibit’s July 15 finale, the museum is offering a packed lineup of Atkins-themed programs including a special program starring Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh on Saturday, June 30; additional concerts by some of Atkins’ friends, peers and protégés; a series of film screenings; and daily instrument demonstrations.

The Earl Klugh program, instrument demonstrations and concerts are included with museum admission and free to museum members; admission to the film screenings is free. Visit the museum’s website for complete admission details.

Born Chester Burton Atkins on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tennessee, Chet Atkins became one of the most respected musicians and producers in American music history.   His unparalleled achievements were acknowledged formally with his 1973 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Atkins died on June 30, 2001, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Renowned for his sweet tone and his mastery of the acoustic guitar, Grammy Award-winner Earl Klugh ranks as one of the world’s finest guitarists. He was barely a teen in Detroit when he was awestruck by seeing Atkins play guitar on television. After meeting in the late 1970s, Klugh and Atkins collaborated frequently. “Earl can wail with the best,” Atkins told Guitar Player magazine, “but he prefers to touch people emotionally. He reaches your heart with that romantic special something.”

On Saturday, July 7, the museum will pay tribute to Atkins’ thumbpicking inspiration, Merle Travis, with the concert Muhlenburg County Thumbpickers, a reference to Travis’ birthplace in Kentucky. Award-winning Muhlenburg County-area guitarists Joe Hudson, Paul Mosely, Eddie Pennington and Freddie Russell will perform.

On Saturday, July 14, at 1:30 p.m., Chet Atkins: Friends and Flame Keepers will honor Atkins’ legacy as a generous teacher, collaborator, and even a student of other guitarists. The concert will highlight the relationships forged and nurtured around Atkins’ music, as well as the artists who are carrying on and expanding Atkins’ guitar style. Performers include John Knowles, c.g.p., Guy Van Duser, Thom Bresh with Brooks Robertson, Ben Hall with Megan Taylor Anderson and more.

A complete list of closing programs presented in conjunction with the exhibition follows below:

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible by the Gretsch Company, Closing Programs–

Sunday, June 24, 2:00 p.m., CDT – Film Screening: Chet Atkins and Friends: Music from the Heart (1987)

Chet Atkins fronts an ace band and hosts this concert special, originally recorded for television in Nashville. Guest performers include the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson, and others. 60 Minutes. Free.

Saturday, June 30, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Earl Klugh

Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh will perform solo in tribute to his hero, Chet Atkins. This concert will be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org. Following the program, Klugh will sign copies of his CDs and a limited edition Hatch Show Print.

Sunday, July 1, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: The Jerry Reed Show (1976)

This colorful episode of The Jerry Reed Show features performances by and interviews with Lynn Anderson, Atkins, Jerry Clower, and Terry McMillan. Reed performs “Baby’s Coming Home” with Atkins, and all the guests join in on “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” The live house band is conducted by Bill Justis. 45 minutes. Free.

Saturday, July 7, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Muhlenburg County Thumbpickers

Chet Atkins was inspired by the complex fingerstyle guitar playing of Merle Travis called “thumbpicking.” This guitar style has been developed, passed down, preserved, and expanded by generations of players around Travis’s birthplace in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. Award-winning Muhlenburg area guitarists Joe Hudson, Paul Mosely, Eddie Pennington, and Freddie Russell will perform.

Sunday, July 8, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Joe Edwards

Sunday, July 8, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: Nine Pound Hammer (1998)

In the early 20th century a few guitar players in Western Kentucky developed a unique style of guitar playing that used the thumb to pick out a steady bass rhythm while the first finger played a melody. This style, which became known as “thumbpicking” was popularized by Capitol Records recording artist and Muhlenburg County native Merle Travis, and had a significant influence on Chet Atkins. This film features stories and performances from eight Kentucky thumbpickers, some of whom have been playing since the time Travis rose to stardom, while others are from a younger generation of guitarists who have carried on and expanded this traditional style. 52 minutes. Free.

