Archive for the ‘Music Industry News’ Category

Remembering Duke Kramer

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Charles Kramer went by many nicknames, “Duke”, “The Silver Fox”, even “Mr. Guitar Man.” You could also call him “The Thread.” Duke Kramer was the thread, the constant connection that bridged eight decades of Gretsch musical history. Sadly, the World’s Gretsch Goodwill Ambassador for 70 years passed away five years ago last month.

Duke Kramer

In 1935, Bill Gretsch was managing the company’s Chicago Distribution office when he met a 19-year-old sax player who played the local clubs. Bill saw something special in the teenager and offered him a job polishing horns for $11 a week. Duke accepted the job and really never left the company. His career and involvement with Gretsch spanned an amazing 70 years.

At Gretsch, Duke practically did it all and saw it all.  His duties over the years included being a purchasing agent, salesman, bookkeeper, general manager, plant manager, inventor, mentor, and trusted advisor to four of the five Gretsch presidents. Duke was also involved in the birth of “The Great Gretsch Sound” after World War II when the company decided to focus only on manufacturing high quality guitars and drums under the Gretsch brand. Duke witnessed and participated in many historical milestone events. He worked with Jimmie Webster and Chet Atkins to forever change the look and sound of guitars. He was instrumental in getting Gretsch drums into the hands of the best musicians in jazz and popular music.

In the fast-changing world of the music industry, Duke was a survivor. He was one of a handful of faithful Gretsch employees who survived the Baldwin acquisition in the late 1960s. He ran the Cincinnati office of the Gretsch Division until his retirement in 1980. When Baldwin was in bankruptcy in the early 80s, Duke was again brought in to run the Gretsch business and was key to arranging the sale back to the Gretsch family. Negotiations were successful and current president Fred W. Gretsch returned the company back to his family in January 1985. But Duke’s involvement didn’t stop there. He played a critical role in bringing Gretsch guitars back into production. Fifty years after he was hired by Fred’s father, Bill Gretsch, Duke Kramer was again on the road talking to musicians and instrument dealers assuring them that the “Great Gretsch Sound” would soon return.

Current president, Fred W. Gretsch, remembers Duke Kramer fondly stating “When I transferred to Chicago in 1969 to work in the Gretsch’s Elmhurst Illinois office, Duke was my boss. He was a great teacher, very hands on, a wonderful mentor.” Duke was a lifetime member of the Guitars & Accessories Manufacturing Association (GAMA) and was also heavily involved in the Music Distributors Association. Duke and his beloved wife, Fritzi, who passed away in April of this year, were married an amazing 62 years and had three children.

The Gretsch family owes a huge debt of gratitude to this tireless, dedicated, loyal friend who contributed so much to the company–and to the music industry as a whole. Duke’s keen insight, deep love of music, warm smile, and zest for living are sorely missed.

Sugarland Signed Gretsch Guitar Auctioned

Monday, July 5th, 2010

A Gretsch 6120 Nashville model guitar autographed by Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush–better known as Atlanta-based country music super-duo Sugarland–was auctioned on eBay between June 23 and June 30. The winning bid of $1,625 will go to support educational music programs sponsored by AthFest, Athens, Georgia’s long-running music festival.

Sugarland Signs Gretsch Nashville

The guitar was donated to AthFest by The Gretsch Foundation, an organization chartered by Savannah’s Fred and Dinah Gretsch to help promote music and arts education programs. Says Fred Gretsch, “When folks who understand the value of music as a way to enrich people’s lives work together, amazing things can be accomplished.”

The Gretsch Foundation donates Gretsch guitars to programs like AthFest AfterSchool, AthFest InSchool, and Keys For Kids. The guitars are decorated by major artists and/or signed by prominent musicians, and then auctioned off on eBay to raise funds. Over the past two years The Foundation has donated guitars signed by the members of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and The Drive By Truckers.

Gretsch’s 6120 Nashville model guitar was first built in 1954 in collaboration with Chet Atkins. It’s been offered in many deluxe versions over the succeeding years.

For more information on Gretsch guitars, go to www.gretschguitars.com. More information on AthFest is available at www.athfest.com.

