For any country musician, performing on the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards Show is an exciting experience. But for Gretsch artist Jack Gavin, this year’s show—which aired live from Nashville to 90 million people this past June 8—provided a special thrill.
Anchoring the show’s house band was a fun gig for the veteran drummer whose credits include long stints with country greats Tracy Lawrence, Mel McDaniel, the Charlie Daniels Band, and presently Tanya Tucker who will soon be departing for some European tour dates. During the show Jack was kept busy backing artists including Hunter Hayes, The Jandear Girls, Thompson Square, Kid Rock, Wynona, Hines Ward, and Colt Ford, as well as playing for every presenter and every commercial break.
But while Jack certainly enjoyed performing behind all of these talented artists, it was the Gretsch drumkit he was doing it on that made the evening unique. That kit has a special place in Jack’s heart, because it’s the one that Jack’s dad gave him when he was starting his career as a young drummer in the 1970s.
Jack practiced and “played out” on that drumset while growing up in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo, New York area, so it held many fond memories for him. But, as will happen with professional players, Jack moved on to other kits over the years, and the ’70s Gretsch kit wound up gathering dust on a shelf. That is, until early in 2010, when Jack’s drum tech Kendal Kramer undertook the challenge of restoring the vintage kit to like-new condition so that Jack could use it for performances again.
Kendal’s task involved stripping the shells of the existing covering and adhesive, working with Gretsch to obtain parts, having new bearing edges cut, plugging holes from the original hardware, and re-covering the drum with a new wrap. Then he had to drill holes for new hardware—including new lugs necessary to convert the drums from single-headed concert toms to standard double-headed toms. It was a long process that had to be done with loving care. But the outcome of that process was a like-new version of that classic Gretsch kit, now covered in a white satin finish that Kendall describes as, “classy, but with an electrifying look under stage lighting.”
When Jack Gavin sat atop the drum riser at the CMT awards, he had still another reason to be thrilled: His parents were in the audience. There they could not only enjoy Jack’s playing, but could also enjoy the new look, the great sound—and the fond memories—produced by his beautifully restored Gretsch set. It was a special night for the Gavin family.