It’s not at all unusual to see Gretsch guitars being played by major artists on summer tours at venues across the country. But it is a little unusual when the man whose name is on those guitars is also on tour. But that’s exactly what Fred W. Gretsch has been doing this past summer.
In the company of Gretsch guitar marketing manager Joe Carducci, Fred has been visiting Gretsch guitar retailers from coast to coast. Dubbed “The Fred & Joe Show,” the tour has provided Gretsch enthusiasts with a chance to get to know Fred Gretsch — up close and personal — in a casual open forum. The tour has also been celebrating the music that the Gretsch family has been a part of since their guitar production began in the 1930s. At each stop, Fred has shared behind-the-scenes stories, as well as recalling great musical performances that helped catapult the iconic family business to prominence.
Attendees have also been treated to a bit of time travel, as Fred has presented a multi-media presentation of sights and sounds including rare Gretsch family archive photos and mind-blowing guitar footage from past and future legends. Fred has also intrigued the crowds with his famous “$2 Quiz,” posing Gretsch trivia questions and rewarding each person who offered the correct answer with a crisp $2 bill.
The tour kicked off on June 13 at Street Sounds, in Brooklyn, New York — just a stone’s throw from the site of the original Gretsch factory building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. From there Fred and Joe headed west to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for presentations on June 26 and 27 at Sweetwater Sound (who posted some cool YouTube videos of the event). July 18 found them at Redbone Guitars in San Antonio, Texas. They kicked off August at the House of Guitars in Rochester, New York (8/1), and then moved to Wisconsin for an August 8 show at Cream City Music in Brookfield, followed by an August 15 show at Dave’s Guitar in LaCrosse. August 22 brought them to the sweltering southwest (105 degrees!) at Rainbow Guitar in Tucson, Arizona. They wrapped up the August leg on the 29th at West LA Music in Los Angeles, California.
“It’s been a great tour,” enthuses Fred Gretsch. “Every stop has seen SRO audiences, and we’ve had the chance to share some terrific experiences. At Cream City Music the winner of a Gretsch guitar giveaway was a young teenager. How’s that for beginner’s luck? At Sweetwater Sound we gave away twenty-one $2 bills in the Gretsch quiz. Those folks knew their Gretsch history! At Redbone Guitars we were impressed with their re-creation of the famous Cavern nightclub, where The Beatles got their start. And Dave’s Guitars is one of the top stores anywhere, with a super museum that’s not to be missed.
“Best of all is that fact that ‘The Fred & Joe Show’ has been so successful we’ve decided to extend it past the summer months,” adds Fred. “We’ll be in Reno, Nevada on September 12, and at the Sam Ash store on 48th Street in Manhattan (New York City) on October 1.”
Fred is particularly looking forward to the New York stop, since that store has a personal significance for him.
“I first set foot there in 1958 when the store was called Manny’s Music,” he recalls. “It was owned by the Goldrich family then, and my father Bill Gretsch, as well as my uncle Fred Gretsch Jr., both visited the store regularly on business. Back then I was just tagging along. But many years later, after the Ash family had purchased Manny’s Music, I went there on business myself — this time as president of The Gretsch Company. Now I’ll be visiting the store under its new incarnation as a major Sam Ash Music location. How’s that for progress?”