Spotlight: Tim Armstrong Electromatic

November 15th, 2012

From the Guitar Guitars Website:

G5191TMS Tim Armstrong Electromatic® Hollow Body, Rosewood Fingerboard, Man Salmon

Loud and ferocious, the Gretsch G5191TMS Tim Armstrong Electromatic Hollow Body bears the personal stamp of Rancid founder and punk godfather Armstrong. Further, it features two dynamic new “Black Top” Filter’Tron™ pickups, which endow the latest generation of Electromatic hollow-body models with an electrifying new voice and identity.

Huge tone resonates from its bound single-cutaway hollow body, which features parallel tone bar bracing with sound post and bound f holes. Other features include a one-piece maple neck with graphite nut, bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets and acrylic block inlays, gold-plated pickup bezels, three-position pickup switch, Adjusto-Matic™ bridge and Bigsby®-licensed B60G vibrato tailpiece, gold-plated hardware, Grover® tuners, bound headstock, and Armstrong’s signature on the truss rod cover. Left-handed model also available, featuring a right-handed Bigsby®-licensed B60G vibrato tailpiece. Why a right-handed Bigsby® on a left-handed guitar? Because Tim Armstrong said so!

G5191TMS Tim Armstrong Electromatic® Hollow Body Left-Handed, Rosewood Fingerboard, Man Salmon

For more information on the G5191TMS Tim Armstrong Electromatic, visit the Gretsch Guitars website.

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Enjoy A Night of Music!

November 6th, 2012

Elmhurst College Presents The Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble In Concert

by Fred W. Gretsch

Elmhurst College Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

I’m pleased to invite anyone in the Chicago area to attend a concert showcasing Elmhurst College’s Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble this coming November 13. The group will be performing as part of the college’s Electric Guitar Ensembles Concert, which will also feature the Electric Guitar Collective, a group open to all electric guitar students. Under the capable direction of faculty member Mike Pinto, both groups will perform a variety of music, including jazz, Latin, pop, and rock.

Since the early 1990s the Gretsch Family has been pleased to fund student scholarships in music and music business at Elmhurst College, and to support the development of a state-of-the-art recording studio there named in recognition of my parents, William and Sylvia Gretsch. And as a proud Elmhurst College alum myself, I was personally honored in 1993 when the college’s unique guitar ensemble program was designated as the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble.

While virtually all other ensemble opportunities for electric guitarists have only one guitar chair, the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble features five electric guitarists, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. This provides a unique opportunity for guitarists to learn to play with each other, emphasizing blend, balance, phrasing, dynamics, and articulation. (It also makes for a unique concert performance.) The Ensemble recently recorded and filmed one of their arrangements in the Gretsch studio, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year. The video can be seen at Elmhurst College Music’s YouTube page.

The Electric Guitar Ensembles Concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on November 13 in the Mill Theatre, 253 Walter Street in Elmhurst. Admission is free. For more information, call (630) 617-3390.

Savannah Folk Music Festival a Great Success

October 18th, 2012

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 12 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.  Savannah Folk Music Society President Chris Desa opened the show and Jim McGaw, Lauren Lapointe, Cynergy, and Pace Brothers 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. . . “ F R E E“.

Noteworthy Art and More Auctions, Friday, October 12 & Sunday October, 14 (Ellis Square & Grayson Stadium)

Chris Desa and Fred Gretsch with Alison Krauss & Union Station signed Gretsch Guitar Auctioned During Festival

All 14 guitars, generously donated by the GRETSCH FOUNDATION and some of which were artfully transformed by local Savannah artists (see below), 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 14 at Grayson Stadium.

Youth Songwriting Competition, Saturday, October 13

The Youth songwriting competition, with $1,000 in prizes sponsored by Portman’s Music Superstore was held at Stewart Hall, First Presbyterian church where 3 finalists performed their original songs.  Declan Berkley of Savannah won First Prize – a $500 gift certificate for his song “North Pike Island”, Catherine Altomare also of Savannah placed second and received a gift certificate of $300 and Kent Woods of Ridgeland, SC was third and received gift certificate of $200.

Blues Guitar Workshop with Doug Macleod, Saturday, October 13

Immediately following the songwriting competition, a two-hour acoustic blues guitar workshop was hosted by headliner DOUG MACLEOD with about 12 local guitarists and listeners in attendance.  It was a great opportunity for attendees to spend quality time and learn from one of the best blues performers in the country.

Old Time Country Dance, Saturday, October 13

Savannah Arts Academy gym was decorated with numerous colorful quilts in preparation for the Festival Dance, which was again very well attended by nearly 250 people.  The “Curley Maple” Band provided excellent music throughout the evening which 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.

Concert at Grayson Stadium, Sunday, October 14

The Sunday Festival Concert began on schedule in Grayson Stadium with Deidre McCalla, Curley Maple, Al Petteway & Amy White, and Doug Macleod 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 long time fans of the performers position themselves at vantage seats in the stands to get a close up view.  Every artist gave a stellar performance to an appreciative and attentive audience scattered all over the stands behind home plate at Grayson Stadium.

The Youth Songwriting Competition winner Declan Berkley performed his winning song “North Pike Island” on stage at the Sunday Concert.

