Archive for the ‘Music Industry Events’ Category

Party At 12,000 Feet!

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Taking Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary Celebration To New Heights

After criss-crossing the United States to attend a series of events celebrating Gretsch’s 130th anniversary this year, Fred and Dinah Gretsch recently took the celebration international. Following an anniversary show at the Sam Ash store in Hollywood on July 20th, they left Los Angeles on the 22nd for a flight to Tokyo, Japan. Because they crossed the International Date Line they arrived on the 23rd—an auspicious date in itself, since it was Fred Gretsch’s birthday.

The Gretsches were actually in Japan to celebrate two anniversaries. The first is the Gretsch Company’s 130th. The second is the 25th anniversary of Gretsch’s distribution partnership with the Kanda Shokai Company. To make that celebration particularly special, the directors of Kanda Shokai arranged for Fred and Dinah to take part in a unique excursion: a journey to the top of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji.

Fred Gretsch left at 4:30 a.m. for his ascent of Mt. Fuji. It takes twelve to fourteen hours to make the climb up and down.

And so it was that on July 26 at 4:30 a.m. Fred Gretsch left his hotel for a car trip to a point nearly 8,000 feet up on the mountain. (Dinah followed in a car a bit later to a station at 6,600 feet.) After spending an hour acclimating to the lower air pressure at that elevation, Fred embarked with a Kanda Shokai team and an experienced mountain guide on a six-hour climb to the summit. There—at an elevation of just over 12,000 feet—Fred proudly displayed Gretsch drum and guitar banners to commemorate his accomplishment and celebrate the double anniversary. Then it was another six-hour descent back to the 7,300-foot point and a welcome car ride back to the hotel.

Kanda Shokai has been the Japanese distributor for Gretsch guitars since 1989.  Says Fred Gretsch, “Kanda Shokai was recommended to the Gretsch Family by our long-time associate Duke Kramer. Dinah and I visited Japan several times in 1988 and 1989, and we agreed that Kanda had the product team and know-how to service the Gretsch market in Japan. They first offered Gretsch guitars for sale at the Tokyo show in the fall of 1989. And we’ve been going strong together ever since.”

Dinah Gretsch traveled by car to Mt. Fuji’s 4th station, at 2020 meters (6,300 feet). “It was a three-hour wait to go any higher,” says Dinah. “Beautiful ride.”

Fred Gretsch and Kanda Shokai director Mr. Sakurai at the 8th station, on their way towards the summit.

Fred Gretsch and mountain guide Mr. Watanabe, at the 9th station. “Mr. Watanabe had 100 climbs to his credit,” says Fred. “He was very helpful to the Gretsch/Kanda team in achieving our goal of a successful ascent to the summit.”

Kanda Shokai’s Mr. Asahi and Mr. Shigeta, Fred Gretsch, and guide Mr. Watanabe—proudly displaying Gretsch drum and guitar banners at the summit of Mt. Fuji. Fred is holding a “camp uke” that was signed by all the climbers and will be given away in a lottery by a Japanese guitar magazine.

Fred Gretsch with Kanda Shokai directors Mr. Yokoyama (at left) and Mr. Sakurai.

Fred Gretsch with Kanda Shokai directors Mr. Yokoyama (at left) and Mr. Sakurai.

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A Very Special Gretsch Weekend

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

With 2013 marking The Gretsch Company’s 130th anniversary, we knew it would be an exceptionally busy year filled with an array of special events and celebrations involving some of our terrific Gretsch artists and including lots of great Gretsch fans!  The period from July 10 through 14, however, proved to be especially jam-packed.  And here’s what happened:

Postcards From Nashville

Each summer two exciting musical events happen simultaneously in Nashville. One is the annual convention of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS), which draws Atkins fans and guitar aficionados from across the country. The other is the Summer NAMM trade show, which attracts thousands of music retailers to view the musical-instrument industry’s latest products. Gretsch Guitars is a sponsor and participant in the CAAS convention, and is an exhibitor at the NAMM show.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch (along with their grandson Logan Thomas) attended both of these events this past July 10 through 14. Fred offers his thanks to those who visited with him, and offers the following photos as “postcards from Nashville.”

