Legendary Guitarist Paul Yandell Passes Away

November 22nd, 2011

From the GretschGuitars.com website:

Legendary guitarist Paul Yandell, known for his longtime rhythm role alongside Chet Atkins, passed away Monday morning in Hendersonville, Tenn., following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Yandell was Atkins’ right-hand man for over 25 years, but he has also played on records from Dolly Parton, George Straight, Perry Como, Steve Wariner, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Everly Brothers.

The Kentucky native moved to Nashville in 1955 and began recording as a professional with the Louvin Brothers.

Following a stint in the Army, Yandell recorded primarily with Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright, spent a year with George Hamilton IV, and then began an incredible run with Atkins in 1975 that lasted until Atkins’ death in 2001.

“Nobody was closer to [Atkins] than Paul,” Atkins’ daughter, Merle Atkins Russell, told The Tennessean.  “He was literally a lifelong friend, his right-hand man and a very dear friend off the stage.”

Yandell recorded five solo albums and most recently appeared on Wariner’s latest record, Guitar Laboratory, which was released earlier this year.

After Atkins’ death, Yandell became the prime source of information on Atkins’ techniques and equipment, even working with Gretsch to create guitars with Atkins’ favorite specs.

For a video of Yandell and Wariner performing at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in 2010, visit GretschGuitars.com.

Merle Atkins Russell presents Certified Guitar Player award to Paul Yandell on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

Forgotten Hero: Paul Bigsby

November 17th, 2011

A new article in the December issue of Premier Guitar magazine features Paul Bigsby. In this series of articles entitled “Forgotten Heroes”, light shall be shed on those legendary figures who have contributed great things to the world of music though their stories may not be widely known.  This article details contributions made by Paul Bigsby to the world of modern music by focusing in on some of his most enduring designs.  Included are details of how he modified the pedal steel guitar into the configuration we know today, used an aluminum case for the shielding of pickups, placed all 6 tuning machines on a single side to promote tuning stability, and, of course, designed the now-famous Bigsby True Vibrato.  The article also discusses the sometimes-strained relationship with Leo Fender and the similarities of a few design components found of most modern electric guitars.  A nicely crafted article to whet your appetite for more history of Paul Bigsby and how he contributed to the world of electric guitars. Available at your local newsstand and online here.  When finished with the article, you can pick up a hard copy of the entire book The Story of Paul Bigsby: Father of the Modern Electric Solid Body Guitar paired with a classy Bigsby T-shirt in time for the holiday season here.

Paul Bigsby

Gretsch Previews New Brooklyn Series at PASIC

November 12th, 2011

At this year’s Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), Gretsch Drums provided a sneak peak of the new Gretsch Brooklyn Series drums.  Pictured below in Cream Oyster, this USA-made kit made a huge splash with show attendees.

The Brooklyn Series kits will officially launch in 2012.

New Gretsch Brooklyn Series at PASIC 2011

Stay tuned for more details to come.

Check out Drum! Magazine’s report and video here.

Spotlight: Gretsch Renegade & Energy Drums

October 27th, 2011

New for 2011:  Two exciting new drum set packages designed for those just beginning their drumming adventures.

Gretsch Renegade

Gretsch Renegade
A complete drum set package designed specifically for the entry-level drummer and packed with value. Toms have “quick” sizes, which provide punchy tones and allow for lower positioning that benefits younger drummers. Hardware is double-braced and includes stylized Gretsch Renegade pedal boards and a comfortable drum throne. 13” hi-hats and 18” crash/ride brass cymbals are also included. All shells are 9-ply basswood with 45-degree bearing edges. Other features include ball-style tom holders, adjustable bass drum spurs and metal BD hoops with matching inlay.

Gretsch Energy

Gretsch Energy
A drum set package that comes complete with hardware and Sabian SBR cymbals. The toms feature “quick” sizes, which provide punchy tones and allow for lower positioning to benefit younger drummers. Hardware is double braced and includes stylized Gretsch Energy pedal boards. The 30 degree bearing edges, 5 Lug configuration and Gretsch style lug draw from the rich Gretsch lineage. The Gretsch Energy series is perfect for the first time buyer and packed with features that are found on semi-pro drum sets, including non-drilled bass drum.

Get complete specs at GretschDrums.com.

Gretsch Participates in Elmhurst College Homecoming

October 25th, 2011

The Elmhurst College campus was bustling with activity as Homecoming 2011 took place from October 14 through 16. Included in the well-organized, nostalgia-evoking weekend were receptions and dinners, theater and musical performances, tours, a football game, and much more.

John Towner (adjunct faculty, sound recording engineer), Fred Gretsch, Peter Griffin Ed.D. (Chair, Music Department), Mike Pinto (adjunct faculty, Director Gretsch Guitar Ensemble & Jazz Lab Band)

Elmhurst alumnus Fred Gretsch was on hand for the festivities and had the opportunity to meet with Peter Griffin, the college’s new music department chair. The two met and discussed some of Griffin’s program ideas and his vision for the music department. Griffin, with 28 years of marching band experience, is now responsible for Elmhurst’s prestigious music program in addition to the school’s annual Jazz Festival which is the second oldest continuously running event of its kind in the nation. In 2012, the Festival will be celebrating its 45th year.

