Archive for the ‘Music Industry News’ Category

Art Blakey – The Driving Force

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying Art Blakey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Gretsch & Randy Bachman Together In Edmonton

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Two Music Greats Meet In The North

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gretsch Foundation Supports Savannah Folk Music Fest

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

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

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

"The Garden" by Barbara Gentry

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

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

“Goodnight Irene” by Joni Bishop

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

"Trumpeting the Spring" by Kathy Miller

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

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

Paul Yandell: The Last “Certified Guitar Player”

Monday, September 12th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanton Moore Brings N’Awlins Down Under

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Stanton Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Gretsch Salutes Chet Atkins

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Gretsch Company President Speaks at Opening of Country Music Hall of Fame’s Exhibit Honoring Guitar Great

This past August 10 saw the opening reception for the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s new exhibit, Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. The star-studded gala hosted many luminaries from the guitar world, including Steve Wariner, Duane Eddy, and Paul Yandell.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch. Fred spoke to reception attendees on behalf of six generations of the Gretsch family. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

An equally important figure in attendance was Fred Gretsch, fourth-generation Gretsch Company president. Along with his wife (and Gretsch CFO) Dinah, his son Fred Jr., and grandson Will. Fred was on hand to salute the museum’s unique tribute to one of America’s genuine musical giants. The Gretsch Company is the major sponsor of the exhibit, which opened to the public on August 12 and will run through June of 2012.

Fred’s remarks to the audience during the opening ceremonies offered a combination of personal history and heartfelt admiration. Speaking “on behalf of six generations of the Gretsch family, three generations of which are here this evening,” Fred expressed the family’s pleasure at being involved with the new exhibit. “We can think of no better way to honor Chet’s memory,” Fred continued, “than to illustrate his accomplishments in such an entertaining and educational fashion.”

In outlining Chet Atkins’ achievements, Fred stated, “Few musicians have single-handedly defined a musical genre by virtue of their unparalleled instrumental technique. Fewer still have gone on to transcend time, style, and genre to forever alter the course of popular music. Chet Atkins is one of those few. Along with his profound influence on the modern electric guitar and those who play it, Chet was the architect of ‘The Nashville Sound,’ a new and distinctive approach to country music that vastly expanded its appeal around the world.”

Fred & Dinah Gretsch at the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition, for which Gretsch is the title sponsor.

With an obvious sense of personal pride, Fred explained that the Gretsch Family shares a special connection to Chet. “My uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr, first signed Chet as a Gretsch guitar artist in 1954. Over his long association with the company, Chet was instrumental in the creation of the 6120 Nashville, Country Gentleman, and Tennessean signature guitars. All three are bestsellers still today, but the Country Gentleman is particularly revered by guitarists—ironically because of its use by another guitar great: George Harrison. The legendary Beatle was a tremendous admirer of Chet, of his music, and of the guitars he designed. Check out those famous clips of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show 1964, and you’ll see George playing his Chet Atkins Signature Country Gentleman guitar.”

Fred concluded by saying, “The Gretsch Company is proud of its long friendship with Chet Atkins, and our family cherishes the special relationship that we had with such a fine individual. Today, we are honored to be the title sponsor for this terrific exhibition. We share the Country Music Hall of Fame’s commitment to ensuring that Chet’s unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.”

Chet Atkins Exhibit Opening Reception Kicks Event Off With Style

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

A very special Exhibition Opening Reception took place Wednesday evening, August 10, at The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.  Approximately 200 enthusiastic guests were warmly welcomed by museum director Kyle Young and treated to a memorable musical performance by world-class guitar-slinger Steve Wariner, who, in 1997, received official “C.G.P.” status from Chet Atkins.  Special remarks were also made by Fred Gretsch, fourth generation Gretsch Company president, about Chet Atkins and his long-time association with the Gretsch family and company.  At the conclusion of the program, guests were given the opportunity to take an exclusive advance tour of the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition which officially opens to the public on Friday, August 12.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch. Photo by Donn Jones Photography

During the exhibition opening weekend, the public will be able to enjoy an exhibit introduction and talk by a Museum curator; a panel discussion featuring Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner, and Billy Edd Wheeler and illustrated with photos, film footage, and recordings from the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive; film screenings; and much more.

This amazing cameo exhibition, made possible through the support of the Gretsch Company with additional support by the Great American Country Television Network, pays tribute to Chet’s legendary versatility and vision and is scheduled to run through June 11, 2012.  The exhibition will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout its duration.

For additional exhibition information, visit The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s website.

Additional photos from the reception:

Steve Wariner Interviewed by Local Media

Fred Gretsch, Duane Eddy, Ken Kramer

Ken Kramer, Fred Gretsch, and Jimmie Webster's Son Raey

Fred Gretsch, Duane Eddy, and Members of Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho-DeVilles

Steve Wariner, Fred Gretsch, Merle Russell & Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch with Joe Carducci. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Dinah & Fred Gretsch Receive Special Gift from Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Steve Wariner Performs. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Ben Hall. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Three Generations of the Gretsch Family Attend Reception. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Reception Attendees Treated to Special Preview. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Chet Atkins Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

The Gretsch Foundation: Raising Funds for Nuci’s Space

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Guitar Art by Lou Kregel

With the help of The Gretsch Foundation’s Guitar Art Program, musician-focused nonprofit Nuçi’s Space (www.nuci.org) presented its inaugural “Guitar Art Show and Music Memorabilia Auction” in Athens, Georgia earlier this year. The unique event raised $8,000 for the musicians’ support and resource center.

Nuçi’s Space is named in memory of Nuçi Phillips, a talented musician and student at the University of Georgia who committed suicide in 1996 after a long battle with depression. The organization’s mission is to prevent such tragedies by providing obstacle-free treatment for musicians suffering from depression and other psychological disorders, as well as to promote the emotional, physical, and professional well-being of musicians. Since opening in 2000, Nuçi’s Space has provided direct financial assistance for mental health treatment to over 1,000 musicians.

Guitar Art by Chris Gholson

The idea for the auction event was first conceived nearly four years ago when The Gretsch Foundation’s Guitar Art Program awarded Nuçi’s Space four small acoustic guitars, three full-size acoustic guitars, and a beginner-level drumset.

“Athens is the perfect home for this type of event,” says Nuçi’s Space executive director Bob Sleppy. “The music and arts scenes are so intertwined as to be nearly indistinguishable from one another. Almost every musician is an artist, and every artist is a musician. And although it took us several years to get this show together, the collection of instruments and music memorabilia we had available for auction was very impressive.”

The Guitar Art Show and Auction was an unforgettable night, filled with great music and art. Musicians Kyshona Armstrong and the Artie Ball Swing Band performed for an appreciative crowd throughout the evening. Featured “Gretsch Guitar Art” artists included Lou Kregel, Chris Bilheimer, Chris Wyrick, Chris Gholson, John Gholson, Jamie Calkin, Wes Freed, Jason McFarland, Lamar Wood, Jeff Hannan, and Wilma Pittard. Music memorabilia included items autographed by the B-52s, Kenny Rogers, Drive-By Truckers, Colt Ford, Green Day, R.E.M., Counting Crows, Kris Kristofferson, and Oscar winner Jeff Bridges (from the film Crazy Heart).

Guitar Art by Wes Freed

Since the Guitar Art program began nine years ago, Gretsch has donated over 1,000 guitars that have raised more than $400,000 in support of worthwhile programs and projects. For more information on how to apply for this donor program or to see other examples of Gretsch Guitar Art projects, visit www.guitarart.org.