Fred & Osmond Patterson @ NAMM

Met lots of great folks in Nashville. Pictured here with Osmond Patterson of Artesian Music.

Fred Gretsch with Osmond Patterson

Fred, Joe C, & Jerry Ozee @ CAAS

Another great CAAS event. Pictured here with Jerry Ozee (at center) and the one and only Joe Carducci (Gretsch Guitars product manager).

Fred Gretsch with Joe Carducci and Jerry Ozee

Fred & Don Graham @ CAAS

Met some terrific Gretsch fans at CAAS, such as Don Graham, proud Gretsch owner since 1960. Thank you Don.

Fred Gretsch with Don Graham

Fred & Don Cerce @ CAAS

Here I am with Don Cerce and his beloved Gretsch 6120 Country Gentleman.

Fred Gretsch with Don Cerce

Fred & Carlton Jones @ CAAS

I had a chance to sign Carlton’s guitar. Enjoyed meeting so many great Gretsch enthusiasts & Chet fans.

Fred Gretsch with Carlton Jones

Fred & Bill Lord @ NAMM

Here I am with Bill Lord, Editor in Chief of The NashVegas Insider. Nice chap.

Fred Gretsch with Bill Lord

Fred & Eric Hartley @ NAMM

Another great day in Nashville. Enjoyed meeting Eric Hartley with The Gear Getter.

Fred Gretsch With Eric Hartley

Fred & Joey Joy @ CAAS

Terrific photo taken with Joey Joy of Joy Ride here in Nashville.

Fred Gretsch with Joey Joy

Fred & Harrison Woodlief @ NAMM

Really terrific to see the next generation of musicians during NAMM & CAAS. We hear Harrison’s next purchase may be a Gretsch guitar.

Fred Gretsch with Harrison Woodlief

A special thank-you to everyone for these great memories!

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Fred And Dinah Gretsch Attend Music Makes Us Luncheon

Event Celebrates Nashville’s Commitment To Music Education

Dinah & Fred Gretsch. Photo by Spark St. Jude-MagicOnFilm.

On July 11 a unique event happened in Nashville. Held in coordination with the Summer NAMM musical-instrument trade show, the Music Makes Us luncheon celebrated the importance of music education in the enrichment of young people’s lives. Fred and Dinah Gretsch—well known for their charitable efforts on behalf of music education—attended the event as honored guests, accompanied by their grandson Logan Thomas.

Music Makes Us is joint venture between Nashville’s Metro schools and music industry leaders, targeted at developing a curriculum that offers a variety of approaches to public-school music education. This includes traditional programs like concert band and choir, but also includes classes in rock music, songwriting, bluegrass, and even mariachi styles.  “We want to draw students to making music in other genres,” said Music Makes Us director Laurie Schell. “It’s an opportunity to open doors for students who might not otherwise choose music.”

Fred Gretsch comments, “Dinah and I were pleased to attend the Music Makes Us luncheon, where we were honored to sit with Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, and NAMM president Joe Lamond. We were also extremely impressed with the Music Makes Us program, and with the Nashville school system’s overall commitment to music education. We learned that of the 84,000 students in the Nashville system, fully 100% of them are exposed to music and arts at the elementary level, and 62% system-wide. The school system employs 200 music and arts teachers, with the goal of having the best program in the world. I believe that Nashville’s progressive approach to music and arts education should be a model for the rest of the country.”

Guests at the July 11 luncheon were greeted with a performance by the McGavock High School Saxophone Quartet, directed by Jacob Campos. Speakers included NAMM president Joe Lamond, Nashville mayor Karl Dean, director of schools Jesse Register, senior vice president of the Recording Academy Nancy Shapiro, Music Makes Us director Laurie Schell, coordinator of visual and performing arts Dr. Nola Jones, and NAMM Foundation executive director Mary Luehrsen. A performance by Gibson Artists Chris & Lolly ended the event.

Video clips of the luncheon performances as well as comments from Laurie Schell and Nancy Shapiro may be viewed HERE.

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Fred Gretsch Offers Insight at Summer NAMM

Participates In a Unique Panel of Industry Icons

Fred Gretsch greatly enjoyed his participation.