Monday, July 9, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Vocal and Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Jim and Morning Nichols

Tuesday, July 10, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Phil Hunt and Eddie Estes

Wednesday, July 11, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Mark Mazengarb and Loren Barrigar

Thursday, July 12, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: John Standefer

John Standefer is the winner of the 2002 National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship at Winfield, Kansas, and the Open Division winner of the 2004 International Home of the Legends Competition. He teaches and performs yearly at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention in Nashville. Made possible by Gibson Guitar Corporation. Presented in support of the exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible by the Gretsch Company. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Thursday, July 12, 1:00 p. m., CDT, Offsite Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Program: Panel Discussion: Remembering Chet

John Rumble, senior historian for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, will lead a panel discussion featuring four highly acclaimed music veterans who worked closely with Chet Atkins for many years. Panelists include Jim Ed Brown, Ray Edenton, Charlie McCoy, and Wayne Moss. Presented in support of the exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible by the Gretsch Company. [program at CAAS - NOT HELD AT THE MUSEUM]

Friday, July 13, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown is a fingerstyle guitarist and composer from Nashville. His influences include Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, George Benson, Lenny Breau, and Tommy Emmanuel. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Saturday, July 14, 11:30 a.m., CDT, Lecture-demonstration: Chet Atkins with Strings: Pat Kirtley

Starting in the late 1950s, Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, Ken Nelson, and arranger Anita Kerr brought violins, violas, and cellos into the sonic blend that would become the Nashville Sound. The sophisticated arrangements created for Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and others attracted new listeners and sold millions of records. Atkins was also a pioneer in using string sections on his own recordings. Guitarist Pat Kirtley and the Endless Road Strings will tell the story by recreating some of Chet’s signature pieces, with added commentary on the history of pop and country string sections in Nashville. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Saturday, July 14, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Chet Atkins: Friends and Flame Keepers

Chet Atkins was known as an innovative guitarist; as a producer who helped define the Nashville Sound; as a generous teacher and collaborator; and even as a student of other guitarists. This exhibit-closing concert will highlight the relationships that have been sparked and continue to grow around Chet’s music, as well as the artists who are carrying on and expanding Chet’s guitar style. John Knowles, c.g.p., will host this tribute with guest performances by Megan Taylor Anderson, Muriel Anderson, Thom Bresh, Guy Van Duser, Ben Hall, Brooks Robertson, Joe Robinson, and others.  The program will be streamed live on www.countrymusichalloffame.org. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Sunday, July 15, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Brooks Robertson

Oregon-based Brooks Robertson is a composer and arranger in the style of Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Thom Bresh, and his own mentor, Buster B. Jones. In 2004, Robertson won first place in Prairie Home Companion’s Talent from Twelve to Twenty Contest.  Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Sunday, July 15, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: Austin City Limits – “Chet Atkins and Friends” (1987)

In this episode of the long-running public television series, Chet Atkins demonstrates his trademark guitar style as well his love of collaboration. His guests include Thom Bresh, Larry Carlton, Johnny Gimble, Peter Ostroushko, Butch Thompson, and the Prairie Home Companion Band. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. 55minutes. Free.

These programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Film screenings are made possible by Iron Mountain Film and Sound Archives.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture.  With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

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

Gretsch Day 2012 at Street Sounds in Brooklyn

Friday, June 1st, 2012

A Huge Success!

Street Sounds and Gretsch guitars teamed up once again to present the Gretsch Fred & Joe Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival event on Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Street Sounds music store on 9206 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.

The free event featured top-notch musical performances beginning with Foxy Studs, followed by The Octanes, Paul Pigat and Cousin Harley, Nik & Sam, and headliners, the pop rock quartet Fountains of Wayne.

Fred Gretsch and Gretsch Guitars product specialist Joe Carducci presented their popular “Fred & Joe Show” and OK Go frontman Damian Kulash kicked off the evening by signing autographs for fans.  In addition, guests were treated to a hands-on guitar clinic with Gretsch Guitars Custom Shop Master Builder, Stephen Stern, as well as the opportunity to meet Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon who graciously signed her new posters for attendees.

During the evening two lucky attendees won guitars including a Gretsch Double Jet with Bigsby and a Chet Atkins Country Gentleman 12-String.  Other prizes were awarded as well.

A special thank-you to The GretschPages for streaming the event, and to Rocky and his fantastic team at Street Sounds.

Check out images from the evening below:

Street Sounds Brooklyn--Rocky & Gretsch families baked Gretsch collector cookies for event. First-come, first-served!

Fred Gretsch Gets Damian Kulash's Autograph for Granddaughters!

Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern Talks Gretsch Guitars

Stephen Stern Knows His Stuff

Fred & Joe - What a Team!