Gretsch Drums & KMC Music Celebrate 10 Years Together

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

When two of the most important names in the musical instrument industry get together to celebrate, it’s sure to be a terrific party. Such was the case this past June 11 when the Gretsch Company hosted a celebration of ten years of partnership with KMC Music, Inc.  The Gretsch/KMC Music 10th Anniversary party was celebrated on the grounds of KMC Music’s headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

A talented trio called The Psychedelic ‘60s included two KMC Music employees, and anchored jam sessions featuring several more.

The event featured a lavish barbecue, games, and other activities for KMC employees, their families, and invited guests. Entertainment was provided by The Psychedelic ’60s, a trio led by guitarist (and KMC Music inside salesman) Martin Kelly, with KMC Music inside salesman Joe Mazza on drums. As the afternoon progressed, many talented members of the KMC Music staff sat in on drums. These included overall percussion products manager Ken Fredenberg, Gretsch drums product manager John Palmer, additional percussion products specialist Jim Stanek, inside salesperson Jeff Pyle, and customer service rep Jay Cole.

Watch the Band

Invited guests included John DiMugno, owner and president of Delmar Products, along with Delmar employees Don Mulligan and Doug O’Leary. Delmar makes the drum covering material used to create many of Gretsch’s most popular finishes. The two companies have done business together since 1962. The event was also attended by members of the music press, including Laurie Guptill and Randy Struckus from Musical Merchandise Review, as well as managing editor Rich Watson of The Music Trades.

Fred Gretsch, Grill Master

Fred Gretsch himself took a “hands-on” role in the festivities by donning a special 10th Anniversary BBQ apron embroidered with the title of “Fred Gretsch, Grill Master” and helping to prepare hot dogs and hamburgers for the dozens of hungry guests.

Among the highlights of the afternoon was a series of special presentations. After an introduction by new Gretsch business development manager Colin Schofield, Fred Gretsch offered comments about the Gretsch/KMC Music partnership. “When I first began to consider someone to help develop the Gretsch drum brand over a decade ago,” said Fred, “I knew that I had to find exactly the right type of organization in order for the idea to succeed. They’d need to have all the necessary expertise in the key areas of manufacturing, marketing, sales, and service in order for my hopes to be realized. KMC was always at the top of my list. And now, here we are, ten years later—celebrating the ‘rightness’ of that decision.”

Fred went on to acknowledge all of the members of the Gretsch and KMC Music teams who help to manufacture and market “the world’s finest drums to the world’s most discriminating drummers,” adding, “Family is important to us at Gretsch . . . and we consider everyone on the KMC team to be a cherished part of that family.”

Singled out for special mention were US Custom Shop production manager Paul Cooper, Gretsch drums manager John Palmer, artist relations manager Kim Graham, and all the members of the KMC Music sales, customer service, and shipping departments. In addition, Fred thanked his wife, Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch, for her “invaluable contributions to the success our company has enjoyed.”

Brigadier General Jeffrey Phillips (left) and his parents were honored guests of Fred and Dinah Gretsch.

Fred also acknowledged the presence of a personal friend and special guest: Brigadier General Jeffrey E. Phillips, deputy commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, just outside of Savannah, Georgia.  Said Fred, “General Phillips and I share a vision of the importance of music in our society. In a letter he wrote me recently, he said, ‘Our music helps define us. It reflects our diversity and freedom.’”

Fred and Dinah presented KMC Music senior vice president of sales & marketing Paul Damiano with a portrait of the Gretsch Company’s founders.

Following Fred’s comments, KMC Music senior vice president of sales & marketing Paul Damiano was called to the stage to receive gifts for KMC from the Gretsch family. These included a plaque commemorating the 10th Anniversary, as well as a framed portrait of past presidents of the Gretsch Company dating back to Friederich Gretsch, who founded the company in 1883. Current president Fred W. Gretsch represents the fourth generation of Gretsch drum builders.

A custom snare drum personalized with KMC employee signatures was presented to the Gretsches.

Commenting that “Gretsch isn’t the only one who knows how to give gifts,” Paul Damiano returned the favor by presenting Fred and Dinah with two unique items for the Gretsch museum in Pooler, Georgia. The first was a one-of-a-kind Gretsch USA Custom 10th Anniversary drumkit created in the company’s Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. The second was a custom snare drum personalized with the signatures of all KMC Music employees involved in the creation, marketing, and sale of Gretsch drums.

