Jazz Brunch at Fort Stewart Museum a “Splendid Event”

August 26th, 2010

Fred & Dinah with 3rd ID Jazz Combo Drummer SGT Jason McElveen

Fred and Dinah Gretsch recently attended a jazz brunch at the Fort Stewart Museum as the guests of Brigadier General Jeffrey E. Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division Deputy Commanding General-Rear. Hosted by General Phillips and 3rd ID Command Sergeant Major-Rear, Command Sergeant Major Jeffrey Ashmen, the event featured music by the 3rd ID Jazz Combo and a presentation and tour by the museum curator Walter “Buck” Meeks III.

The museum includes several thousand artifacts in its archives and the current exhibit includes a walk-through timeline of world events, explaining the 3rd ID’s role beginning in 1917, as well as telling its story through the voices and words of Soldiers who have made up the Division.  The museum is one of the first places Soldiers arriving at Fort Stewart are required to visit.

The 3rd ID Jazz Combo with retired SFC Walt Peters (far right)

Sitting in with the band was a special guest, retired Sergeant First Class Walt Peters, a Vietnam veteran and volunteer of the Savannah Chapter of the American Red Cross.  Well known to all the Soldiers at Fort Stewart, Peters has made it his personal mission to greet every single departing and returning Soldier as they pass through Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield base.  An accomplished guitarist, Peters spent many years as a professional guitarist in Nashville.

“It was an honor to be invited to such a splendid event”, said Fred Gretsch.  “The museum is a fitting tribute to the legacy of the 3rd Infantry Division and we are truly privileged to have such an important institution right here on our doorstep in Savannah.  The 3rd ID Jazz Combo was terrific, absolutely first class. They kept everyone entertained with really great music throughout.”

SGT McElveen

The Fort Stewart Museum is free and open to the public but requires civilian visitors to obtain a pass to enter the installation.  The museum is located in Building T904, 2022 Frank Cochran Drive, Fort Stewart.  For more information, call 912-767-7885. Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Tuesdays-Saturdays (closed Sundays, Mondays, and federal holidays).

Fred & Dinah Attend Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Concert

August 24th, 2010

On August 11, Fred and Dinah Gretsch, along with 18,000 highly-energized and eager fans, had the chance to attend the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert in Atlanta’s Phillips Arena.  With the equally legendary group–Crosby, Stills, & Nash–opening the show, it was guaranteed to be a night not soon forgotten.

Before the show Fred and Dinah had the opportunity to spend some time backstage visiting with members of both bands.  The Atlanta show followed a week-long break and Tom and the rest of the Heartbreakers seemed to be in good spirits as they prepared to kick off the third leg of their Mojo summer tour.

Mike Campbell on Stage

The Gretsches learned that Mike Campbell, the Heartbreakers’ lead guitarist and one of its original founding members, recently purchased a ‘56 Gretsch Nashville of which he’s reportedly very proud.  They were also delighted with the opportunity to visit with the Heartbreakers’ drummer, family friend, and Gretsch drum endorser, Steve Ferrone.

Fred with Steve Ferrone

This show was the first of several that rock legends CSN will be opening on the Mojo tour.  Gracious as always, Stephen, Graham, and David spent time catching up with the Gretsches and chatting about some of their instruments including, of course, their various Gretsch guitars.

After delivering their best wishes to all, it was on to the show.  Following an amazing 90-minute set by CSN, Tom and the Heartbreakers did not disappoint. “Tom Petty has reached the youth market again,” commented Dinah after seeing the large number of young fans in attendance. Thirty-four years and counting and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are still selling out shows.  With their earlier hits becoming popular with today’s youth, it appears their music will be transcending generations of music lovers for a long time to come.

Two legendary groups; one amazing evening of music.  It can’t get much better than that!