Fred Gretsch represents the fourth generation of The Gretsch Family and the company that bears its name. With nearly fifty years in the business himself, Fred has earned the respect and admiration of his industry peers—including the organizers of the NAMM musical-instrument trade show. That admiration led them to invite Fred to participate in their “Insight—Hard-Earned Wisdom From Industry Icons” panel event on July 11. The event was a feature of the Summer NAMM show held in Nashville from July 11 through July 13.

The Insight Panel Along with NAMM President Joe Lamond and Moderators Tom Bedell and Vince Gill.

As part of the “Insight” panel Fred joined several other gentlemen whose family names are also iconic musical brands. These included Chris Martin (Martin guitars), Sterling Ball (Ernie Ball strings and accessories), Jim D’Addario (D’Addario & Co.), Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars), and Hartley Peavey (Peavey amplifiers and guitars). Other industry notables included Henry Juszkiewicz (Gibson Guitars) and Andy Zildjian (Sabian Cymbals). The panel was hosted jointly by country music superstar Vince Gill and NAMM director Tom Bedell (founder of Two Old Hippies LLC).

Fred Gretsch Shares a Thought as Sterling Ball Looks On

The evening’s program gave each member an opportunity to address topics of personal interest, as well as to respond to specific questions posed by the moderators. Segments included manufacturing, business and leadership, and the future of retail. The goal was to offer meaningful advice to the music retailers in attendance.

“I was honored to be a part of this great program,” says Fred Gretsch, “and to share some of my thoughts about the current state of the music industry and how it can be improved. Along that line, when we were asked what we would do if we were ‘king for a day,’ I responded with what I’d learned earlier that same day about the music education program in the Nashville school system. With 84,000 students in the system, 100% of them are exposed to music and art at the elementary level, and 62% system-wide. The district employs 200 music and arts teachers, with the goal of having the best program in the world. My ‘kingly decree’ would be to implement that same music program in all 164,000 school systems in America. I got a terrific round of applause from the 1,000-plus folks in attendance.”

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A Special Card For Bill

Drummers From Across The Country Help Gretsch Celebrate Bill Hagner’s 90th Birthday

July 13 marked the 90th birthday of Bill Hagner—a gentleman who figures highly in the history of Gretsch musical-instrument manufacturing. Bill started working at Gretsch’s Brooklyn factory as a clerk in 1941 and eventually rose to the position of plant manager. He held that job during the heady days of the 1950s and early ’60s, when jazz greats like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams—as well as future rock superstars Charlie Watts and Phil Collins—all graced the Gretsch roster.

When Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967, Bill stayed on. He moved to Booneville, Arkansas when the drum factory was relocated there, and later transferred to Baldwin’s Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters as Sales Manager. Eventually he left Baldwin, and for a while he was out of the music business altogether. But when Fred Gretsch brought the Gretsch Company back to family ownership in 1985, who better to call on to help move drum-making operations out of Arkansas and into Ridgeland, South Carolina (where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today) than Bill Hagner? Bill’s help proved invaluable in getting the operation up and running in its new home.

All in all, Bill Hagner spent fifty-eight years associated with Gretsch. His contributions over that time are a significant part of the Gretsch legacy. So it was important to Fred Gretsch to do something special to mark Bill’s 90th birthday. To help him in this project, he turned to Rob Cook—producer of the Chicago Drum Show, noted drum historian, and author of the soon-to-be-released Gretsch Drum Book.

Rob picks up the story saying, “Fred advised me early last spring that Bill had this milestone birthday approaching. Fred was spreading the word in hopes that at least ninety people would send birthday cards to Bill. I immediately thought of all the drummers coming to the Chicago Drum Show in May who would want to send their best wishes. So we created a giant birthday card that could accommodate lots of signatures. And we definitely got them, from drummers across the country—including well-known artists Bun E. Carlos and Tommy Wells.”

Special card created to mark Bill Hagner’s 90th birthday signed by over ninety drummers at the Chicago Drum Show this past May.

Ken “K.C.”Kramer (right) presented the card to Bill Hagner.

