Gretsch Family Connection to Titanic Passengers

April 16th, 2012

RMS Titanic

A family note from Fred W. Gretsch . . .

The Titanic has been back in the news lately, owing to the 100th anniversary of its ill-fated voyage on April 15. The stories arising from the tragic sinking of the legendary liner have captured the imagination of millions of people. Interestingly, the Gretsch Family has a direct connection to at least one of those stories.

My younger sister, Gretchen Gertrude Gretsch, is the namesake of that connection. She’s also our “family historian,” and she relates this particular story as follows:

As many fans of the Titanic story (or even just of the James Cameron blockbuster movie), one of the wealthy first-class passengers aboard the Titanic was John Jacob Astor IV, whom the New York Times referred to after his death as the man who “had put up and owned more hotels and skyscrapers than any other New Yorker.” Astor was traveling with his much younger wife, who, although they had only recently been married, was pregnant at the time of the voyage.

John Jacob Astor IV went down with the Titanic. His pregnant wife boarded a lifeboat and was rescued. When the child she carried was born, he was named John Jacob Astor V. And, twenty-nine years later, he would become the husband of Gertrude Gretsch, the cousin of my father William “Bill” Gretsch.

Gertrude Gretsch Astor was born in 1923 to Walter and Gertrude Gretsch—both of whom were in their early 40s. Gertrude’s father Walter and his older brother, Fred Gretsch Sr.(my grandfather), ran their late father’s musical instrument company for almost twenty years together after the business was incorporated around 1903. Fred Gretsch Sr. was the president of the Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company. As the younger brother, Walter had a less noble title and a smaller role in the business. So in 1923 he started his own business—Gretsch & Brenner—in partnership with a man who had once worked for the Gretsch Company.

Gertrude married John Jacob Astor V in 1943. Her father Walter had died the previous a year, so she asked her uncle Fred Gretsch Sr.—whom she barely knew—to walk her down the aisle. The family story goes that Gertrude was actually a lot closer to her uncle Louie Gretsch. Gertrude had spent a lot of time with Louie’s daughter Marion as a child, and Gertrude wanted to ask her Uncle Louie to walk her down the aisle. But Gertrude’s mother thought it would look better in the newspapers to have Fred Gretsch Sr. (who was then president of the Lincoln Savings Bank as well as of the Fred. Gretsch Manufacturing Co.) walk her daughter down the aisle. Gertrude’s mother insisted, Gertrude reluctantly agreed, and Fred Gretsch Sr. walked the soon-to-be Mrs. John Jacob Astor V down the aisle.

More information about the Gretsch family, particularly the ladies of Gretsch, can be found here.

Chet Atkins Exhibit Extended Through July 15!

April 13th, 2012

From the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum:

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM TO EXTEND ITS EXHIBITION CHET ATKINS: CERTIFIED GUITAR PLAYER THROUGH JULY 15, 2012

Upcoming Programs Include April 28 Interview with Jerry Bradley and May 5 Concert, Guitar Man: A Tribute to Jerry Reed

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, which was originally scheduled to close June 11, 2012, has been extended through July 15, 2012, museum officials announced.  The exhibit is being held over in part to accommodate members of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society, who will visit Nashville in July; the extension also allows the museum to present additional public programs exploring the Hall of Fame member’s robust career and lasting influence.   Among the upcoming programming highlights are an April 28 interview with Jerry Bradley, and a May 5 concert saluting Jerry Reed.

On April 28, music executive Jerry Bradley will sit down with museum Senior Historian John Rumble for an interview at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Bradley, son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley, learned record engineering and production from his father before working at RCA Records with Chet Atkins. First Atkins’ assistant then his successor, Bradley headed RCA Nashville from 1973–82. He signed Alabama and Ronnie Milsap, among others, and contributed greatly to the creation of country music’s ‘Outlaw’ movement. Bradley will discuss his career and the influence Atkins had on it.

On May 5, Guitar Man: A Tribute to Jerry Reed, a concert celebrating the music of Chet Atkins’ friend and collaborator, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Jerry Reed was known for his innovative fingerstyle guitar playing; his catalog of boisterous country hits including “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”; and his good-humored film roles (Smokey and the Bandit). Chet Atkins helped shepherd Reed’s career at RCA, recorded dozens of his musical compositions and gave him the coveted honorary designation certified guitar player (c.g.p.).  Thom Bresh, Craig Dobbins, John Knowles c.g.p., Brent Mason, Richard Smith, Mark Thornton, Darrell Toney and Sean Weaver, backed by a house band of Steve Bryant, Ric McClure and Matt Raum, will perform their favorite Reed tunes.

Both programs, offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company with additional support provided by Great American Country Television Network, are included with museum admission and free to museum members. The Ford Theater offers limited seating. Museum ticket or membership does not guarantee entry to museum programs. Both programs will also be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player Upcoming Programs Schedule

All programs are included with museum admission and free to museum members, except as noted below.

