Gretsch and Sam Ash Share a Moment in History

October 16th, 2009

For the past year the Fred & Joe Show, featuring Fred W. Gretsch and Gretsch Guitars marketing manager Joe Carducci, has been visiting Gretsch guitar dealers across the country. Every stop along the way has been well-attended by enthusiastic guitar fans. But none has had quite as much historical significance as the October 1 show at the Sam Ash Music location in New York City.

Fred Gretsch and Ian Goldrich

Fred Gretsch and Ian Goldrich

Located on 48th street just off Times Square, the store was known as Manny’s Music when it was opened by Manny Goldrich in 1935. It stayed in the Goldrich family for sixty-four years, passing from Manny’s son Harry to grandson Ian. Over those years the store became famous for the number of top musical stars—and future stars—who shopped there.

In 1999 Manny’s was purchased by Sam Ash Music. Founded by Sam and Rose Ash in Brooklyn in 1924 and currently overseen by Sam’s sons Jerry and Paul (with the help of Jerry’s sons Sam, David, and Richard), Sam Ash Music is the nation’s largest family-owned retail music business. The 48th street store continued to operate under the “Manny’s” name until early in 2009, when it was fully converted to a Sam Ash Music location. But the family connections remain strong, with Ian Goldrich, grandson of the founder, helping to direct store operations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gretsch Foundation Supports Community Events

September 29th, 2009

On September 12th the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah, GA held its second annual Gretsch Foundation Banjo Assembly Workshop. During the workshop attendees assembled five-string, resonator-back steel string banjos from parts donated by the Gretsch Foundation. Participants enthusiastically spent the day working on their projects and were able to take their finished banjos home at the end of the workshop. This fun, educational, and well-attended workshop was co-sponsored by the
Savannah Folk Music Society.

In addition to donating parts for the Museum’s banjo assembly workshop, The Gretsch Foundation donates guitars for the Noteworthy Art Auction and the Signed Guitar Auction, both events held during the Savannah Folk Music Festival. This year the festival runs from October 9th through the 11th. Visit www.savannahfolk.org/festival.htm for more information about
the festival.

The Gretsch Foundation’s goal is to enrich lives through participation in music.  For more information about The Gretsch Foundation, please visit www.guitarart.org.

Beatlemania is Back

September 11th, 2009

gretschcontrollerDespite nearly 40 years since their last album together, Let It Be, the Beatles still dominate the charts as the number-one selling artists in U.S history with, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, 170 million records sold.

Indicative of their long-awaited arrival, Amazon reported selling out both the re-mastered stereo and mono box sets a day before the official release.

The 9.09.09 release—selected for its correlation to the The Beatles (the “White Album”) track “Revolution 9”— coincided with the release of The Beatles: Rock Band™, the first version of the popular video game series devoted solely to one musical act. The game features 45 tracks, including “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Come Together” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

The game’s creators went to great lengths to ensure that the digital depictions of the gear used by the Beatles are as authentic in every detail as possible.  The meticulous research by Rock Band™ designers into the musical equipment used by the Beatles in the game’s montage of animated performances that trace the group from its Liverpool beginnings to its final London rooftop performance in 1969, is reflected in the detail of the Gretsch Duo Jet replica controller and various digital depictions of Gretsch guitars seen in the game.

Read more at GretschGuitars.com

“Fred & Joe Show” Summer Tour Recap

September 8th, 2009

Redbone Guitar Boutique - Gretsch Day 043It’s not at all unusual to see Gretsch guitars being played by major artists on summer tours at venues across the country. But it is a little unusual when the man whose name is on those guitars is also on tour. But that’s exactly what Fred W. Gretsch has been doing this past summer.

In the company of Gretsch guitar marketing manager Joe Carducci, Fred has been visiting Gretsch guitar retailers from coast to coast.  Dubbed “The Fred & Joe Show,” the tour has provided Gretsch enthusiasts with a chance to get to know Fred Gretsch — up close and personal — in a casual open forum.  The tour has also been celebrating the music that the Gretsch family has been a part of since their guitar production began in the 1930s.  At each stop, Fred has shared behind-the-scenes stories, as well as recalling great musical performances that helped catapult the iconic family business to prominence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gretsch Family Supports Arts Camp for Kids

August 31st, 2009

Gretsch Institute Summer Camp 2009Today’s economic climate has resulted in a dramatic decrease in funding for early education. Programs across the country have been slashed, particularly in the area of arts education. Yet exposure to the arts has been proven to be a critical element in the intellectual and emotional development of young children.

Recognizing this fact, Fred and Dinah Gretsch recently took extraordinary steps to ensure that the children of Savannah, Ga. are given an opportunity to experience and participate in the creative arts.

