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

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 More information on AthFest is available at

Gretsch Drums & KMC Music Celebrate 10 Years Together

June 23rd, 2010

When two of the most important names in the musical instrument industry get together to celebrate, it’s sure to be a terrific party. Such was the case this past June 11 when the Gretsch Company hosted a celebration of ten years of partnership with KMC Music, Inc.  The Gretsch/KMC Music 10th Anniversary party was celebrated on the grounds of KMC Music’s headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

A talented trio called The Psychedelic ‘60s included two KMC Music employees, and anchored jam sessions featuring several more.

The event featured a lavish barbecue, games, and other activities for KMC employees, their families, and invited guests. Entertainment was provided by The Psychedelic ’60s, a trio led by guitarist (and KMC Music inside salesman) Martin Kelly, with KMC Music inside salesman Joe Mazza on drums. As the afternoon progressed, many talented members of the KMC Music staff sat in on drums. These included overall percussion products manager Ken Fredenberg, Gretsch drums product manager John Palmer, additional percussion products specialist Jim Stanek, inside salesperson Jeff Pyle, and customer service rep Jay Cole.

Watch the Band

Invited guests included John DiMugno, owner and president of Delmar Products, along with Delmar employees Don Mulligan and Doug O’Leary. Delmar makes the drum covering material used to create many of Gretsch’s most popular finishes. The two companies have done business together since 1962. The event was also attended by members of the music press, including Laurie Guptill and Randy Struckus from Musical Merchandise Review, as well as managing editor Rich Watson of The Music Trades.

Fred Gretsch, Grill Master

Fred Gretsch himself took a “hands-on” role in the festivities by donning a special 10th Anniversary BBQ apron embroidered with the title of “Fred Gretsch, Grill Master” and helping to prepare hot dogs and hamburgers for the dozens of hungry guests.

Among the highlights of the afternoon was a series of special presentations. After an introduction by new Gretsch business development manager Colin Schofield, Fred Gretsch offered comments about the Gretsch/KMC Music partnership. “When I first began to consider someone to help develop the Gretsch drum brand over a decade ago,” said Fred, “I knew that I had to find exactly the right type of organization in order for the idea to succeed. They’d need to have all the necessary expertise in the key areas of manufacturing, marketing, sales, and service in order for my hopes to be realized. KMC was always at the top of my list. And now, here we are, ten years later—celebrating the ‘rightness’ of that decision.”

Fred went on to acknowledge all of the members of the Gretsch and KMC Music teams who help to manufacture and market “the world’s finest drums to the world’s most discriminating drummers,” adding, “Family is important to us at Gretsch . . . and we consider everyone on the KMC team to be a cherished part of that family.”

Singled out for special mention were US Custom Shop production manager Paul Cooper, Gretsch drums manager John Palmer, artist relations manager Kim Graham, and all the members of the KMC Music sales, customer service, and shipping departments. In addition, Fred thanked his wife, Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch, for her “invaluable contributions to the success our company has enjoyed.”

Brigadier General Jeffrey Phillips (left) and his parents were honored guests of Fred and Dinah Gretsch.

Fred also acknowledged the presence of a personal friend and special guest: Brigadier General Jeffrey E. Phillips, deputy commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, just outside of Savannah, Georgia.  Said Fred, “General Phillips and I share a vision of the importance of music in our society. In a letter he wrote me recently, he said, ‘Our music helps define us. It reflects our diversity and freedom.’”

Fred and Dinah presented KMC Music senior vice president of sales & marketing Paul Damiano with a portrait of the Gretsch Company’s founders.

Following Fred’s comments, KMC Music senior vice president of sales & marketing Paul Damiano was called to the stage to receive gifts for KMC from the Gretsch family. These included a plaque commemorating the 10th Anniversary, as well as a framed portrait of past presidents of the Gretsch Company dating back to Friederich Gretsch, who founded the company in 1883. Current president Fred W. Gretsch represents the fourth generation of Gretsch drum builders.

A custom snare drum personalized with KMC employee signatures was presented to the Gretsches.

Commenting that “Gretsch isn’t the only one who knows how to give gifts,” Paul Damiano returned the favor by presenting Fred and Dinah with two unique items for the Gretsch museum in Pooler, Georgia. The first was a one-of-a-kind Gretsch USA Custom 10th Anniversary drumkit created in the company’s Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. The second was a custom snare drum personalized with the signatures of all KMC Music employees involved in the creation, marketing, and sale of Gretsch drums.