Sunday, April 29, 1:00 p.m., CDT

Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Pat Kirtley

Guitarist Pat Kirtley blends the musical heritage of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins with an eclectic and contemporary repertoire, in genres from bluegrass to Brazilian. Kirtley has won the title of U.S. National Fingerstyle Champion, and in 2006 he was inducted into the National Thumbpicking Hall of Fame.

Sunday, April 29, 2:00 p.m. CDT

Film Screening: Chet Atkins: Rare Performances 1976-1995 (FREE)

Saturday, May 12, 1:00 p.m. CDT

Family Program: Introduction to Thumbpick Guitar (FREE)

Learn to play guitar like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. This hands-on workshop will teach the basics of thumbpick guitar. Led by versatile guitar player Sean Weaver, recipient of awards from Home of the Legends Thumbpickers Contest and the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition. Guitars provided. Ages 6 to 18. No reservations required.

Sunday, May 13, 1:00 p.m. CDT

Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Craig Dobbins

Craig Dobbins is an Alabama-based guitarist, writer, and composer. He has authored many books and recordings about fingerstyle guitar, and has contributed to Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Workshop, Fingerstyle Guitar and Just Jazz Guitar magazines.

Saturday, May 19, 2:00 p.m. CDT

Community Outreach: Introduction to Thumbpick Guitar at Nashville Public Library, Goodlettsville Branch

205 Rivergate Parkway, Nashville, TN 37072. (615) 862-5862. Ages 13 to 19. No reservations required. Free.

Museum 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.

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 Celebrates Its Heritage at Elmhurst Jazz Festival

March 28th, 2012

Gretsch drums have enjoyed an inseparable link with jazz music for generations. Jazz drumming greats of the past—including Tony Williams, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones—made their reputations on Gretsch drums. Likewise, contemporary jazz stars like Bill Stewart, Cindy Blackman-Santana, and Keith Carlock find their musical expression through That Great Gretsch Sound.

In addition to the legacy of the past and present, Gretsch is also keenly concerned with the future of jazz. In an effort to promote that future, Gretsch Drums and the Gretsch Family recently lent instrumental and financial support to the 45th annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. Elmhurst is the alma mater of current Gretsch Company president Fred W. Gretsch, and the Gretsch Family has a long history of philanthropic support of college activities.

The Elmhurst College Jazz Festival

Each February, the best college jazz bands in the country converge on Elmhurst’s Chicago-suburb campus for three days of performances and education. The bands take turns performing for some of the greatest names in professional jazz today, who offer critiques and award a variety of honors. The professionals cap off each night of the Festival with a rousing performance of their own. The list of performers and adjudicators at this year’s festival included the Jeff Hamilton Trio, Elmhurst College Jazz Faculty member Mark Colby, Denis DiBlasio, Frank Greene, the Elmhurst College Jazz Band, the North Texas State University One O’clock Jazz Band, and The Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

One of the many combos that performed during the four-day Jazz Festival.

As a tangible expression of Gretsch’s support for jazz education, all of the performance stages at the Elmhurst Festival were supplied with professional-quality Gretsch drum sets. So in addition to gaining the wisdom imparted by the Festival’s artist/clinicians, students got to experience for themselves the musical joy that only comes from performing on a Gretsch kit.

Taking Support To The High School Level

Gretsch’s support of the Elmhurst Festival didn’t stop at the college-band level. After a Festival hiatus of more than twenty years, a full day was devoted to the Elmhurst College High School Invitational Jazz Festival. This clinic/performance program for high school jazz bands was underwritten by a generous grant from the Sylvia & William W. Gretsch Memorial Foundation (named for the parents of Fred W. Gretsch).

The participating bands came from across Illinois.  They included York High School, Wheeling High School, Hersey High School, St. Charles North High School, and Champaign Central High School. Each was given forty minutes total stage time:  twenty minutes of performance and twenty minutes to work with the judges in a clinic-style setting.  All bands were in the audience listening when not warming up. As a result, each band had the benefit of hearing not only their comments from the judges, but also critiques from three other sessions. Most importantly, the students had the great fortune to perform for and work with some of the greatest American musicians of our time:  Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano), and Christoph Luty (bass).  The experience will surely have a lasting impact on their musical lives.

Jeff Hamilton and Mark Colby address the St. Charles North Jazz Ensemble while the Jeff Hamilton Trio members look on before addressing the group.

Outstanding musician awards were given by the judges, and each band director was given comment sheets to review with their band members.  At the end of the afternoon, the students were treated to a concert by the three judges and the Elmhurst College Jazz Band.  They also received wristbands that allowed them entry to the rest of the college performances as well as the Friday-evening performance of the Jeff Hamilton Trio with the Elmhurst College Jazz Band.  This was a perfect opportunity for budding high school musicians to experience music from up to thirty-seven different college groups from all around the United States.