Following the presentations, Dinah Gretsch cut a cake emblazoned with the event logo, offering everyone a piece and commenting that “It’s a sugar-free cake, so it’s also guilt-free.”

Not only was cake provided for all in attendance, but so were personalized souvenir bags for each KMC employee and his or her family. The bags contained logoed aprons, T-shirts, and candy. KMC Music percussion brands manager Ken Fredenberg commented, “The barbecue was a great time. Fred and Dinah really know how to throw a party. We all enjoyed a great spread of food, fun and games for the kids, and terrific music. I think everyone at KMC feels a part of the great Gretsch team, and we’re proud to have been involved with the Gretsch project for the last ten years.”

Additional Information and Commentary on the Gretsch/KMC Music Partnership

Gretsch is America’s oldest and most prestigious drum manufacturer, with a rich musical history that spans more than 125 years. Long the choice of such jazz masters as Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach, Gretsch drums are currently favored by artists in a variety of musical styles, including Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz), Stephen Ferrone (Tom Petty), and Bill Stewart (contemporary jazz great). The Gretsch Company is based in the Savannah suburb of Pooler, Georgia.

KMC Music, Inc. is the nation’s largest distributor of musical instruments, including exclusive marketing and distribution of Gretsch drums. The company is headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

KMC Music and Gretsch formed their partnership in 1990. Commenting on that partnership, Fred Gretsch says, “When I first began to consider a business partner for the Gretsch drum brand over a decade ago, I knew that they would need to have all the necessary expertise in the key areas of manufacturing, marketing, sales, and service for my expectations to be achieved. I decided that I would proceed only if a partnership with such an organization could be realized.

 ”KMC Music’s extensive overseas manufacturing capabilities and resources have enabled high-quality Gretsch instruments to be offered in the entry-level and mid-priced price categories. It has also enabled greater product selection and more setup and finish options than ever before. Their contemporary drumset designs have set new quality standards in the industry at all price points. In addition, continued operation of the fabled Gretsch drum factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina has ensured that high-end professional Gretsch drums are still hand-crafted in the USA to our exacting standards. Working together, our active product development initiatives, continued innovation and on-going product improvements will make sure that Gretsch stays at the forefront of contemporary drum design.”

Fred goes on to say, “KMC Music’s team of over twenty-five highly professional sales reps ensures that retailers in every region of the country are visited and receive individual attention. In addition, each rep is backed by an in-house support team, thus ensuring that each retailer receives the highest possible level of service. In the international marketplace, KMC’s established international distribution network has enabled a new level of penetration in to overseas markets. Gretsch drums are now readily available in more countries around the world than ever before.”

“KMC has a long-term, demonstrated commitment to being an industry service leader,” Fred concludes. “Their distribution, warehouse and logistics capabilities are broadly acknowledged as the very best in the industry. Their professional customer service team ensures fast, friendly support for both retailers and consumers, and their state-of-the-art inventory management systems ensure ready product availability and minimal lead times for add-on drums and special orders. Importantly, KMC operates a dedicated spare parts and service department to ensure that all end-users are offered efficient spare parts service and support. The effective supply and service of spare parts is so very essential in the drum industry; this has certainly been one of the key factors in our success.”

Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch adds, “KMC Music has its own impressive history of developing product lines, as well as a highly regarded reputation for building and managing successful brands. This was important to us as we evaluated potential partners, because it was essential that they would understand and be sensitive to the very special history and legacy of the Gretsch drum brand. Given their already comprehensive knowledge of the drum market, KMC was uniquely qualified to partner with us. Their skilled marketing team develops and deploys very effective and innovative advertising and promotional programs. I also enjoy working with their artist relations managers to ensure that all Gretsch endorsers receive world-class service and support.”

Speaking from the KMC Music perspective, Gretsch Drums product manager John Palmer says, “We’re very pleased to celebrate our ten-year anniversary of distributing Gretsch drums on a worldwide basis. Gretsch drums enjoy a unique, colorful, and respected place among the great American drum brands, and we’re proud to expand on this tradition. We’re thrilled to be able to embellish on the Gretsch legacy by making improvements, where possible, at the USA Custom factory, in addition to continuing to expand our overall drum offering. We are committed to building on the Gretsch legacy by continuing to provide all drummers with superior-sounding Gretsch drums to inspire the maximum drumming experience.”