With the help of generous support from The Gretsch Company, the 2009 Gretsch Institute Music, Art & Dance Camp was held on the campus of the Savannah Country Day School from June 8 through July 3. This unique camp offered rising 2nd through 8th graders an opportunity to expand their creativity and their artistic skills through an inspiring multi-dimensional arts curriculum. Small-group settings paired students with talented artists, musicians, and instructors during four one-week sessions of full or half-day camp.

Read press release >

Les Paul Remembered

August 14th, 2009
Les Paul with one of his signature guitars outfitted with a Bigsby Vibrato

Les Paul was a true disciple of the guitar, an innovator in the fields of guitar design, amplification and recording, and a consummate — and lifelong — performer.

In 2005, my wife Dinah and I had the pleasure of attending Les’s 90th birthday celebration show at Carnegie Hall. We were impressed with his humility and his sense of humor…to say nothing of his playing ability. Two years later we saw Les again, this time in the more intimate setting of the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. We had the opportunity to meet with him personally between shows, and we found him to be a gracious host and a true gentleman.

When guitar great Chet Atkins was ready to design a signature model for Gretsch back in 1954, he turned to his friend Les Paul for advice. Les had designed his namesake guitar for Gibson by that time, and Chet’s own design ultimately proved a similar success for Gretsch. The two great guitarists remained lifelong friends, and when Les came out of retirement in the mid-1970s, he teamed up with Chet for two recordings — including the 1976 Grammy Award-winning Chester And Lester album.

Anyone even slightly connected with guitars or recording owes a tremendous debt to Les Paul for his immeasurable contributions to the art and science of music. He was a genuine American original, and we will miss him very much.

Fred Gretsch
The Gretsch Company

Gretsch Family Memories of Les Paul

In 1934, a young Maxine “Sylvia” Elsner (destined to become the wife of Bill Gretsch and mother of current Gretsch Company president, Fred W. Gretsch) attended the Chicago World’s Fair.  She had her picture taken by a street photographer and the handwritten note “Chicago World’s Fair 1934” is the only memory that has been passed down of her visit.

At the fair a 19-year-old guitarist from Wisconsin named Les Paul was playing in a trio with Fry Peters and Joe Wolverton for the Reliance Manufacturing Company.  They played at the General Exhibition Pavilion.  Their style was popular hillbilly-country, jazz-flavored tunes.  Les and Joe had played previously as the Ozark Appleknockers on radio shows around St. Louis and Chicago.  (The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy, Robb Lawrence, Hal Leonard Books, 2008).

After the fair, Les went on to play at the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago.  He would become famous in the years to come but in those early years in Chicago, he was a young newcomer to the world of music.

Bill Gretsch was also a newcomer.  He had gone to Chicago around 1933 to work for his father’s company, The Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co.  He was full of energy and his father, Fred Gretsch Sr., felt that Chicago offered more room for his energies than the stayed offices of the company in Brooklyn.  Bill Gretsch was looking to make his mark in the family music business which his grandfather had started and his father was then running.  Bill noticed the young talent of Les Paul both at the Fair and at the Bismarck and he encouraged him, introduced him to others in the business, made some connections for him in New York, and generally welcomed Les into the world of music as Bill had known it since his childhood.

When Sylvia attended the fair she knew nothing yet of Bill Gretsch.  It would be another 3 years until they met and 8 years until they were married.  But, perhaps, she stopped to hear the trio who played such fascinating music for the company which made “Big Yank” work shirts.  Perhaps at that same moment so many years ago, young Bill Gretsch stood near her also listening to Les Paul and his friends.

Fred & Joe Show: Redbone did it right!

July 31st, 2009

What a great event at Redbone Guitar Boutique in San Antonio on July 18. Redbone did it right! The Fred & Joe Show started at 4:00 p.m. with 75 plus people in attendance - some enthusiasts driving over two hours to attend. Richard Turner (owner) and Scott Stephens (manager) estimated at least 40 percent of attendees had never been to Redbone before. It was a great turnout for sure. King Pelican played two sets of surf and 60s instrumental music before the Fred & Joe Show began, and they killed it! And, yes, they play Gretsch! Thanks to Richard and everyone at Redbone as well as the fans that came out for the event.

Redbone Guitar Boutique - Gretsch Day 043

Redbone Guitar Boutique - Gretsch Day 005

Richard “Dick” Gretsch Sr. Celebrates His 101st Birthday!

July 29th, 2009
Uncle Dick 101st Birthday

Dick Gretsch (seated, left) enjoying a birthday luncheon with family including Fred Gretsch (standing, right).

On June 14, 2009 we celebrated the grand occasion of Richard “Dick” Gretsch Sr.’s 101st birthday in Danbury, CT. Brother to past Gretsch presidents Fred Jr. and Bill, and Uncle to current company president Fred W. Gretsch, Dick shows no signs of slowing down.

Read all about Dick’s amazing life in a 2008 story on the Gretsch website.