In Concert

New Gretsch Catalina Maple Series

August 23rd, 2010

Catalina Maple

The new Catalina Maple series starts with the Gretsch maple formula shell. We carefully developed the maple shell specification to produce tones that explode with attack and volume and project a balanced amount of warm, low-end frequencies. All Catalina Maple shells are 7-ply, 7.2mm. We equipped the shells with “Gretsch Classic” features and hardware, including 30-degree bearing edges, fully-adjustable Gretsch ball-and-socket tom holder with 12.7mm tom arms, 9020-style mounting brackets and our famous 5-lug configuration (a standard Gretsch feature for over 50 years) for all 10” / 12” toms. All drums feature a multi-step lacquer process that produces an extremely glassy-smooth finish that is hard and durable. In addition, we partnered with Evans® drum heads to produce a distinctive “Gretsch by Evans” batter and resonant head combination. Drums are easy to tune and produce full tones right out of the box.

The new Catalina Maples are available in two configurations – a 6-piece shell pack set and a 5-piece shell pack set. Add-on drums are also available to allow for further drum set expansion.

Learn more at:

http://www.gretschdrums.com/index.cfm?fa=drums&sid=661

Our Special Friend Fritzi Kramer, 1919-2010

August 9th, 2010

Frieda “Fritzi” Kramer was the beloved wife of Duke Kramer for over 60 years. Duke’s career and involvement with the Gretsch Company spanned an amazing 70 years and for several years prior to his passing, he and Fritzi together owned and operated D & F Products, a supplier of vintage Gretsch guitar parts. Fritzi passed away in April 2010, five years after losing Duke.

Fritzi Kramer

Fritzi herself had been in the music business since 1940. Many in the music industry knew Fritzi as she and Duke were participants at many past NAMM shows and vintage guitar shows. She is fondly remembered by many, being described as a kind and caring person who had a friendly word and smile to share with everyone.

Fritzi was born in Downers Grove, IL on February 11, 1919. She and Duke had 3 children, 4 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews. The Kramers lived in Naperville, IL from 1949 to 1971 and then moved to Cincinnati and resided there until 2009. A lover of golf and bridge, Fritzi was active in the school system and volunteered at the Naperville and Cincinnati Hospitals. She and Duke enjoyed traveling to trade shows and were members of the Coldstream Country Club.

Fritzi claimed that her greatest accomplishment was the unconditional love she gave to her family and friends. Once when asked who she would come back as if she could come back as anyone she wanted, she replied herself.

Fritzi and Duke spent a long and happy life together sharing their love of the music business. We truly miss these cherished friends of the Gretsch family.

Remembering Duke Kramer

August 2nd, 2010

Charles Kramer went by many nicknames, “Duke”, “The Silver Fox”, even “Mr. Guitar Man.” You could also call him “The Thread.” Duke Kramer was the thread, the constant connection that bridged eight decades of Gretsch musical history. Sadly, the World’s Gretsch Goodwill Ambassador for 70 years passed away five years ago last month.

Duke Kramer

In 1935, Bill Gretsch was managing the company’s Chicago Distribution office when he met a 19-year-old sax player who played the local clubs. Bill saw something special in the teenager and offered him a job polishing horns for $11 a week. Duke accepted the job and really never left the company. His career and involvement with Gretsch spanned an amazing 70 years.

At Gretsch, Duke practically did it all and saw it all.  His duties over the years included being a purchasing agent, salesman, bookkeeper, general manager, plant manager, inventor, mentor, and trusted advisor to four of the five Gretsch presidents. Duke was also involved in the birth of “The Great Gretsch Sound” after World War II when the company decided to focus only on manufacturing high quality guitars and drums under the Gretsch brand. Duke witnessed and participated in many historical milestone events. He worked with Jimmie Webster and Chet Atkins to forever change the look and sound of guitars. He was instrumental in getting Gretsch drums into the hands of the best musicians in jazz and popular music.