Finally, KMC Music senior vice president for sales & marketing Paul Damiano adds, “We at KMC Music are obviously very pleased with and proud of our Gretsch drum business. Ten years ago, it was our strategic objective to solidify our position in the drumset market so that we would have a firm foundation on which to build our percussion business. The strong market acceptance of Gretsch drums gave us the confidence to build on that success with the addition of Latin Percussion and Sabian cymbals. As those brands began to flourish, the rest of our percussion accessory business also began to flourish, including Remo and Evans drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks and educational percussion. Today, KMC Music is a ‘destination’ supplier for any serious drum shop in the USA! And we owe that status in large part to our partnership with Gretsch.”

For more information on the history of the Gretsch Company, visit www.gretsch.com. For more information on Gretsch drums, visit www.gretschdrums.com. For more information on KMC Music and its various brands, visit www.kmcmusic.com.

All photos by John Giammatteo.

Neil Young Signed Gretsch Guitar Being Auctioned

Monday, June 21st, 2010

A Gretsch 7953 White Falcon guitar personally autographed by rock icon Neil Young will be a featured item in a charity auction to be held at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on June 25. The auction will be conducted by Julien’s Auctions, the nation’s premier entertainment and celebrity auction specialist, following a public exhibition running from Monday, June 14 through Thursday, June 24.

Neil Young Signed Gretsch Falcon

Neil Young was recently named 2010 MusiCares Person of the Year, and he signed the guitar at the event held in his honor. The guitar was donated for the occasion by The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family. It features a white-gloss laminated-maple hollow body with single cutaway and double f-sound holes, a V-shaped Falcon headstock, an ebony twenty-two fret fingerboard, a gold plexi pickguard, a Bigsby® vibrato tailpiece, and 24-karat gold-plated hardware.

Persons desiring to bid on the Gretsch Neil Young Signed Falcon Guitar must register, either in person at the exhibitions and auction, or by visiting www.juliensauctions.com before the sale, or by calling (310) 836-1818. Bidding may be done in four ways: in the room at the live auction, over the telephone through an auction house representative in the room, through Julien’s Auctions Online Live in real time at www.juliensauctions.com, or via absentee bids.

Fittingly, proceeds from the sale of this guitar will benefit MusiCares, a program established in 1989 by The Recording Academy to provide a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical, and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community. For more information, visit www.musicares.com.

GretschGear at 2010 Summer NAMM!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The 2010 Summer NAMM show is taking place this weekend, June 18 to 20, in the great city of Nashville. What had previously been an industry-only trade show is being shaken up a bit this year. Earlier this month NAMM announced that Sunday, June 20 will be “Wanna Play Music Sunday”. Wanna Play Music Sunday will not only open the show doors to the public, but also host events including a Vintage Guitar Road Show and an All Star Celebrity Jam. The Celebrity Jam Concert will feature former Governor Mike Huckabee, Aaron Tippin, Louise Mandrell and many others. The Vintage Guitar Road Show will offer appraisals as well as a fine collection of vintage gear. For more information on the NAMM show and “Wanna Play Music Sunday” visit http://www.namm.org/wannaplaysunday.

GretschGear and Bigsby at NAMM

While on the show floor make sure to stop by Booth 700 and check out GretschGear as well as Bigsby Vibratos. We’ll be there with an extensive array of products and accessories. Stop by and check it out!

Fred Gretsch Brings History to Chicago Drum Show

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Fred W. Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company, recently appeared at the 20th annual Chicago Drum Show. America’s premier vintage and custom drum event, the show was held this past May 15 and 16 at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, Illinois. A tremendous turnout of avid drum buffs made this anniversary edition of the Chicago Show particularly noteworthy.

Fred Gretsch Giving His Master Class Presentation.

Fred Gretsch was the perfect candidate to offer historical presentations at the Chicago Show, since as the fourth generation of Gretsch drum makers he personally embodies a major part of American drum-making history. He also holds the enviable position of being the only man in America still actively involved with the drums that have born his family name for 127 years. Fred gave a presentation on Saturday, May 15 that went out live on the DrummerCafe web site. He also conducted a master class on Sunday, May 16. Joining Fred for his presentations was John Palmer, Gretsch Drum Manager for KMC Music, which distributes Gretsch drums world-wide.