Following the presentations, Dinah Gretsch cut a cake emblazoned with the event logo, offering everyone a piece and commenting that “It’s a sugar-free cake, so it’s also guilt-free.”

Not only was cake provided for all in attendance, but so were personalized souvenir bags for each KMC employee and his or her family. The bags contained logoed aprons, T-shirts, and candy. KMC Music percussion brands manager Ken Fredenberg commented, “The barbecue was a great time. Fred and Dinah really know how to throw a party. We all enjoyed a great spread of food, fun and games for the kids, and terrific music. I think everyone at KMC feels a part of the great Gretsch team, and we’re proud to have been involved with the Gretsch project for the last ten years.”

Additional Information and Commentary on the Gretsch/KMC Music Partnership

Gretsch is America’s oldest and most prestigious drum manufacturer, with a rich musical history that spans more than 125 years. Long the choice of such jazz masters as Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach, Gretsch drums are currently favored by artists in a variety of musical styles, including Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz), Stephen Ferrone (Tom Petty), and Bill Stewart (contemporary jazz great). The Gretsch Company is based in the Savannah suburb of Pooler, Georgia.

KMC Music, Inc. is the nation’s largest distributor of musical instruments, including exclusive marketing and distribution of Gretsch drums. The company is headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

KMC Music and Gretsch formed their partnership in 1990. Commenting on that partnership, Fred Gretsch says, “When I first began to consider a business partner for the Gretsch drum brand over a decade ago, I knew that they would need to have all the necessary expertise in the key areas of manufacturing, marketing, sales, and service for my expectations to be achieved. I decided that I would proceed only if a partnership with such an organization could be realized.

 ”KMC Music’s extensive overseas manufacturing capabilities and resources have enabled high-quality Gretsch instruments to be offered in the entry-level and mid-priced price categories. It has also enabled greater product selection and more setup and finish options than ever before. Their contemporary drumset designs have set new quality standards in the industry at all price points. In addition, continued operation of the fabled Gretsch drum factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina has ensured that high-end professional Gretsch drums are still hand-crafted in the USA to our exacting standards. Working together, our active product development initiatives, continued innovation and on-going product improvements will make sure that Gretsch stays at the forefront of contemporary drum design.”

Fred goes on to say, “KMC Music’s team of over twenty-five highly professional sales reps ensures that retailers in every region of the country are visited and receive individual attention. In addition, each rep is backed by an in-house support team, thus ensuring that each retailer receives the highest possible level of service. In the international marketplace, KMC’s established international distribution network has enabled a new level of penetration in to overseas markets. Gretsch drums are now readily available in more countries around the world than ever before.”

“KMC has a long-term, demonstrated commitment to being an industry service leader,” Fred concludes. “Their distribution, warehouse and logistics capabilities are broadly acknowledged as the very best in the industry. Their professional customer service team ensures fast, friendly support for both retailers and consumers, and their state-of-the-art inventory management systems ensure ready product availability and minimal lead times for add-on drums and special orders. Importantly, KMC operates a dedicated spare parts and service department to ensure that all end-users are offered efficient spare parts service and support. The effective supply and service of spare parts is so very essential in the drum industry; this has certainly been one of the key factors in our success.”

Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch adds, “KMC Music has its own impressive history of developing product lines, as well as a highly regarded reputation for building and managing successful brands. This was important to us as we evaluated potential partners, because it was essential that they would understand and be sensitive to the very special history and legacy of the Gretsch drum brand. Given their already comprehensive knowledge of the drum market, KMC was uniquely qualified to partner with us. Their skilled marketing team develops and deploys very effective and innovative advertising and promotional programs. I also enjoy working with their artist relations managers to ensure that all Gretsch endorsers receive world-class service and support.”

Speaking from the KMC Music perspective, Gretsch Drums product manager John Palmer says, “We’re very pleased to celebrate our ten-year anniversary of distributing Gretsch drums on a worldwide basis. Gretsch drums enjoy a unique, colorful, and respected place among the great American drum brands, and we’re proud to expand on this tradition. We’re thrilled to be able to embellish on the Gretsch legacy by making improvements, where possible, at the USA Custom factory, in addition to continuing to expand our overall drum offering. We are committed to building on the Gretsch legacy by continuing to provide all drummers with superior-sounding Gretsch drums to inspire the maximum drumming experience.”

