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.

Gretsch Takes Part In CoverBand 2010 Contest
Get The Great Sound Of Gretsch Drums . . . And A Trip To California!

July 21st, 2009

Attention Gretsch drummers (and those who’d like to be): I want to let you know about a great new online contest that Gretsch is proud to be a part of.

It’s called CoverBand 2010, and it offers you the opportunity to have your performance viewed by thousands of music fans around the world. Those fans, in turn, will cast their votes, and the top five vote-getters will become the contest finalists. A panel of celebrity judges will select the winners in seven performance spots. Besides naming the best drummer, the judges will also select the best bassist, vocalist, two guitarists, and two percussionists. These winners will become the members of CoverBand 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

My Japan Trip Journal – Calvin Rane Gretsch

July 11th, 2009

Calvin Rane and TV JonesI was fortunate to have the amazing opportunity of traveling to Japan last month to meet and greet customers during a series of visits to Gretsch Guitar and Drum dealers. As a member of the sixth generation of the Gretsch family, it was great to meet other young musicians and share with them the history of the Gretsch family business. I was accompanied by well-known guitar and pickup manufacturer, TV Jones. It was a great trip with memories I’ll long cherish. Read the rest of this entry »

You Asked For It and Now You Got It

June 24th, 2009

Thanks for celebrating our 125th anniversary with us last year. As we kick off the next 125 years, we wanted to give Gretsch.com a hot new custom finish — just the way our friends wanted it. So we put it out to vote, and in just a few days, nearly a thousand Gretsch friends from around the world voted for the “look” they liked the most, and here it is, in all its glory. In case you didn’t see the other designs, here they are:

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Gretsch Roadshow visits Street Sounds in Brooklyn New York!

June 13th, 2009
Fred Gretsch, Rocky Schiano & Joe Carducci

Fred Gretsch, Rocky Schiano & Joe Carducci

We are live from Street Sounds, located in the heart of historic Brooklyn – just a “stones throw” from the Gretsch Company’s original home. upon our arrival we’re immediately greeted at the door with a friendly welcome and VIP pass from store owner, Rocky Schiano. Today the Gretsch Roadshow visits Street Sounds!

Gretsch Guitar fanatics of all ages pack the well-stocked store in anticipation as current Gretsch Guitar Marketing manager, Joe Carducci and Gretsch Company President, Fred W. Gretsch discuss the vast history of “That Great Gretsch Sound.” All in attendance were treated to a visual presentation that acknowledged the many fine Gretsch employees and artists, both past and present. Highlights included Mr. Gretsch’s personal reflections on some of his memorable family experiences with both. The presentation also included inspirational video clips of historic Gretsch Artist moments with special commentary by both Fred and Joe.

Later, Fred treated all to the infamous “Two Dollar Bill” trivia contest; a company tradition started by his uncle, Fred Gretsch Junior. Here the audience got a chance to try their luck answering the many music industry trivia questions as special prizes were awarded. This was followed by a toast to Brooklyn; an homage to the great boro and birth place of Gretsch. The event ended with an impromptu autograph session where Fred personally met everyone in attendance.

All in all, it was a very special day! Thanks to the Gretsch Company for arranging the event and proprietor Rocky Schiano for hosting the event.

Check the schedule for a Gretsch Road Show event near you. Next time you’re in Brooklyn, stop into “Street Sounds” and say “Hello” to Rocky — you’ll get that big New York smile!!

GRETSCH GUITARS SUMMER ROADSHOW 2009
DATE LOCATION
June 13, 2009
Time: 1:00 PM
Street Sounds
9206 3rd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11209
718-314-8647
www.streetsoundsnyc.com
June 26, 2009
Time: TBD
Sweetwater Sound
5501 US Highway 30 W
Ft. Wayne, IN 46818
206-432-8176
www.sweetwater.com
June 27, 2009
Time: TBD
Sweetwater Sound
5501 US Highway 30 W
Ft. Wayne, IN 46818
206-432-8176
www.sweetwater.com
July 18, 2009
Time: 10:00 AM
Redbone Guitars
4343 McCullough
San Antonio, TX 78212
210-822-4111
www.redboneguitar.com
August 1, 2009
Time: 2:00 PM
House of Guitars
645 Titus Ave
Rochester, NY 14617
585-544-3500
www.houseofguitars.com
August 8, 2009
Time: 12:00 PM
Cream City
12505 W. Bluemound Rd
Brookfield, WI 53005
262-860-1800
www.creamcitymusic.com
August 15, 2009
Time: 2:00 PM
Dave’s Guitar
1227 3rd St South
LaCrosse, WI 54601
608-785-7704
www.creamcitymusic.com
August 22, 2009
Time: 5:00 PM
Rainbow Guitar
2550 N. Campbell Ave
Tucson, AZ 85719
520-325-3376
www.rainbowguitars.com
August 29, 2009
Time: 2:00 PM
West LA Music
3501 W. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angela, CA 90068
323-845-1145
www.westlamusic.com

Sixth Generation Gretsch Family Member, Calvin “Rane” Gretsch to visit Gretsch Japan Dealer

June 10th, 2009

Sixth generation Gretsch family member, Calvin “Rane” Gretsch, will be traveling to Japan this month to meet and greet customers during a visit to Gretsch Guitar and Drum dealers.

Rane will be accompanied by well known guitar & pickup manufacturer, TV Jones as they tour throughout Japan. Some of the younger musicians may find it very interesting to meet a member of their generation within a company that has been in business for over 125 years. Read the rest of this entry »