Archive for the ‘Music Industry News’ Category

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

Monday, June 18th, 2012

From The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gretsch Day 2012 at Street Sounds in Brooklyn

Friday, June 1st, 2012

A Huge Success!

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

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

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

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

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

Check out images from the evening below:

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

Fred Gretsch Gets Damian Kulash's Autograph for Granddaughters!

Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern Talks Gretsch Guitars

Stephen Stern Knows His Stuff

Fred & Joe - What a Team!

The Foxy Studs Kicked Off the Evening's Live Music

The Foxy Studs

Joe Introduces Our Lovely Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon

Adam Burchfield of The Octanes

The Octanes

Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley

Paul Pigat Working His Guitar Magic

Nik & Sam

Fred Gretsch with Nik & Sam

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

Headliners Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Thanks Everyone! See You Next Year!

German Guitar Heroes–Legendary Craftsman from Germany to America

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By Fred Gretsch

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

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

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

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

It Starts With C.F. Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HD-28 Dreadnought in moulded case

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

Enter Gretsch

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

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

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

The Second Gretsch Generation

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

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

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

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

Gretsch Sychromatic Guitar

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

The Third Gretsch Generation

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

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

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

Special Connections

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

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

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

More Innovation

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

Gretsch 6120 Nashville Guitar

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

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

The Fourth Gretsch Generation

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

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

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

The Legacy Continues

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

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

Calendar

Postcards

Calendar & Postcard Set

Introducing the New Gretsch Roots Collection

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

From the Gretsch Guitars website:


Gretsch is very proud to take players on a musical journey through nearly a century of great Gretsch history by introducing its Roots Collection of acoustic instruments. This exciting new family of banjos, mandolins, resonator guitars and ukuleles feature classically authentic Gretsch designs that transport players to a bygone era well before rock ‘n’ roll blasted off in the 1950s.

The Collection:

Banjos -
The Gretsch Roots Collection’s five new banjo models feature solid modern craftsmanship and sparkling good-time sound and feel while authentically evoking the company’s innovative banjo models of the early 20th century. From the 5-string mahogany-neck Broadkaster® Deluxe and Broadkaster Special resonator models and Dixie open-back model to the diminutively striking Clarophone™ Banjo-Ukulele and the guitarist-friendly Dixie 6 Guitar-Banjo, all provide a splendid Southern surfeit of outstanding sound, performance and value for established artist, seasoned player and eager student alike.

Resonators -
Three remarkable Gretsch Ampli-Sonic™ resonator guitars add powerfully distinctive tone to the Roots Collection. The mahogany-body Boxcar™ Standard and Bobtail™ Deluxe each come in round-neck and square-neck models, and the round-neck Honey Dipper™ has a nickel-plated brass body. The heart of each richly resounding guitar is the new Gretsch Ampli-Sonic resonator cone, hand-spun in Eastern Europe from nearly 99-percent pure aluminum for fantastic volume and sonic projection.

Ukuleles -
At the request of Gretsch fans worldwide, the Roots Collection also presents half a dozen new Gretsch ukulele models. The uke is experiencing one if its phenomenal resurgences in popularity, once again bringing the lilting sounds of the South Sea islands to delighted ears everywhere, Gretsch’s three deluxe ukuleles—the Concert Deluxe, Tenor Deluxe and Tenor Cutaway Electric models—boast premium construction features such as quartersawn solid mahogany top, back and sides; one-piece mahogany necks and handsome semi-gloss finishes. The three standard ukes—the Soprano Standard, Concert Standard and Tenor Standard models—deliver laminated mahogany build and other fine features. All six new Gretsch ukuleles deliver great looks, smooth feel and wonderfully singing tone.

Mandolins -
The Roots Collection also heralds the return of the revered Gretsch New Yorker™ mandolin. Styled after the brightly ringing 1950s classic, a trio of modern—day models-the New Yorker Standard, New Yorker Deluxe and New Yorker Supreme—offer premium features with authentic vintage touches, full-bodied tone, smooth-playing performance and eye-catching design beauty.

For all the details including demo videos, visit the Gretsch Guitars website HERE.

The Stones’ First Roll Through Georgia

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Charlie Watts backstage at the Georgia Southern show.

By Fred Gretsch

I’ve been a fan and follower of Charlie Watts and the Rolling Stones for many years. After all, Charlie is one of the longest-running Gretsch drum artists—a fact of which I’m very proud. But though I thought I knew a good deal about the band’s history, I recently discovered a bit of that history that I wasn’t familiar with . . . and which connects the Stones with the Gretsch family’s current home state of Georgia.