Response from the high school band directors was universally positive, leading the organizers of the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival to plan on adding the High School Festival day to the overall program for the future. Said Elmhurst College music department chairman Pete Griffin, “We look forward to many years of touching teenagers through music and inspiring them to continue on their educational journey with jazz.”

The Gretsch Foundation—and the Gretsch Family—is proud to help those teenagers on that musical journey by supporting the Elmhurst College High School Invitational Jazz Festival. That support is a tangible illustration of the Gretsch Family’s mission statement, which is to “enrich lives through participation in music.”

Photo above:  Participating directors and Doug Beach in front of one of the Gretsch sets used at the Festival.  From left to right: Scott Casagrande (Hersey High School; Arlington Heights), Bill Riddle (York High School; Elmhurst), Doug Beach (Elmhurst College), Jim Stombres and John Wojciechowski (St. Charles North High School; St. Charles), John Currey (Champaign Central High School; Champaign), (seated) Brian Logan (Wheeling High School; Wheeling).

For more information on Elmhurst College and the Jazz Festival, visit their website.

For more information on The Gretsch Foundation, click here.

Musikmesse–Where the Music World Comes Together

March 25th, 2012

With over 1,500 exhibitors, Musikmesse, “the world’s most international fair for musical instruments, sheet music, music production and marketing, and . . . the foremost meeting place for the musical-instrument industry for over 25 years,” took place from March 21 to 24 in Frankfurt, Germany.

This year Bigsby Vibratos worked in cooperation with the Warwick and Framus companies and set up shop at their booth.  In addition to showcasing the Bigsby vibrato line, product specialist Adam Seutter kept very busy conducting twice-daily installation demonstrations and answering attendee questions.

Framus Panthera with Bigsby

Guitars that received special Bigsby installations courtesy of Adam included the Framus Panthera and Mayfield models.

For all things Bigsby as well as a post-Messe report and pictures, please visit Bigsby.com.

Other Sights and Sounds at Messe:

Gretsch drummer Mark Schulman participated as part of the Fender Rock Trio along with Greg Koch and Roscoe Beck and gave standing-room-only daily performances on the Agora Stage.

GuitarPoint Vintage Instruments brought along a beautiful 1955 Gretsch Roundup to display at the International Vintage Show. A very nice example to be appreciated by all, not just vintage guitar collectors.

1955 Gretsch Roundup

Gretsch Brushed Brass Snare

And Gretsch Drums released a new Brushed Brass Snare combining the sound of a brass shell with the look and feel of a hand-finished shell.  Due to the hand-brushing process, no two shells are identical.

Bigsby Display Looking Good

Gretsch USA Brooklyn Kit

Tower of Gretsch Drums

And Here’s Some Photos of Dinah, Fred, and Friends (Old and New).

Dinah & Fred with Messe thumbpicking enthusiast Roger, a regular visitor. Nice t-shirt too!

The GuitarPoint Germany family photo: Detlef, Fred, Petra, Wolfgang, & Karolin.

Fred and Mark Schulman

Musikmesse 2012 is now in the history books.  It was another great trade show for Gretsch Guitars, Drums, and Bigsby Vibratos.  We look forward to being back in Frankfurt in 2013.

Bigsby Daily Install Demos Planned at Messe

March 12th, 2012

From Bigsby.com -

Each year, early spring time means only one thing in the music business–MusikMesse Frankfurt! The extraordinarily large grounds in Frankfurt are the perfect place for manufacturers from all around the globe to meet. Showcasing new products, celebrity performances, and incredible live shows MusikMesse is where you want to be!  Taking place March 21-24, organizers are expecting more than 100,000 attendees! Working with the Framus and Warwick companies, Bigsby will be on hand showcasing our vibrato line as well as doing daily installation demonstrations.

Adam Seutter

Performing demonstrations in the morning and afternoon of each day, Adam Seutter will detail each step in the vibrato installation process. Guitar models to be included in the demonstrations are a Framus Earl Slick Signature and a Framus Mayfield. Be sure to stop by Hall 4.1 booth E12 to check out the process and get your questions answered. If you can’t make it to Germany to visit in person, follow Bigsby on Twitter or “Like” them on Facebook for updates throughout the show.

For more information on Framus and Warwick, check out the links below:

http://www.framus.com/

http://www.warwick.de

Chet Atkins: CGP Exhibit Presents New Programs in March

February 24th, 2012

Update:

Check the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Programming Calendar page for the latest special programs added in March.

RECENTLY FROM THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM:

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM TO CELEBRATE THE LEGACY OF CHET ATKINS WITH TWO MARCH PROGRAMS

Programs are in support of the exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 23, 2012 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will present two special programs next month in support of the exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player.