After collecting all the signatures, Rob forwarded the card to Fred Gretsch. Fred and his wife (and Gretsch Company CFO) Dinah added their own congratulatory message, and then arranged to have the card presented to Bill Hagner in person. Fred and Dinah were to be in Nashville at the summer NAMM show on Bill’s birthday weekend, so they called on Ken “K.C.” Kramer—who lives in Florida not far from Bill’s home in Fort Myers—to make the presentation on their behalf. Ken is the son of Duke Kramer, who was himself a key figure in Gretsch operations for almost seventy years.

“Bill was extremely appreciative of the card and all the well wishes that came with it,” says Ken. “He enjoyed trying to read the names and figure out who he might know. In addition to the card, my wife Gail and I gave him ninety Florida lottery scratch-offs, just for fun. He told us that this was the best birthday he’s had in many years.”

Along with the card, Bill received ninety Florida lottery scratch-off sheets to commemorate his ninety years.

For more information on Bill Hagner’s contributions to Gretsch history, be sure to check out The Gretsch Book by Rob Cook with John Sheridan. The official release of this important new book will take place on August 3, 2013 in New York City as part of the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration. The event in Manhattan is being jointly hosted by Fred Gretsch, Joe Carducci, John Palmer, Steve Maxwell’s Vintage & Custom Drums, and Rudy’s Music. Additional information on the book and the release event is at the Rebeats website.

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There’s a lot more to come in 2013 so stay tuned for more updates from our 130th Anniversary events!!

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Joe Robinson: Globe-Trotting Gretsch Guitar Great

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Traveling is part of the job for any successful musician. But Gretsch artist Joe Robinson recently put in some “above and beyond the call” mileage on behalf of Gretsch Guitars and the 130th anniversary of the Gretsch Company.

Joe Robinson and his trio celebrated Gretsch’s 130th anniversary with a performance in Tokyo.

Saturday, June 15 saw Joe performing in Tokyo, Japan at a celebration of Gretsch’s anniversary presented by the company’s Japanese distributor, Kanda Shokai. The event also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Gretsch/Kanda Shokai partnership. As usual, Joe wowed the audience with his combination of brilliant technique, tasteful musicality, and imaginative composition.

Joe took his talents 5,000 miles from Tokyo to appear at Sweetwater Gearfest in Ft. Wayne, IN. Photo: Jim Sites.

With barely enough time to catch his breath, Joe was on the road (actually, in the air) again immediately following his performance in Japan. His next stop was some 5,000 miles away, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where he appeared on Saturday, June 22 at the Sweetwater GearFest sponsored by Sweetwater Sound. Joe’s presentation was part of yet another celebration of Gretsch’s 130th anniversary, which also included a performance by Gretsch artists Fountains Of Wayne. Fred Gretsch himself was on hand to introduce the performers and thank all of the Gretsch fans in attendance.

Joe’s travels will continue throughout the year, with additional 130th anniversary shows at Sam Ash Music in Hollywood on July 20 and at Guitar Center in Chicago on August 15. Fred and Dinah Gretsch will be acting as emcees for both events.

List of upcoming 130th Anniversary events.

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Fred & Dinah 130th Anniversary Tour Kicks Off With A Bang

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Brooklyn’s Street Sounds Stages Major Gretsch Day Event

Street Sounds, Brooklyn, NY

The first stop on Fred and Dinah Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary Tour was at Street Sounds in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, June 15. Touting itself as “the world’s largest Gretsch dealer” (for guitars, amps, and related accessories), Street Sounds staged an all-day event that showcased Gretsch products and Gretsch artists alike.

Store owner Rocky Schiano began the festivities by giving the Gretsch fans in attendance a guided tour of the shop’s impressive array of Gretsch guitars. Many of those instruments were custom and one-of-a-kind models incorporating visual and functional features available nowhere else in the world. These included a new series of guitars featuring the unique designs of Brooklyn-based graffiti artist Kaves, who was introduced by Rocky to the acclaim of the locals in the crowd.

Steve Stern Custom Falcon

This presentation segued into a video about the Gretsch Custom Shop operation, introduced by Gretsch’s lead custom guitar builder Steven Stern. A special glass display case in the shop showcased one of Stern’s own custom jobs: a white Falcon with all-wood appointments and no plastic. Rocky pointed out that the guitar took four months of consultations and another twelve to construct.