In 1965 the Rolling Stones were at the vanguard of the British Invasion. They were contemporaries of the Beatles, but they took a very different approach than the Fab Four. Instead of creating happy pop melodies, the Stones’ music was more heavily influenced by the raw, earthy sound of American blues. The band also looked different, with longer hair, a street-oriented wardrobe, and a generally grittier overall attitude.

After two successful European tours, the Stones headed for North America in April of 1965. They started out in Canada, then worked their way through the US Northeast . . . a routing that took them into New York City and their second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on May 2.

The Rolling Stones play their first-ever college show on May 4, 1965 at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro.

Following their TV appearance the band headed south. And that’s where the Georgia connection comes in. On May 4, 1965 the Rolling Stones played their first college show—and their first southern-US performance—in Hanner Gymnasium at what was then Georgia Southern College in Statesboro. The show was sponsored by the school’s Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity, and tickets cost $2.50.

Charlie Watts and bandmates Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and Bill Wyman headlined a show that featured a popular local band called The Bushmen as an opening act. The Stones played ten songs to a subdued audience that, frankly, was largely unfamiliar with their music. Although the Stones had appeared on American TV twice, they had yet to break into the US recording scene with the sort of mega-hits that the Beatles had enjoyed.

A ticket for the show cost $2.50.

According to an item that appears as number 38 in Georgia Southern University’s 100 Things You Should Know About GSU, “The Rolling Stones performed their first United States college act at the college on May 4, 1965. Some concert attendees reported a successful show, but the George-Anne reviewer praised the opening act for saving the concert. The review suggested that the Rolling Stones would be easily forgotten.”

As we all know, The Rolling Stones were not forgotten. They went to Florida on the day after the Georgia performance, and while they were there they wrote a little ditty called “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  Some Stones historians say that the song title was connected to a blues tune that was a favorite of Keith’s. But other Stonesophiles speculate that it might have been a response to the lukewarm reception that the band received at their Statesboro show.

After finishing the southern leg of their tour in Jacksonville, Florida on May 8, the Stones moved to Chicago. While there they worked on “Satisfaction” at the Chess recording studios.  Two days later they were in Los Angeles, where they recorded the song at RCA studios.  It was in this session, the story goes, that Keith Richards rigged a version of a “fuzz box” to his guitar, giving the song’s opening riff its signature sound and sending  “Satisfaction”—and the Rolling Stones—straight up the charts.

A pensive Mick Jagger in Florida the day after the show in Statesboro…and one day before co-writing “Satisfaction.”

Spotlight: Gretsch Brooklyn Series Drums

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

From the GretschDrums.com website:

Gretsch drums were born in Brooklyn, New York in 1883. They were proudly crafted in the vibrant city for the better part of the 20th Century. Brooklyn and Gretsch share an inseparable history that is part of American music history and folklore. It is a shared legacy that cannot be duplicated. Today, Brooklyn represents a renaissance community that vibrates with contemporary artistic expression, youthful innovation and passionate musical commitment. Gretsch Brooklyn series celebrates the rejuvenated Brooklyn city passion and spirit and expands on its distinctive shared American experience.

Proudly hand crafted in Ridgeland, South Carolina, USA, by a team of veteran drum builders, Gretsch Brooklyn has a sound that is at once recognizable and essential, yet distinctively reinvented. The Gretsch drum design team molded the Brooklyn series by combining classic Gretsch elements while infusing it with new attributes. They expanded upon traditional drum designs to shape a sound that retains fundamental Gretsch characteristics while projecting a fresh voice.

Click HERE for videos featuring Gretsch drum artist Keith Carlock.

Smoke Grey Oyster Finish

Royal Red Oyster Finish

Royal Blue Oyster Finish

Click HERE for more color options.

Click HERE for specs.

Visit the Gretsch Drums website for all the details and to purchase your kit today!  Enjoy and happy drumming!

On The Passing Of Levon Helm

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Along with music fans around the world, I mourn the April 19 passing of the great drummer and singer Levon Helm. His was a special talent: the ability to bring unequivocal honesty to every note that he sang and every beat that he played. That talent was a major ingredient in the success of The Band, the stellar roots-rock group whose repertoire included the Levon-sung classics “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up On Cripple Creek.”

Later in his life Levon delved even deeper into the historic roots of American music. He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for his 2007 studio album, Dirt Farmer, and his 2010 album Electric Dirt won the first-ever Grammy for Best Americana Album. He followed his win in 2011 by taking home the same award for his live album, Ramble at the Ryman.

