Archive for the ‘Music Industry News’ Category

Les Paul Remembered

Friday, August 14th, 2009
Les Paul with one of his signature guitars outfitted with a Bigsby Vibrato

Les Paul was a true disciple of the guitar, an innovator in the fields of guitar design, amplification and recording, and a consummate — and lifelong — performer.

In 2005, my wife Dinah and I had the pleasure of attending Les’s 90th birthday celebration show at Carnegie Hall. We were impressed with his humility and his sense of humor…to say nothing of his playing ability. Two years later we saw Les again, this time in the more intimate setting of the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. We had the opportunity to meet with him personally between shows, and we found him to be a gracious host and a true gentleman.

When guitar great Chet Atkins was ready to design a signature model for Gretsch back in 1954, he turned to his friend Les Paul for advice. Les had designed his namesake guitar for Gibson by that time, and Chet’s own design ultimately proved a similar success for Gretsch. The two great guitarists remained lifelong friends, and when Les came out of retirement in the mid-1970s, he teamed up with Chet for two recordings — including the 1976 Grammy Award-winning Chester And Lester album.

Anyone even slightly connected with guitars or recording owes a tremendous debt to Les Paul for his immeasurable contributions to the art and science of music. He was a genuine American original, and we will miss him very much.

Fred Gretsch
The Gretsch Company

Gretsch Family Memories of Les Paul

In 1934, a young Maxine “Sylvia” Elsner (destined to become the wife of Bill Gretsch and mother of current Gretsch Company president, Fred W. Gretsch) attended the Chicago World’s Fair.  She had her picture taken by a street photographer and the handwritten note “Chicago World’s Fair 1934” is the only memory that has been passed down of her visit.

At the fair a 19-year-old guitarist from Wisconsin named Les Paul was playing in a trio with Fry Peters and Joe Wolverton for the Reliance Manufacturing Company.  They played at the General Exhibition Pavilion.  Their style was popular hillbilly-country, jazz-flavored tunes.  Les and Joe had played previously as the Ozark Appleknockers on radio shows around St. Louis and Chicago.  (The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy, Robb Lawrence, Hal Leonard Books, 2008).

After the fair, Les went on to play at the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago.  He would become famous in the years to come but in those early years in Chicago, he was a young newcomer to the world of music.

Bill Gretsch was also a newcomer.  He had gone to Chicago around 1933 to work for his father’s company, The Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co.  He was full of energy and his father, Fred Gretsch Sr., felt that Chicago offered more room for his energies than the stayed offices of the company in Brooklyn.  Bill Gretsch was looking to make his mark in the family music business which his grandfather had started and his father was then running.  Bill noticed the young talent of Les Paul both at the Fair and at the Bismarck and he encouraged him, introduced him to others in the business, made some connections for him in New York, and generally welcomed Les into the world of music as Bill had known it since his childhood.

When Sylvia attended the fair she knew nothing yet of Bill Gretsch.  It would be another 3 years until they met and 8 years until they were married.  But, perhaps, she stopped to hear the trio who played such fascinating music for the company which made “Big Yank” work shirts.  Perhaps at that same moment so many years ago, young Bill Gretsch stood near her also listening to Les Paul and his friends.

Louie Bellson Has Passed Away, Longtime Cherished Friend Of The Gretsch Family Will Be Missed

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

With the passing of Louie Bellson, drumming has lost a genuine innovator. Drummers around the world have lost a sweet and gentle man who was at once an icon and a comrade. And the Gretsch family has lost a cherished friend.

When Louie was making his mark on the drumming scene in the 1940s and ’50s, playing with the great bands of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Harry James, (more…)

Gretsch Foundation Endows Scholarship

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

On August 11, Berklee celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Gretsch Company, one of the world’s best-known guitar and drum makers. Members of the Berklee community packed the Berklee Performance Center for a special Gretsch clinic featuring Jim Pettit, owner of the Memphis Drum Shop and jazz guitarist/composer Bob Sabellico, who has played on sessions with Bela Fleck, Jaco Pastorius and Phoebe Snow, among many others.

Prior to the clinic, president Fred W. Gretsch, the fourth-generation descendant of company founder Friedrich Gretsch, and Joe Carducci, Gretsch’s guitar (more…)

Fred and Dinah Gretsch Inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Fred and Dinah Gretsch, president and CFO of Savannah-based The Gretsch Company, one of the world’s most well-known drum and guitar makers, have become the first musical instrument manufacturers to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

On September 20, 2008, the couple was honored with the “Mary Tallent Pioneer Award,” a distinction given once a year to an inductee who embodies the characteristics of “Mother Mary” Tallent. Tallent was a charter member of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and longtime supporter of Georgia music until her untimely death in an automobile accident in 1984.

As Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductees, the Gretsches joined the likes of Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, R.E.M., The Allman Brothers Band and (more…)

Summer NAMM Session – Gretsch Celebrates 125 Years

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Nashville, TN June 20-22, 2008

After a 3 year absence the Summer NAMM Show returned to Music City USA. Nashville feels like the rightful host for Summer NAMM. Where else can you get so much music and history. The 3-day event was again held in the Nashville Convention Center in the heart of downtown, just across the street from the Ryman Auditorium — historic home of the Grand ole Opry. NAMM reported a 36 percent increase in show registrants as compared to last year’s show in Austin. As always, the (more…)

Bo Diddley Passes Away at Age 79

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Long Time Gretsch Friend Entertained and Inspired the Globe

Legendary R&B king and long-time Gretsch friend, Bo Diddley, has passed away at the age of 79. With his rectangular Gretsch guitar and trademark “Bo Diddley Beat”, he entertained and inspired the globe. His Ed Sullivan television debut aired way back in 1955. That was America’s first look at a man whose unique rhythm and style would eventually serve as fuel for the Rock’n'Roll, Blues, and Psycodelic genres. (more…)

Jimmie Webster: A Great Gretsch Ambassador

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Jimmie Webster: Gretsch Celebrates the 100th Birthday of a Colorful Musician, Inventor, and Traveling Ambassador for Gretsch Guitars.

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

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

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

Billy Gladstone: A Great Gretsch Ambassador

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Billy Gladstone: Legendary Percussionist, Innovative Inventor, and Gretsch Drum Ambassador.

Gretsch’s first endorsement superstar, Billy Gladstone, was a rare musical “triple threat.” Not only was Gladstone one of the most respected percussionists of his era (many say the best snare drum player who ever lived), he was also a creative inventor with over 20 U.S. patents to his name, as well as a respected instrument builder.

Born in Rumania on December 15, 1892 into a musical family, Gladstone’s English-born father supervised Rumania’s Government Band. At age seven, Gladstone joined his father’s band more for comedic purposes than for his musicianship. Although the little Gladstone drew laughs on stage struggling to play a big baritone horn, over time he learned to master the horn and other brass instruments as well. (more…)