The Foxy Studs Kicked Off the Evening's Live Music

The Foxy Studs

Joe Introduces Our Lovely Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon

Adam Burchfield of The Octanes

The Octanes

Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley

Paul Pigat Working His Guitar Magic

Nik & Sam

Fred Gretsch with Nik & Sam

Toni from Brooklyn Wins a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman 12-String Guitar!!

Headliners Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Thanks Everyone! See You Next Year!

German Guitar Heroes–Legendary Craftsman from Germany to America

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By Fred Gretsch

Not long ago I was on a visit to New York City. While there, I took the opportunity to attend an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled: “Guitar Heroes—Legendary Craftsmen From Italy to New York.” The exhibit showcased the history of guitar making in Italy, and how Italian luthiers brought their craft with them when they emigrated to New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As the namesake of one of America’s premier guitar brands, I was fascinated by the Met’s exhibit. However, as an individual of German heritage, whose family has been keenly involved with guitar production for four generations, I felt that an important part of history was not being represented.

My feelings were made all the more acute by the fact that my granddaughter Chelsea (a sixth-generation Gretsch) was at the Met with me. I wanted her to know and appreciate how important the contributions of German immigrant craftsmen—including members of her own family—were and still are to guitar innovation and production in America. So I decided to prepare this examination of those contributions.

Using the format of the Met’s exhibit as a basis for my look at German Guitar Heroes, I discovered a fascinating array of comparisons, contrasts, and connections. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

It Starts With C.F. Martin

To begin with a contrast: Significant emigration of Italian luthiers to New York took place between 1880 and 1920. But German luthier Christian Frederick Martin arrived half a century earlier, in 1833. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Christian Martin was the founder and namesake of C. F. Martin & Company, makers of world-famous Martin flat-top acoustic guitars. Christian Martin was born on January 31, 1796 in Markneukirchen, Germany. Born into a family of cabinetmakers and woodworkers, he eventually moved to Vienna, where he apprenticed to noted Austrian guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer.

At that time European craftsmen operated under the guild system. The guitar (as we know it today) was a relatively new instrument, and most guitar makers—including C.F. Martin—were members of the Cabinet Makers’ Guild. But the Violin Makers’ Guild claimed exclusive rights to manufacture musical instruments. They filed appeals on three occasions to prevent cabinet makers from producing guitars. The cabinet makers successfully defended their right to build guitars, but Martin felt that the guild system was too restrictive. He wanted to work where his skill could advance his personal success without limitations. So in 1833 he emigrated to New York City.

Martin established a shop at 196 Hudson Street on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, with a workshop in the back and a small retail music store in the front. He remained in New York City for five years, then relocated to Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The company is still family-owned and operated to this day.

In an example of German craftsmanship and innovation, the Martin company employed the X-bracing system for guitars during the 1850s. In fact, X-bracing was used by several guitar makers in the 1850s—all German immigrants who knew each other—and there is no evidence that C. F. Martin invented the system. But the Martin Company was the first to use it on a large scale.

What makes this important is that from the 1860s on, fan bracing was the standard in Europe. Martin and other American builders (including such forgotten German names as Schmidt & Maul and Stumcke) used X-bracing. The sound produced by X-bracing on a guitar with gut strings may be considered less delicate. But it prepared the American guitar for steel strings, which emerged in the first quarter of the 20th century and eventually dominated the acoustic guitar market.

The German-heritage family leadership of the Martin company continued to result in important innovations as time went on. When the Great Depression of 1929 drastically reduced sales, the company came up with the 14-fret neck, which allowed players to reach higher notes more easily. Martin intended it to appeal to banjo players interested in switching to guitar for increased work opportunities. The longer neck became so popular that Martin made it standard on all of its guitars, and the rest of the guitar industry soon followed. Classical guitars, which were evolving on their own track largely among European builders, retained the 12-fret neck design.

Martin’s second major innovation within the period between 1915 and 1930 was the dreadnought guitar. First designed in 1916 as a collaboration between Martin and prominent retailer Oliver Ditson Co., the dreadnought body style was larger and deeper than most guitars. It took its name from the British Royal Navy’s HMS Dreadnought, which at the time was the largest battleship ever built.

HD-28 Dreadnought in moulded case

The greater volume and louder bass produced by the dreadnought design was intended to make the guitar more useful as an accompaniment instrument for singers working with the limited sound equipment of the day. Martin gave the dreadnought X-bracing in 1931, and two years later gave it a modified body shape to accommodate a 14-fret neck. From there it quickly became their best-selling guitar. Today the dreadnought size and shape is a “standard” acoustic guitar design, highly regarded for its usefulness in a wide variety of musical genres.

