Story by Fender.Com November ‘03
Continuing its year-long celebration of 120 years of “That Great Gretsch Sound,” The Gretsch Company came out to Scottsdale, Arizona to throw a party near the headquarters of its newest business partner, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Held at the beautiful Millennium Resort on August 21st, the party was hosted by Fred and Dinah Gretsch, and was attended by three generations of Gretsch family members, Fender CEO Bill Schultz, Fender President Bill Mendello and more than 150 of Fender’s Arizona employees.
A warm, beautiful summer evening in the desert set the stage for a night of family and friends both old and new, as well a some great food and wonderful music! Following cocktails, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta led his quartet through some cool jazz numbers while Gretsch and Fender folk had the time to get to know each other a bit better. Since the relationship between Gretsch and Fender is still less than one year old, this provided a wonderful opportunity for the two groups to meet as family, and not just as business partners.
After dinner, Fred began the evening’s presentations by introducing the Gretsch family, and then talked about the Gretsch name and its historical roots in making music. We at Fender have enjoyed our own long history, but when put next to a company with the longevity and musical history of Gretsch, we found ourselves in awe of the musical legacy that the company has enjoyed, and the fact that it shows no signs of slowing down for future generations of musicians.
Fred then took the opportunity to honor one of Gretsch’s dearest employees, Duke Kramer, who has been with the company since 1935 and who continues to work with the company to this day. Duke’s contribution to the success of Gretsch instruments has been invaluable since his first day with the company, and both current Gretsch and Fender personnel are honored to still have his input on their side as the two companies work to broaden the Gretsch name in the stringed instrument market.
A number of Fender people were also recognized by Fred this evening, and they were presented with Special Recognition Awards. Most notably were Fender Chairman & CEO, Bill Schultz; President Bill Mendello; and Gretsch Marketing Manager Mike Lewis. Fred made a point to talk about his enthusiasm for the new business relationship between the two companies and he expressed his positive expectations for what the future will bring.
After the presentations, Vinnie and his band really kicked it up a notch and left many a Fender jaw hanging to the ground. One employee even called up some of his local friends-Dan Tomlinson (drummer for Lyle Lovett) and Gary Bruzzese (drummer for Glen Campbell-who both came down as fast as they could when they found out who was sitting behind the drum kit! As the evening got late and most people started to head home (hey, it was a work night), Vinnie continued to play for those who just couldn’t get enough and who just didn’t want to leave!
After all was said and done, both Gretsch and Fender people walked away with a new understanding of the pairing of these two historical companies. The opportunity to get to know each other outside of the office and to meet our respective families have brought all of us closer, and it will help to make working together that much more personal and fun for many years to come.
We at Fender would like to extend a very warm thank you to Fred & Dinah Gretsch for including us as part of your very special celebration!