Finally, KMC Music senior vice president for sales & marketing Paul Damiano adds, “We at KMC Music are obviously very pleased with and proud of our Gretsch drum business. Ten years ago, it was our strategic objective to solidify our position in the drumset market so that we would have a firm foundation on which to build our percussion business. The strong market acceptance of Gretsch drums gave us the confidence to build on that success with the addition of Latin Percussion and Sabian cymbals. As those brands began to flourish, the rest of our percussion accessory business also began to flourish, including Remo and Evans drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks and educational percussion. Today, KMC Music is a ‘destination’ supplier for any serious drum shop in the USA! And we owe that status in large part to our partnership with Gretsch.”

For more information on the history of the Gretsch Company, visit For more information on Gretsch drums, visit For more information on KMC Music and its various brands, visit

All photos by John Giammatteo.

Neil Young Signed Gretsch Guitar Being Auctioned

June 21st, 2010

A Gretsch 7953 White Falcon guitar personally autographed by rock icon Neil Young will be a featured item in a charity auction to be held at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on June 25. The auction will be conducted by Julien’s Auctions, the nation’s premier entertainment and celebrity auction specialist, following a public exhibition running from Monday, June 14 through Thursday, June 24.

Neil Young Signed Gretsch Falcon

Neil Young was recently named 2010 MusiCares Person of the Year, and he signed the guitar at the event held in his honor. The guitar was donated for the occasion by The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family. It features a white-gloss laminated-maple hollow body with single cutaway and double f-sound holes, a V-shaped Falcon headstock, an ebony twenty-two fret fingerboard, a gold plexi pickguard, a Bigsby® vibrato tailpiece, and 24-karat gold-plated hardware.

Persons desiring to bid on the Gretsch Neil Young Signed Falcon Guitar must register, either in person at the exhibitions and auction, or by visiting before the sale, or by calling (310) 836-1818. Bidding may be done in four ways: in the room at the live auction, over the telephone through an auction house representative in the room, through Julien’s Auctions Online Live in real time at, or via absentee bids.

Fittingly, proceeds from the sale of this guitar will benefit MusiCares, a program established in 1989 by The Recording Academy to provide a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical, and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community. For more information, visit

GretschGear at 2010 Summer NAMM!

June 14th, 2010

The 2010 Summer NAMM show is taking place this weekend, June 18 to 20, in the great city of Nashville. What had previously been an industry-only trade show is being shaken up a bit this year. Earlier this month NAMM announced that Sunday, June 20 will be “Wanna Play Music Sunday”. Wanna Play Music Sunday will not only open the show doors to the public, but also host events including a Vintage Guitar Road Show and an All Star Celebrity Jam. The Celebrity Jam Concert will feature former Governor Mike Huckabee, Aaron Tippin, Louise Mandrell and many others. The Vintage Guitar Road Show will offer appraisals as well as a fine collection of vintage gear. For more information on the NAMM show and “Wanna Play Music Sunday” visit

GretschGear and Bigsby at NAMM

While on the show floor make sure to stop by Booth 700 and check out GretschGear as well as Bigsby Vibratos. We’ll be there with an extensive array of products and accessories. Stop by and check it out!

Dick Gretsch Tribute/Retrospective

June 4th, 2010

Fred and Dinah Gretsch are saddened to announce the passing of Richard “Dick” Gretsch Sr. “Uncle Dick,” as he was known to the family, passed away on Saturday, May 22—less than a month shy of his 102nd birthday. A unique and colorful individual, Dick Gretsch led a fascinating life full of noteworthy milestones.

Dick Gretsch with Proclamation from Governor Ralle.

Dick lived independently in his own Danbury, Connecticut apartment until the very last months of his life. The walls were covered with framed photos, newspaper articles, and certificates documenting Dick’s personal and professional accomplishments. This memorabilia included a Developer of The Year award from the state of Connecticut, a letter of congratulations on the occasion of his ninety-ninth birthday from president George W. Bush, and a proclamation from Connecticut governor Jody Ralle officially designating June 14, 2008 as Richard Gretsch Sr. Day.

One room in the apartment served as Dick’s office. In it, his desk was often piled high with correspondence, stock market reports, and the latest copy of The Wall Street Journal. A printer would frequently spit out emails from friends and business associates.

Dick in his office at the Housatonic Industrial Development Corp.