Enter Gretsch

The appearance of the Gretsch name as part of the German Guitar Heroes story also pre-dates the Italian emigration to the U.S. It happens in 1872, when my great-grandfather Friedrich Gretsch moved from Germany to Brooklyn at the age of sixteen. Very shortly thereafter he went to work at Albert Houdlett & Sons—a musical-instrument manufacturer that specialized in drums and banjos.

By the time 1883 came around, Friedrich was in his mid-twenties and had been married for four years. He had done many different music-related jobs, including expanding his skills to include guitars. That’s when he founded his own business, operating out of a small shop in Brooklyn.

Sadly, Friedrich didn’t remain at the helm of the business he founded for very long. In 1895, while on a trip to his German homeland, he died unexpectedly at the age of thirty-nine.

The Second Gretsch Generation

Friedrich’s death left the leadership of the company to the enterprising mind of his fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, who was still in knickers at the time. Energetic as he was enterprising, Fred Gretsch, Sr. built the business on a reputation for precision and quality. In 1916—two decades after assuming direction of the company—Fred Gretsch Sr. moved the factory and sales operation into a ten-story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. From this headquarters he responded to the growing demand for more specialized instruments, including guitars.

In one of the contrasts I mentioned earlier, New York’s Italian luthiers worked on a local, artisan basis. By 1920 Gretsch was the world’s largest instrument manufacturer, making and selling guitars across the country. (At that time, guitars were sold to wholesalers, who put their own brands on them.) And, in one of the connections I mentioned earlier, Gretsch was also distributing Martin guitars.

In 1927 the popularity of Gretsch-made guitars prompted the company to officially create their own brand of guitars. Thus the Gretsch name appeared on guitars for the first time. Back in 1918 Fred Gretsch Sr. had developed a revolutionary multi-ply lamination process that resulted in the world’s first “warp-free” drum hoop and led to the development of multi-ply drumshells. (Prior to that time drum shells and hoops had been made of steam-bent single-ply boards.) This historic innovation later had a major impact on guitar manufacturing, as we’ll see in a bit.

In 1935, Fred Gretsch Sr.’s son Bill was managing the company’s Chicago distribution office when he met a nineteen-year-old saxophonist named Charles “Duke” Kramer, who was playing in local clubs. Bill saw something special in the teenager and offered him a job polishing horns for $11 a week. Duke—himself of German heritage—accepted the job and never left the company. His career with Gretsch spanned an amazing seventy years, during which time he came to be known as “Mr. Guitar Man” for his pivotal role in making Gretsch electric guitars what they are today.

Gretsch Sychromatic Guitar

And what they are today began in 1939 with the introduction of the first Gretsch electric guitar—the Electromatic—along with the Synchromatic archtop guitar series. In that same year guitar player and innovator Jimmie Webster joined the company. Meanwhile, Gretsch acoustic guitars appeared with a distinctive triangle-shaped sound hole.

The Third Gretsch Generation

In 1942 my grandfather, Fred Gretsch, Sr., retired, leaving the day-to-day operations of running the company to his sons, Fred Gretsch, Jr. (my uncle) and William “Bill” Gretsch (my father). Both had been active in the business since 1927. After a brief term at the company’s helm, Fred Gretsch, Jr. left to serve as a commander in the US Navy. Bill Gretsch became president, and during his tenure the company forged a musical relationship with the legendary Birdland jazz club in New York City.

The company lost its president, and I lost my father, to illness in 1948. Fred Gretsch, Jr. assumed control of the business, just in time for the dawn of rock ’n’ roll at the beginning of the 1950s. While other guitar manufacturers held to traditional designs tied to older musical styles, Gretsch embraced rock ’n’ roll as an opportunity for innovation and expansion. The early years of the decade saw the first cutaway bodies appear on Electromatic and new Electro II guitar models, as well as the introduction of the legendary Duo-Jet model (which sparked the entire Jet line of Gretsch solid-body guitars).

In 1954 Jimmie Webster struck a deal with guitar great Chet Atkins to design and develop a Gretsch guitar. In this same year the first Bigsby vibratos—designed by inventor, machinist, musician, and engineer Paul Bigsby—were offered on Gretsch electrics. The two brands have since become inseparably identified.