Rocky then introduced Fred and Dinah Gretsch, who greeted the crowd on behalf of the Gretsch Family and Gretsch Guitars. Fred spoke about the importance of family heritage to a business, commenting on how he was the fourth generation of his family, and how Rocky and his family had a similar multi-generational involvement in their business. Fred went on to thank all the “lifers” in the room, referring to those individuals—customers and performers alike—whose personal connection to music was a lifelong endeavor.

Dinah Gretsch offered her thanks to the audience for their attendance, then went on to express her deep personal conviction that music enriches the lives of those who pursue it. She told the audience about her Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, a charitable effort that she founded to support music education in rural schools. And she encouraged all the musicians in the room to offer their time and skills to local schools as a way to promote and perpetuate the impact of music on young people.

The Foxy Studs. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

Gretsch Day at Street Sounds was full of surprises, and the first one came when Fred and Dinah brought Rocky back to the stage to receive a gift: a framed display version of the Gretsch 130th Anniversary poster. This presentation was followed by Fred’s introduction of the day’s first performers: a talented young contemporary rock group called Foxy Studs—featuring Rocky’s daughter Kristina on drums. The band’s energetic set earned enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The second surprise of the day came when Fred and Dinah Gretsch introduced a video tribute to veteran studio and touring guitarist Al Caiola. Then they introduced Al himself, who was on hand as an honored guest. Al came on stage to receive a plaque commemorating his long and distinguished musical career.

Al Caiola Sits in with Jet Weston and His Atomic Ranch Hands.

Variety was the theme of the day when it came to the entertainment, and this was made abundantly clear by the appearance of Jet Weston and His Atomic Ranch Hands. Costumed in a mix of classic western, frontier, hillbilly, and riverboat gambler garb, Jet and his band offered an eclectic mix of western swing and jazz standards. Later in their set they invited Al Caiola to join them, and the 92-year-old guitar star added his special touch to several tunes . . . including his own 1960s hit, “Theme From The Magnificent Seven.”

Rocky Presents Fred with Anniversary Cake. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

Rocky returned to the stage to tell that audience that no anniversary celebration would be complete without a cake. He and Fred Gretsch then displayed a large sheet cake decorated with the Gretsch Logo and the words “Happy 130th Anniversary.” Everyone in the crowd was invited to enjoy the anniversary treat.

Michelle Marie on Stage. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

When introducing the next act, Fred Gretsch said that it was “great to see a girl playing guitar.” The “girl” in question was Michelle Marie, and play she did, leading her own trio in a set of primarily instrumental fusion and progressive jazz compositions. Odd time signatures, stellar technique, and challenging arrangements were the order of the day.

Throughout the day Dinah Gretsch joined with Rocky to give away a selection of door prizes. These included Gretsch T-shirts as well as several Gretsch guitars. The day’s big winner took home a classic orange-finish Gretsch Electromatic guitar.

The day’s performances closed with an appearance by 1970s New Wave recording stars The Romantics. The group immediately launched into their signature style of pop-punk rock, playing two tunes before stopping to greet the crowd, to thank Street Sounds for inviting them, and to acknowledge Fred and Dinah Gretsch. Then it was right back into the music, rocking song after song before closing with their monster hit “What I Like About You.”

Rocky Schiano joined Fred and Dinah Gretsch in thanking everyone for attending and offering one more round of congratulations to Gretsch on its 130th Anniversary. It had been a heck of a party!

The Romantics.

Stay tuned for more photos and videos from this event!

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The Fred & Dinah Gretsch 130th Anniversary Tour

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Nationwide Appearances Will Celebrate Gretsch History

This year marks Gretsch’s 130th anniversary, and the company is going all-out to celebrate this historic milestone. Special promotional events in cities across the US and Canada will showcase Gretsch guitars and drums, with concert performances by top Gretsch artists.

A special element of these events will be The Fred & Dinah Gretsch 130th Anniversary Tour. Representing the fourth generation of the Gretsch Family, Fred will be on hand to personally greet Gretsch fans, sign autographs, and relate the fascinating history of the business that was founded by his great-grandfather, Friedrich Gretsch, in 1883.

Dinah & Fred Gretsch. Photo: Spark St. Jude/MagicOnFilm

At several of the events Fred will be joined by his wife Dinah. A notable industry figure in her own right, Dinah is the founder of the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, a charitable organization that supports music education in rural schools.