Gretsch Drum Artist Hannah Ford Speaking During Her Clinic.

Also appearing for Gretsch was talented young artist-endorser Hannah Ford. A native of the Chicago area, Hannah has made a name for herself as both a performing artist and an exciting clinician. Hannah wowed those in attendance with her combination of fiery rock chops and solid grooves.

The Chicago Drum Show also featured a display of Gretsch drums. These included three beautiful USA Custom Special Edition kits and several Special Edition snare drums, each hand-crafted in the Gretsch factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

A Beautiful Gretsch USA Custom Special Edition Kit On Display.

The Gretsch family dynasty began in 1883, when a young German immigrant named Friedrich Gretsch founded a little shop in Brooklyn, New York. From that day to this, the Gretsch family has focused on making drums that offer unrivaled sound and uncompromising construction quality. Blending an emphasis on hand-craftsmanship with constant innovation, Gretsch has pioneered new drum designs and manufacturing techniques for well over a century. These include the first ply drumshells and the use of die-cast hoops.

Today, Gretsch drums are the preferred instruments of drummers looking for unique tonal quality and hand-made craftsmanship. So it’s not surprising that Fred W. Gretsch’s presentations at the Chicago Drum Show proved fascinating and informative to all in attendance. Fred celebrated four generations of family and musical history, as well as offering a look forward to the next 125 years of “That Great Gretsch Sound!”

Hannah Ford with Fred Gretsch and Fred’s sister, Gretchen Elsner-Sommer.

Gretsch Foundation Supports Sav’h Banjo Workshop

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The third Banjo Assembly Workshop presented by the Savannah Folk Music Society (SFMS) was held on Saturday, May 1. The event took place on the grounds of the Ships of the Sea Museum (SOSM) in Savannah, Georgia and drew many avid enthusiasts.  The workshop focused on the construction of real, playable banjos by amateur banjo enthusiasts.

Members of the Third Banjo Workshop

Hank Weisman of SFMS and Tony Pizzo of SOSM were the workshop teachers. Twenty-three participants were thrilled to create instruments for themselves using banjo parts donated by the Gretsch Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Gretsch family. Fred and Dinah Gretsch—owners of the Pooler, Georgia-based Gretsch Company—are long-time supporters of the Savannah Folk Music Society.

Workshop Participants Busy at Work

Based on the excitement of those who participated, as well as the availability of additional parts in Gretsch’s Ridgeland, South Carolina warehouse, plans are under way for additional workshops in 2011 and 2012.

The Gretsch Company and the Gretsch Foundation are pleased to be  a part of this unique workshop for the benefit of Savannah area  musical enthusiasts.

For more information on the Savannah Folk Music Society visit  www.savannahfolk.org . For more  information on the Gretsch Foundation and the Gretsch Company, visit www.gretsch.com.

Colin Schofield Joins Gretsch Team

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Colin Schofield has been named to the position of  Business Development Manager for The Gretsch Company. In this newly created role, Schofield will be assisting company president Fred Gretsch in the development and execution of strategies to further build and strengthen the Gretsch brand worldwide. To this end Schofield will be working out of Gretsch company headquarters in Savannah, Georgia.

Dinah Gretsch, C.F.O. (seated); Lena Gretsch-Thomas, Inventory Control Manager; Fred W. Gretsch, President; Colin Schofield, Business Development Manager (standing L-R).

Schofield has extensive experience in the music products industry, in US and international markets alike. He spent nearly twenty years with the Avedis Zildjian Company, eventually serving as vice president of marketing worldwide. Responsible for global brand management and for the development of worldwide marketing strategies, Schofield was the driving force behind numerous innovative marketing programs as well as new product introductions including the A Custom and K Constantinople cymbal ranges. More recently he held sales and marketing management positions with Premier Percussion and Aquarian Drumheads.

Says Fred Gretsch, “We’re excited to have Colin joining our team. We look forward to the significant contributions he will make to the continued growth and success of the Gretsch brand.”