Special Connections

The 1950s featured several fascinating connections between Gretsch and one of the Italian guitar makers showcased in the Metropolitan Museum’s Guitar Heroes exhibit: John D’Angelico. In the 1950s D’Angelico’s Manhattan shop and Gretsch’s Brooklyn factory were at opposite ends of the Williamsburg Bridge. John used to take the subway from Delancy Street over to the Brooklyn side, then walk down to our building, where we sold him our remaining stock of solid-wood tops, backs, sides, and wood blocks for neck-making. That material was surplus to us, but it was the basic ingredient for his stock in trade. Gretsch was a large buyer of wood and wood products; John was a small buyer. And he was able to buy things from us, including ebony and rosewood, which we were importing in large quantities. So John D’Angelico was a customer of ours.

Chet Atkins' D'Angelico Guitar. Courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Bob Delevante.

The lead picture on the Met exhibit calendar is a D’Angelico guitar built in 1959. It’s a beautiful blonde spruce-top guitar, and I’m pretty certain that we sold John some or all of the wood that he used to build that instrument. And the August 2012 page of the calendar depicts a 1950 D’Angelico guitar that was owned and played by Chet Atkins prior to his coming on board with Gretsch. It’s currently on exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. That guitar is also probably made of wood obtained from Gretsch. And it features an early Bigsby bridge and pickups—characteristic elements of Gretsch guitars.

More Innovation

In 1955 the multi-ply drum construction method introduced by my grandfather back in 1918 had its impact on guitar design. Up until that time, virtually all hollow-bodied electric guitars were made with one-piece tops and backs. When these instruments were played at the new volume levels of rock ’n’ roll music, they tended to feed back. In 1955, with input from Chet Atkins, Gretsch pioneered three-ply tops and backs on their guitars. This resulted in the White Falcon and 6120 Chet Atkins models, and set the stage for artists like Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, and Beatle George Harrison.

Gretsch 6120 Nashville Guitar

As the 1950s continued, Gretsch began production of the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar, as well as the futuristic Jupiter Thunderbird guitar designed for Bo Diddley. And as the decade ended and a new one began, an event took place that changed the course of musical history. That was when, in 1960, a young British guitarist named George Harrison bought a used 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet guitar. He used that guitar on the earliest recordings and tours by his band, The Beatles.

Only four years later “Beatlemania” was born on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison’s use of a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar ignited a frenzy for that model among aspiring guitarists. And, in yet another connection to German guitar manufacturing, Harrison’s bandmate Paul McCartney performed on a German-made Hofner “violin” bass . . . an instrument that has since become a Beatles icon.

The Fourth Gretsch Generation

In 1967 my uncle, Fred Gretsch, Jr. retired. At the same time he sold The Gretsch Company to the Baldwin Music Company. Over the next eighteen years instrument production facilities and sales offices were moved around the country. Guitar production was limited, and was ultimately shut down completely in 1980. During all that time, it was my fervent desire to return the company to Gretsch family ownership. I was able to achieve that goal in 1985, when I bought the Gretsch Company back from Baldwin.

Shortly after the reacquisition of the company, Gretsch guitar production was started up again. This was helped immeasurably by the resurgence a few years earlier of the rockabilly sound of Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats—a sound that depended largely on Brian’s classic hollow-body Gretsch electric guitar.  In 1988 there was another boost when George Harrison collaborated with Gretsch designers to produce the unique Traveling Wilburys collector guitar. By 1989 Gretsch guitar production had begun in earnest, with full professional lines of Gretsch electric and acoustic guitars.

From the early 1990s through today, Gretsch guitar innovation has continued. This innovation includes the introduction of the Brian Setzer signature model (1993), budget-priced Electromatic, Synchromatic, and Historic guitar lines (1998), the purchase of the Bigsby Accessory company and the re-introduction of the Bo Diddley rectangular signature guitar (1999), the Bo Diddley/Billy Gibbons Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird guitar (2006), a reintroduced line of Chet Atkins models (2007), an Eddie Cochrane tribute model (2010), the George Harrison Tribute Duo-Jet (2011), and a Duane Eddy signature model (2012).

The Legacy Continues

I now represent the fourth generation of Gretsch Company ownership, dating back to my great-grandfather Friedrich. And when it comes to the subject of guitar manufacturing, I’m proud to represent not only my own family’s contributions, but also a legacy of craftsmanship and innovation brought to this country from Germany over 175 years ago.

For exclusive souvenirs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Guitar Heroes exhibition please visit the following links:

Calendar

Postcards

Calendar & Postcard Set