Levon had an affinity for Gretsch drums throughout his career, and I’m proud to say that he became an official Gretsch artist a few years ago. Whether behind those drums or behind a microphone, Levon Helm was immediately identifiable and totally unmistakable. I’m saddened by his passing, but I celebrate his life and his unique contributions to American music.

Fred W. Gretsch

Levon Helm

Dinah & Fred Visit With The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Enjoying A New Venture For Drum Great Charlie Watts

Virtually every serious music fan knows that great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts has been the rhythmic foundation of the Rolling Stones for almost fifty years. But those fans may not know that while Charlie’s drumming anchors “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band,” his talents shine in other musical genres. In past years he’s led his own jazz groups, including a critically acclaimed big band. And this year he’s joined forces with German pianist Axel Zwingenberger to tour in a unique group dubbed The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.

Alex Zwingenberger is the key figure of the boogie woogie revival. Labeled by British critics as “Boogiemeister of the world,” he’s the “A” in the group’s name. Charlie Watts is the “C.” The “B” is British pianist Ben Waters, while the “D” is bassist Dave Green. Together the band toured Europe during the month of March. They played several dates in Germany and in Austria, along with a memorable show at London’s Pizza Express Soho.

Boogie woogie music has been fascinating audiences with its youthful freshness for more than 100 years, making it uniquely appealing to new generations of enthusiastic musicians. But there’s more to it than that: Boogie woogie is one of the most important roots of modern popular music—especially rock ‘n’ roll. Charlie Watts himself has mentioned boogie woogie as a foundation of the Rolling Stones’ music. Dinah and I had the great pleasure of visiting with Charlie and the band prior to one of their late March performances in Vienna Austria. We chatted with Charlie about the 125th Anniversary Gretsch poster, and we had a good time looking at old Gretsch photos and catalogs dating back to 1912. Charlie then mentioned that he planned to call noted vintage drum dealer Steve Maxwell to arrange for a loaner Gretsch kit for the ABC&D Of Boogie Woogie’s New York City dates this coming June.

Drum enthusiasts may be interested to know that over and above all of his remarkable playing credits, Charlie is an avid drum collector. Among the interesting drums he owns are a Gretsch Birdland kit, an original Mel Lewis kit in burgundy sparkle, and a black kit similar to the early setup used by Tony Williams.

We showed the members of the band the roster for the Savannah Music Festival, which ran from March 20 to 27. Gretsch provides drums for the three-week program that showcases 100 world-class musical acts. The guys knew many of the performers either from personal experience or by reputation. Unfortunately, Charlie can’t book a year ahead for a gig like that due to the priority held by the Stones 50th Anniversary year—which will certainly include many special performances.

When The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie played in London, Times critic Clive Davis raved, “Jazz lover Charlie Watts looked more than happy to be sandwiched between the pianos of his old friend (and German boogiemeister) Axel Zwingenberger and our own Ben Waters. Watts has rightly won praise for his previous forays into bebop, but the visceral roar of a boogie-woogie riff is even more intoxicating.”

When we saw the band play at the Weiner Metropole in Vienna, the club was literally packed with boogie woogie fans. Piano players Alex and Ben performed on black Bösendorfer grands, whose size frankly overwhelmed the drumkit and the stand-up bass. Bösendorfer pianos have been hand-crafted in Vienna for over 250 years. Dave Green on stand up bass rounds out the quartet.

Vienna offers many other examples of musical history. The city is packed with concert venues and museums. The New Burg Museum currently features an exhibition of historic musical instruments—including drums that are hundreds of years old, as well as guitars made by noted 19th-century Viennese craftsman Johann Stauffer. In the early 1800s Stauffer had a young German apprentice by the name of Christian Friederich Martin. In 1833 Martin emigrated to America. He made guitars for six years in New York City before finally settling in Nazareth, Pennsylvania—where he established what we know today as the CF Martin guitar company.

In addition to playing on the ABC&D of Boogie Woogie’s live tour, Charlie Watts has also recorded with Alex Zwingenberger and Dave Green on a terrific album titled The Magic of Boogie Woogie. It features a mix of spontaneously created numbers and boogie classics, and the three talented musicians express the swinging magic of blues and boogie woogie in full glory. It’s also the first time that Charlie Watts’ drum artistry is featured in such an intimate setting. More information about the album—as well as some great musical clips—is available here.

The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie will be in New York and performing at the Lincoln Center and the Iridium Jazz Club from June 28 through July 2.  Check their tour schedule here.