“Dinah and I are really looking forward to this tour,” says Fred Gretsch. “Among the things we love most in the world are traveling, meeting folks who appreciate Gretsch drums and guitars, and enjoying the performances of great Gretsch musical artists. And it’s a special joy for me to have the opportunity to share anecdotes and stories about my family’s 130-year history in the music business. So I want to personally invite one and all to come and enjoy these great Gretsch events.”

The Fred & Dinah 130th Anniversary Tour will start in late June, with stops at StreetSounds NYC (Brooklyn, June 15), The Sweetwater Gearfest (Fort Wayne, IN, June 22), and Bizarre Guitar (Reno, NV, June 29). Then it’s on to the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention (Nashville, TN, July 10-13), Sam Ash Music (Hollywood, CA, July 20), Rudy’s Music & Steve Maxwell Drums (New York, NY, August 3), Guitar Center (Chicago, IL, August 15), and Class Axe Guitars (Kemptville, ON, Canada, October 12).

Artists scheduled to appear at these events include The Romantics, the Michelle Marie Trio, Jet Weston & his Atomic Ranch Hands, Foxy Studs, Fountains of Wayne, the Joe Robinson Trio, Rosie Flores & The Rivetors, Mister Barrington (featuring drummer Zach Danziger), The Octanes, Steve Ferrone, Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley, and the Kimberly Thompson Quartet (featuring Beyonce drummer Kim Thompson).

For more information on the Gretsch Company and history, visit the Gretsch website.

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Gretsch’s Double Anniversary Party!

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Gretsch Guitars Press Release:

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

Custom Shop Anniversary Models

Custom Shop 130th Anniversary Hollow Body

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

G6118T-LTV 130th Anniversary Jr.

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

Professional Collection

G6128T-DCM Duo Jet

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

Center Block Series

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

G6137TCB Panther Center-Block

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

G6139CB Falcon Center-Block Single Cutaway

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

G6139T-CBDC Falcon Center-Block Double Cutaway

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

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

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Music Icons Meet In Brooklyn

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Charlie Watts and Fred Gretsch Celebrate Each Other’s Anniversaries

This past December 8 saw a unique meeting between two icons of the music industry—both of whom were celebrating very special anniversaries.

Legendary drummer Charlie Watts was performing at the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The seventy-one-year-old Watts and his compatriots in the Rolling Stones were celebrating their fiftieth anniversary as “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.”

Fred W. Gretsch and his wife Dinah attended the Stones concert as a way to celebrate two anniversaries of their own: fifty years of association with Charlie Watts as a Gretsch drums endorser, and Gretsch’s 130th anniversary as a musical instrument manufacturer, which the company will mark in 2013.

The location of the meeting held a special poignancy for Fred and Charlie both, since the Barclays Center is only a short distance away from the original Gretsch factory at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. As a boy, Fred spent many a summer there working for his uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr. And it was in that very factory that the drumkits used by Charlie in his early career with the Stones were built. (The program for the Barclays Center show, titled 50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live included thanks from Charlie to Gretsch Drums and to Fred Gretsch.)

Fred Gretsch and Charlie Watts backstage.

At the Brooklyn show Fred and Dinah had a chance to visit backstage with Charlie, and to exchange reminiscences about Charlie’s long and storied career on Gretsch drums. This was their second meeting this year; they’d gotten together this past March when Fred and Dinah were vacationing in Europe and Charlie was performing in Vienna, Austria with an eclectic group called The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.

While backstage at the Barclays Center Fred and Dinah also chatted with Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell. This was another reunion of sorts; they had connected in 2008 when Chuck served as the musical director and bandleader for the Gretsch Big Event. That was a concert held at New York City’s Highline Ballroom to celebrate Gretsch’s 125th anniversary.

The Stones’ “50 & Counting” mini-tour started in November with two shows at London’s O2 arena. The show at the Barclays Center was the first on the US leg—and their first in the US since 2006. It is scheduled to be followed by performances at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on December 13 and 15. But another, very special appearance was added to their agenda: the 12/12/12 benefit concert at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. On that show the band will be joined by such stellar artists as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, and The Who to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.