The meeting between Gretsch and Griffin took place in the Sylvia & William Gretsch Memorial Studio which was established 25 years ago by endowment from the Gretsch Foundation for use by students and faculty alike. Fred Gretsch and the Gretsch Foundation have been long-time supporters of both the school’s

John Towner, Mike Pinto, Peter Griffin, Larry Carroll (Executive Director, Center for Professional Excellence), Fred Gretsch, Joel Baer (student), Sean Carolan (student), Matt Richter (student), Owen Szorc (student), Andrew Ecklund (student)

music and business programs. The Foundation has also endowed two ongoing scholarships for music business majors. During the course of the weekend, Fred was also able to visit the school’s aptly-named Gretsch Guitar Ensemble and jazz band.

Aside from being an Elmhurst College alumnus, Fred Gretsch is the owner and fourth-generation namesake of The Gretsch Company. The legendary instruments made by Gretsch have figured highly in the history of jazz with “That Great Gretsch Sound” helping such stellar artists as George Van Epps, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Sal Salvador, Harry Volpe, and Tony Williams. Gretsch guitars and drums are still favored by top jazz artists today, including Bill Stewart, Cindy Blackman, Stanton Moore, and Terry Silverlight.

Established in 1871, Elmhurst College, a nationally-recognized private liberal arts school affiliated with the United Church of Christ, has been preparing students for purposeful lives. The curriculum combines liberal learning and professional preparation to equip students for lifelong learning, service, and achievement. The College offers more than 50 majors and 9 graduate programs. Elmhurst College is considered a national leader in jazz music education.

For more information on Elmhurst College, visit their website.

For more information on the Gretsch Foundation and the Gretsch Company, visit GuitarArt.com and the Gretsch website.

Bigsby & Gretsch Exhibit at Annual USPTO Trademark Expo

October 21st, 2011

Costumed Characters at Opening Ceremony

On October 14 and 15, 2011 the Bigsby Division of the Gretsch Company was honored to exhibit at the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) National Trademark Expo held at their headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia for a second time.

The annual event, with the goal of educating the public about the value of trademarks in the global marketplace, highlighted such themes as “non-traditional trademarks” and “brand evolution” and featured educational seminars and workshops suited for both adults and children. In addition, exhibits of authentic and counterfeit goods, children’s story time, and the always-popular costumed trademarked characters helped draw attention to the different types of trademarks and the importance of protecting trademark rights. Open to the general public, the Expo also drew enthusiastic groups of children from area schools and club groups who enjoyed the various exhibitor booths which were designed to be both educational and entertaining. This year’s Expo was the USPTO’s biggest to date with over 16,000 visitors attending over the two days.

Enrique Romero with Chubby Checker at the USPTO Expo Bigsby Booth

The opening ceremony on Friday featured special remarks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and music by the US Air Force’s rock band Max Impact. A guest appearance by the legendary Chubby Checker and some new trademarked costumed characters including The Pink Panther and The Very Hungry Catepillar also helped kick off the event. A specially-arranged musical performance took place at the Bigsby and Gretsch booth both days. A young, local guitarist named Enrique Romero helped entertain Expo-goers as they made their rounds through the exhibition. On Friday Enrique was paid a special visit by Chubby Checker who listened attentively while he played and then offered his encouragement. Enrique’s performances became so popular that he played more frequently than originally scheduled—performing every hour during the afternoon on Saturday. The costumed trademarked characters joined in the fun and danced along during many of Enrique’s performances to onlookers’ delight.

Enrique Romero Performing at Expo

Another Expo highlight was when Deborah Cohn, the Commissioner for Trademarks, made a special point of introducing herself to all exhibitors and personally providing each with a copy of a Congressional Record honoring the Expo and exhibitors selected to participate in 2011. Bigsby was one of only 27 companies selected to exhibit this year. The distinctive trademarked shape of Bigsby’s famous vibrato tailpieces was in good company with other internationally-familiar trademarks belonging to other such notable exhibitors as Mattel Inc., Segway Inc., the U.S. Department of the Army, Bridgestone Corporation, Caterpillar Inc, Geico, and The Hershey Company.

Bigsby was able to demonstrate the practical use of trademarks and patents as applied to something as fun and universal as making music. Many in attendance were surprised to learn how much the Bigsby inventions have impacted popular music as created by artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In fact, Gretsch guitars have featured Bigsby vibrato tailpieces for more than fifty years. This year’s Bigsby/Gretsch display demonstrated the importance of Bigsby trademarks and the impact they have as source identifiers in the marketplace. Like most effective trademarks, the very shape of Bigsby tailpieces identifies them—even at a distance, when the brand name cannot be read. This allows Bigsby-equipped guitars to be recognized on concert stages and video broadcasts around the world. The inherent distinctiveness of the Bigsby tailpiece design has aided the Gretsch Company in getting the protectable portions registered. This, in turn, has helped Gretsch to pursue its campaign (as part of the Electric Guitar Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) to stem the proliferation of counterfeit instruments wherever they are manufactured.