On March 3, The Life and Times of Chet Atkins by Dr. Richard Hood will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Dr. Hood, a Chet Atkins scholar and finger-style guitarist, will trace Atkins’ life from his rural childhood to his career as a legendary guitarist and producer.  Ben Hall and Eddie Pennington, both winners of the National Thumbpicking Championship, will perform selections from the Chet Atkins catalog. Pennington will also present a thumbpick guitar demonstration on March 4, at 1:00 p.m. in the museum’s SunTrust Community Room.

On March 17, Chet Atkins at Studio B, a panel discussion featuring some of Atkins’ closest associates, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. RCA crossover artists Bobby Bare (“Detroit City”) and Jim Ed Brown (“The Three Bells”), background singer Delores Dinning Edgin, studio guitarist Ray Edenton, and hit songwriter John D. Loudermilk (“Abilene”) will share stories of their work with Atkins, providing insights into what made him one of country music’s most successful producers of all time. The program will be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

Following the panel discussion, museum staffer Ben Hall will present The House That Chet Built: A Chet Atkins Tour of Historic RCA Studio B. This unique guided tour will show how Atkins worked in his longtime recording home, logging many hours as a musician and a producer, and cutting records that helped define the classic Nashville Sound.

The Life and Times of Chet Atkins, the guitar demonstration and Chet Atkins at Studio B are included with museum admission and are free for museum members.

Tickets for The House That Chet Built: A Chet Atkins Tour of Historic RCA Studio B can be purchased as an add-on to museum admission or for $9 for museum members. Reservations are required, and seating is limited. The shuttle departs from the museum promptly at 3:30 p.m. For information call 615-416-2001.

Museum 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.

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.


Fred & Joe Show Visit Blues Angel Music

February 22nd, 2012

>>UPDATE: MUSIC TRADES APRIL 2012 ISSUE–STORY ON BLUES ANGEL MUSIC GRAND OPENING<<

Click HERE to read the story online.

The above images are of portions of pages from the April 2012 edition of The Music Trades, published by The Music Trades Corporation, Englewood,  NJ 07631, http://www.musictrades.com/index.html.

Original Story and Update #1 Here:

>>UPDATE:  POST-EVENT PHOTOS ADDED BELOW!!<<

The Fred & Joe Show will be making its first stop of 2012 at Blues Angel Music in Pensacola, FL on March 3 for their Grand Opening and charity raffle event benefiting the Red Cross and United Services Organizations (USO). The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in its brand new facilities at 657 N. Pace Blvd. The new 14,000-square-foot building replaces its previous location at 3733 West Navy Blvd., and boasts modern retail, music lesson, and musical instruments and electronics repair space.

In addition to the Fred & Joe Show featuring a multi-media presentation by Gretsch Company president, Fred Gretsch, and Joe Carducci, Gretsch product specialist, the event will feature continuous musical performances. A special exhibit paying tribute to George Harrison will also be on display and Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon will be on hand to autograph her new poster.

Entrance to the event is free of cost and raffle tickets are available in-store throughout the month of February for a minimal cost of $2. World class, fine instruments will be up for grabs, including a Gretsch George Harrison Signature Duo Jet valued at $5,000. All proceeds of the event will benefit the Red Cross and the USO.

For more information, visit the Blues Angel website.

>>EVENT PHOTOS:<<

Gretsch Wall at Blues Angel Music New Location

Grand Opening Draws 1K+. Photo: Phil Short.

Fred Gretsch Busily Signs Autographs. Photo: Phil Short.

Formal Portion of the Day. Photo: Phil Short.

Fred & Joe Show Presentation. Photo: Phil Short.

Bigsby on the Road in 2012

February 6th, 2012

Bigsby will be busy and on the road in 2012! Hitting the biggest and best consumer based guitar shows across the country, 2012 stands to be the best year yet! Whether you want to take advantage of FREE Bigsby Installations* on your favorite guitar or get your current Bigsby-equipped guitar playing great via a Pit-Stop, Bigsby will be there for you! From Pomona to Philly, Bigsby is traversing the country to visit you! Check out the list of events below.

Spartanburg Guitar Show

February 25-26

www.bee3vintage.com

Dallas International Guitar Festival

April 20-22

www.guitarshow.com

Chicago Guitar Show

May 19-20

www.texasguitarshows.com

SoCal World Guitar Show

July 21-22

www.texasguitarshows.com

GuitArlington

October 20-21

www.texasguitarshows.com

Great American Guitar Show

November 10-11

www.bee3vintage.com

*Some restrictions may apply.  Stop by the booth or email Adam Seutter at adam@bigsby.com for more details.

For more information on Bigsby Vibratos, visit the Bigsby website.