In the fast-changing world of the music industry, Duke was a survivor. He was one of a handful of faithful Gretsch employees who survived the Baldwin acquisition in the late 1960s. He ran the Cincinnati office of the Gretsch Division until his retirement in 1980. When Baldwin was in bankruptcy in the early 80s, Duke was again brought in to run the Gretsch business and was key to arranging the sale back to the Gretsch family. Negotiations were successful and current president Fred W. Gretsch returned the company back to his family in January 1985. But Duke’s involvement didn’t stop there. He played a critical role in bringing Gretsch guitars back into production. Fifty years after he was hired by Fred’s father, Bill Gretsch, Duke Kramer was again on the road talking to musicians and instrument dealers assuring them that the “Great Gretsch Sound” would soon return.

Current president, Fred W. Gretsch, remembers Duke Kramer fondly stating “When I transferred to Chicago in 1969 to work in the Gretsch’s Elmhurst Illinois office, Duke was my boss. He was a great teacher, very hands on, a wonderful mentor.” Duke was a lifetime member of the Guitars & Accessories Manufacturing Association (GAMA) and was also heavily involved in the Music Distributors Association. Duke and his beloved wife, Fritzi, who passed away in April of this year, were married an amazing 62 years and had three children.

The Gretsch family owes a huge debt of gratitude to this tireless, dedicated, loyal friend who contributed so much to the company–and to the music industry as a whole. Duke’s keen insight, deep love of music, warm smile, and zest for living are sorely missed.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch Attend CAAS Convention

July 26th, 2010

Fred and Dinah Gretsch recently joined guitar aficionados from across the country and around the world in attending the 26th Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention. Held annually in Nashville, this year’s Convention drew record crowds to the Sheraton Music City Hotel from July 7 through July 10.

Attendees came to honor and celebrate the legacy of Chet Atkins, whose unique fingerpicking style fused many genres and techniques—and in so doing influenced generations of guitarists to follow. The Convention offered concert performances, small-group seminars, and guitar exhibits both large and small.  Dealers and collectors were on hand to display new and vintage guitars of all descriptions—including a bevy of beautiful Gretsch classics of yesteryear.

Gretsch Guitar Display

Gretsch guitars of the present were also on display, in an impressive booth created and hosted by Gretsch Guitars Marketing Manager Joe Carducci.  In addition to banners with Chet’s name and racks of signature model guitars, the display offered a personal touch:  a floral and photographic tribute to Chet’s memory. This included a bittersweet photo of Chet stitting in a Gretsch booth at a trade show in the 1960s, graphically linking the artist of the past with his importance in the present.

Fred Gretsch Signing Autographs

Fred and Dinah Gretsch were major attractions at the Gretsch booth, where they visited with Gretsch Guitar fans, signed photos, and gave away bolo ties and other memorabilia. This was entirely appropriate, since the legacies of the Gretsch Company and Chet Atkins are inextricably linked. From the time that Chet signed with Gretsch in the early 1950s he had a major influence on the company’s design process. In fact, it can accurately be said that the partnership between Chet and the skilled craftsmen at Gretsch was the basis for much of the company’s legendary guitar innovations.

Also on hand to represent Gretsch Guitars at CAAS was Nashville Artist Relations manager Jason Herndon, with his wife Jamie.

Entertainment during the Convention was provided by an impressive roster of guitarists led by Gretsch artist and country music star Steve Wariner, who used a classic 5120 model as well as a Country Gentleman to play selections from his Grammy-winning Chet Atkins tribute album. Aside from his technically brilliant yet highly musical performance, Steve impressed the crowd with his down-home friendliness, visiting with fans and signing autographs for well over an hour after his show.

Gretsch guitars could also be seen and heard in the hands of other great players, including Paul Yandell, Guy Van Duser, Jim Nichols, Mark Pritcher, Elaine Frizell, and Bobby Cochran (nephew of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and Gretsch signature artist Eddie Cochran).