Even past the age of one hundred, Dick regularly worked as chairman of the board of directors of the Housatonic Industrial Development Corporation. He was also a fixture on the Danbury social scene. He was an avid golfer and a lifelong member of the Ridgewood Country Club. As an expression of their esteem for Dick, the club commemorated his hundredth birthday in 2008 by installing “The Dick Gretsch Birthday Birdhouse” just outside the window adjacent to his favorite dining table.

Dick Gretsch Birthday Birdhouse at the Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury.



A Life Well Lived

As the son of Fred Gretsch Sr. and the brother of Fred Gretsch Jr. and Bill Gretsch, Dick Gretsch was a member of the family that has made Gretsch instruments for more than 125 years. He grew up in the family home in Forest Hills, New York, and as a young boy he worked in the Gretsch factory at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. “I filled orders on Saturdays for twenty-five cents an hour,” Dick recalled in a 2008 interview with author Rick Van Horn. “Gretsch was manufacturing drums and guitars in those days. And what we didn’t manufacture we imported for wholesale distribution. One of my jobs was to pack phonograph needles—which we’d buy by the barrel—into little boxes for retail sale. I made a dollar and a quarter each Saturday.”

When Dick was ready to enter college, he attended the University of Michigan, where he studied engineering. When he returned to New York following his graduation, Dick didn’t go into the family business. “I had a father and two brothers who were already in that business,” he said in 2008. “There didn’t appear to be much room for me. So I started working for various utility companies, and my career went in that direction.”

Dick’s career began with a job at the Brooklyn Edison company. At the same time, he earned a law degree, studying at St. Johns University at night. Later, a job with the Kleigl Company took Dick to Hollywood, where he got involved with lighting for motion pictures.

When it came time for Dick to return to New York from California, he made a fortuitous discovery. “I found out that it was cheaper to come back to New York by boat going west across the ocean than it was to come back by train going east across the country. So I took a trip around the world. I think it cost me about $135!”

 When America entered World War II, Dick joined the army. His experience with movie lighting landed him a job supervising the setup of lighting systems for The Army War Show, a production that traveled the country to give the folks at home an idea of what their war bonds were being used for.

One day, while at the Pentagon, Lt. Dick Gretsch met Lt. Barbara Jean Ininger. The two were married in 1943, and they had eight children. Jean later enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. She graduated in 1973 and went into private practice. She passed away in 1980. 

When Dick and Jean left the military, they settled in Connecticut, and Dick went back into the utilities field. He held senior posts at several companies, and he also became active in the general business community, including the Danbury Industrial Corporation. He joined the DIC in 1949 and became chairman of the board in 1964, helping to bring industry into Connecticut. Later, he helped found the non-profit Housatonic Industrial Development. Dick was proud of the letters of appreciation he received from many successful businesspeople in Connecticut that he helped to get started.

Dick was also proud of his connection to the Gretsch family. The current president of the Gretsch Company, Fred W. Gretsch, is Dick’s nephew. Dick was very close to Fred, his wife Dinah, and their children. And even though he was generally not personally involved with the Gretsch musical instrument business, there was one occasion when he definitely was involved. The story comes from author and drum industry historian John Sheridan.

“Though I never met Dick Gretsch,” says John, “I remember a story that Frank Banko of Banko’s Music in Ansonia, Connecticut told me some twenty years ago. When Frank started his business in 1953, he had called in an order to the Gretsch Company. However, on his first day of business he had no power in his store—despite the fact that the utility company had said he would. When he called Gretsch to postpone the order, company president Fred Gretsch Jr. told Frank to call the utility company back and ask for Dick Gretsch. Frank did, and within an hour a man from the utility company showed up, the lights came on, and Banko’s Music was open for business. Frank was amazed at what one phone call to the right man could do!”

Fred and Dinah Gretsch with Uncle Dick.

Fred W. Gretsch describes his uncle as “the best Gretsch fan ever. A few years ago my wife Dinah and I traveled around the world with Uncle Dick. We visited more than fourteen countries together, and Uncle Dick was always on the lookout for a Gretsch drum or guitar along the way. He also had a life-long interest in music and musical instruments. He was keenly fascinated by the Beatles Rock Band video game, which features a simulated Gretsch Duo Jet guitar as a controller. And he loved all the publicity about the game that he observed, including a TV spot featuring George Harrison, as well as news coverage in The New York Times and Men’s Health magazine.”

Continuing his recollection of Dick Gretsch, Fred adds, “Although his health eventually failed him, his fun-loving nature never did. Dinah and I treasure a hand-written card he sent us just two years ago that contained lots of his trademark humor. He was and will remain the icon of the Gretsch family.”