For more information on the USPTO, go to www.uspto.gov

For more information on Bigsby products and the Gretsch/Bigsby connection, go to the Bigsby site.

Videos from the Expo can be viewed at Bigsby’s YouTube page.

Savannah Folk Music Festival Great Success

October 11th, 2011

From the Savannah Folk Music Society–

The Annual Savannah Folk Music Festival began with a huge crowd in attendance at 7 pm on Friday, October 7, in Ellis Square with “FOLKFEST” showcasing Savannah Folk Music Society Members. The large audience, seated all around ELLIS Square and in the courtyard at City Market was entertained with a variety of different styles of music from the many genres that make up folk music. The Old Folkers, Jean Paul and Dominique Carton, Jamison Murphy, Hanson & Amburgey, Michael Maddox and Savannah Folk Music Society President Chris Desa performed for and were applauded by an appreciative audience of local area residents and out of town visitors who enjoyed the show.  The best part was the ticket price . . . FREE.

Chris Desa (left) and Fred Gretsch (right) on WTOC11

On October 5th, Chris Desa and Fred Gretsch were hosted by local TV station WTOC on “Mid-Morning Live” to promote the festival and acknowledge the continued generosity and support of the GRETSCH FOUNDATION, with their donations of guitars for the Noteworthy Art Auction, which is the largest fund raiser for the festival. The entire interview and an abridged version of Chris’s rendition of Chet Aktins’ favorite tune “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye” can be viewed here.

Noteworthy Art and More Auctions

Friday, October 7, and Sunday, October 9 (Ellis Square and Forsyth Park)

All 14 guitars, generously donated by the GRETSCH FOUNDATION were sold at silent auction during the Friday and Sunday events. One brand new playable Gretsch Historic Series guitar, signed by all performers at the Sunday concert, was auctioned and sold on October 9th at Forsyth Park.

Collage Created by Helen Weitz

Additionally, a special multimedia art collage, created by Helen Weitz, was sold to the highest bidder on Sunday.

Saturday Old Time Country Dance:  October 8th

Notre Dame Academy Gym was decorated with numerous colorful quilts in preparation for the Festival Dance, which was again very well attended by nearly 250 people, which also included a newlywed couple (regulars at SFMS dances) and their wedding party. The April Verch Band provided excellent music throughout the evening with veteran dance caller Janet Shepherd relied on to “call” and guide novices and veterans alike through a myriad of contras, squares, waltzes, and circle dances. April also gave the dancers a demonstration of her excellent dancing and fiddle-playing skills.

Sunday Concert at Forsyth Park: October 9th

Despite the threatening inclement weather, due to a developing gale offshore, the Festival began on schedule in Forsyth Park with Four Shillings Short, Boo Hanks, April Verch Band, and Tom Chapin each performing two sets for the benefit of audience members who could attend only a portion of the concert. It was a treat to see longtime fans of the performers position themselves on the grass in beautiful Forsyth Park, with small picnics and lawn chairs facing the band shell. Many others chose the steps in front of the fountain to gain a closer and better view. Every artiste gave a stellar performance to an appreciative and attentive audience scattered all over Forsyth Park

The wind and rain came down in full force for the latter half of the festival when Four Shillings Short and Boo Hanks took the stage for their second set, but many of the “die hard” folk music fans in rain coats and umbrellas stayed put. The remaining devoted audience members were invited onto the stage under the shelter of the band shell, for an up-close-and-personal concert for the second set of The April Verch Band and Tom Chapin.

Overall, the festival was a great success and next year we will be back in our usual location at Grayson Stadium, which was unavailable to us this year due to a previous commitment by the Sand Gnats said Chris Desa. The collective efforts of our SFMS leadership, members, volunteers, and numerous sponsors are greatly appreciated.

Major Festival Sponsors

City of Savannah Leisure Services Bureau:  Dept of Cultural Affairs

The Gretsch Foundation

Portman’s Music Superstore/ Brighter Day Natural Foods / The River-FM 98.7

For more information call (912) 355-7172 or visit www.savannahfolk.org.

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Exhibition

October 11th, 2011

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is paying tribute to one of country music’s most versatile and visionary artists, Chet Atkins, with Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, a biographical exhibit which opened August 12, 2011 and runs through July 15, 2012 in the Museum’s East Gallery.

Get exhibition details and see exclusive online content here. Educational materials for children, families, and teachers recently added!

iPHONE APP AVAILABLE HERE! ANDROID USERS, CLICK HERE.

Schedule of Upcoming Special Programs: (All times are Central and subject to change)

*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.

*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, 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. Free.

Past Program Videos/Photos:

Photos from the October 1 concert in salute of Chet by Joe Robinson and Pat Bergeson can be viewed here.

The August 27 concert by Tommy Emmanuel, C.G.P., in salute of Chet Atkins can be viewed online along with photos from the concert.

A video of the August 13 standing-room-only panel discussion with Steve Wariner, C.G.P.; Billy Edd Wheeler; and Paul Yandell, C.G.P., can be viewed here.

Check out photos from the August 10 Opening Reception here.