Many of the guitarists performing at the Convention knew Chet Atkins personally, so they had great stories to share. Several, including Steve Wariner, expressed their gratitude to Chet for his help in getting their own careers started.

Fred Gretsch also had a story to relate, through the courtesy of long-time Gretsch plant manager Bill Hagner. Said Fred, “Bill told me of an occasion when Chet was visiting the Gretsch factory in Brooklyn, New York, a few years after he’d signed with Gretsch guitars. At that time my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., was running the company.  He was also the president of the Lincoln Savings Bank, so he had lots of banking hours to put in. On the day that Chet came to the factory, Bill Hagner suggested that they go wait for my uncle in his office. They were sitting there talking, when the girl at the switchboard called to say that my uncle was coming up in the elevator. Chet Atkins—decked out in a full cowboy outfit—got up and sat in my uncle’s chair, put both boots up on his desk, and lit a cigar. When my uncle came in his jaw dropped about a foot. And Chet said, ‘Oh, hi Fred. About time you got here. Why don’t you sit down and we’ll talk a little bit.’”

Gretsches Honored By Savannah Folk Music Society

July 12th, 2010

Dinah and Fred Gretsch, owners of the Pooler, Georgia-based Gretsch Company, were surprised with a special presentation by the Savannah Folk Music Society this past July 2 at Savannah’s First Presbyterian Church. At a regular meeting of the Society’s “First Friday For Folk Music,” Dinah and Fred received a portrait of themselves that was specially commissioned by the Society. The portrait was created by Savannah artist Sandy Branam.

Gretsches Receive Portrait from the Savannah Folk Music Society

Society president Hank Weisman comments, “We’ve enjoyed a terrific relationship with Fred and Dinah Gretsch over the past eight years. Through their Gretsch Foundation they’ve been tremendously supportive of the Society’s programs. This includes the donation of guitars for our ‘Guitar Art’ program, in which local artists custom-decorate instruments that are then auctioned to raise funds. Other donated guitars are signed by major artists. All of these guitars are auctioned at the annual Savannah Folk Music Festival, which takes place each October. Over the past eight years the donations made by the Gretsch Foundation have generated more than $40,000 in supporting funds.

“Fred and Dinah have also helped to support our banjo assembly workshops,” Weisman continues. “Thanks to parts supplied by the Gretsch Company, we’ve sent at least seventy-five new banjo players out into the world.”

“The entire folk music scene in Savannah owes a great deal to Fred and Dinah Gretsch,” Weisman concludes. “The special portrait that the Savannah Folk Music Society commissioned is just a small expression of our gratitude.”

For more information on the Savannah Folk Music Society, go to www.savannahfolk.org.

Sugarland Signed Gretsch Guitar Auctioned

July 5th, 2010

A Gretsch 6120 Nashville model guitar autographed by Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush–better known as Atlanta-based country music super-duo Sugarland–was auctioned on eBay between June 23 and June 30. The winning bid of $1,625 will go to support educational music programs sponsored by AthFest, Athens, Georgia’s long-running music festival.

Sugarland Signs Gretsch Nashville

The guitar was donated to AthFest by The Gretsch Foundation, an organization chartered by Savannah’s Fred and Dinah Gretsch to help promote music and arts education programs. Says Fred Gretsch, “When folks who understand the value of music as a way to enrich people’s lives work together, amazing things can be accomplished.”

The Gretsch Foundation donates Gretsch guitars to programs like AthFest AfterSchool, AthFest InSchool, and Keys For Kids. The guitars are decorated by major artists and/or signed by prominent musicians, and then auctioned off on eBay to raise funds. Over the past two years The Foundation has donated guitars signed by the members of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and The Drive By Truckers.

Gretsch’s 6120 Nashville model guitar was first built in 1954 in collaboration with Chet Atkins. It’s been offered in many deluxe versions over the succeeding years.

For more information on Gretsch guitars, go to www.gretschguitars.com. More information on AthFest is available at www.athfest.com.