Overall, the festival was a great success and next year we will be back again in our usual location at Grayson Stadium said Chris Desa.  The collective efforts of SFMS leadership, members, volunteers, and numerous sponsors is greatly appreciated.

Major Festival Sponsors

City of Savannah Leisure Services Bureau: Dept of Cultural Affairs

The Gretsch Foundation

Portman’s Music Superstore

Quality Rock Q 105.3

Brighter Day Natural Foods

For more information about the Savannah Folk Music Society, call (912) 898-1876 or visit www.savannahfolk.org.

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Four of the beautiful art guitars auctioned during the festival:

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The Round Badge Returns to Gretsch USA Custom Drums

October 6th, 2012

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT BY GRETSCH DRUMS:

In January 2013, Gretsch will reintroduce a round, brass, vent hole badge on all USA Custom drums, including G-4000 Series Metal and G-5000 Series Wood Snare Drums.

The newly designed Gretsch Round Badge shares many of the same characteristics of the original version. Both are made from brass, yet the new version has only the Gretsch name embossed. (On the original brass badge, all of the graphic elements were embossed.) To enhance the look of the new badge, a simulated “patina” is applied giving it a textured, rustic appearance. The new badge will be affixed to the drums’ vent hole using a pneumatically pressed brass grommet. And, a grommet will be used for all drums whereas on the original round badge series the toms used a tack since there was no venthole on round badge era toms. Only the round badge era snares and bass drum had ventholes.

The Gretsch Round Badge was used on all Gretsch USA-made drums between 1930 and 1970 and grew to become an iconic symbol. Gretsch Drums manufactured during this period continue to be highly collectable and extremely valuable throughout the vintage drum community.
Even though Gretsch has introduced several alternative badge styles since 1970, the Round Badge continued to make periodic comebacks for special commemorative products like the 120th Anniversary Edition Products in 2003 and the 125th Anniversary Drums in 2008. In January 2012, a silver version of the traditional Round Badge was introduced on the newly released, USA-made Brooklyn Series.

“The reintroduction of the Round Badge to our USA-made product is a welcome return to a classic and very emblematic Gretsch Drum design,” said John Palmer, Director of Product for Gretsch Drums. “As we approach the company’s 130th anniversary, we are very proud to combine key elements of our rich heritage with our continuing advancements in drum making.”

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Thank You to GP Mag for Hall of Fame Award

September 30th, 2012

To the Editor, Guitar Player Magazine:

On behalf of the Gretsch Family past and present, I’d like to thank the editors of Guitar Player for including us among the Manufacturing Legends named to your inaugural Hall 0f Fame in the November 2012 issue. To be selected for this singular honor is quite an achievement, especially considering the stellar individuals with whom we share it.

I’d like to add how pleased I am to see that Paul Bigsby is also among the inaugural honorees. Gretsch Guitars and Bigsby Vibratos have shared a long and musically rewarding partnership, and I’m proud to say that the Bigsby brand is today a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gretsch Company.

As the Gretsch Family enters its 130th anniversary year of musical instrument manufacturing in 2013, guitarists around the world can rest assured that the legacy of innovation and quality that began in 1883 still guides our efforts today—and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Fred W. Gretsch

4th Generation

President

The Gretsch Company

Cover: Guitar Player Magazine November 2012

Manufacturing Legends: Paul Bigsby & The Gretsch Family

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Chick Webb: The Savoy King

September 15th, 2012

Visit The Savoy King website for more information.

Reflections On A Little Giant

by Fred W. Gretsch

I recently learned that a film titled The Savoy King: Chick Webb And The Music That Changed America has been selected for the 50th annual New York Film Festival. . . The documentary brings alive the untold story of drummer/bandleader William Henry “Chick” Webb, the “little giant” who taught himself to drum and taught the rest of the world to swing. I earnestly encourage anyone with an interest in drumming, in jazz, or just generally in music to attend a screening if at all possible.

Music and film critic Garry Giddins wrote, “The Savoy King is a wonderful film—dynamic and true to the spirit of its subject. If Chick Webb’s life had been a novel, filmmakers would have lined up to option it. Through genius and a fabled will, Chick became a true titan in American music. This remarkable story of an indispensable man is one of the great musical documentaries of our time.”

Chick Webb and Gretsch Drums

This historic shot has been colorized to approximate the look of Chick Webb and his Gretsch-Gladstone kit in 1937. Note how the kit is mounted on a rolling console frame.

The occasion of this important film screening got me to thinking about the historic connection between Chick Webb and Gretsch drums. The fact is, Chick was probably the first real drumming star to be promoted as a Gretsch artist. The 1939 Gretsch catalog features a great photo of Chick—touted as “the king of the drums”—enthusiastically swinging behind a Gretsch-Gladstone drumkit.

That 1939 catalog was the first to include Gretsch-Gladstone drums. They were a collaboration between the Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company (then run by my grandfather, Fred Gretsch Sr.) and legendary Radio City Music Hall drummer and inventor Billy Gladstone. Billy had devised a tuning system for snare drums that allowed tensioning of the batter head, the bottom head, or both—all without lifting the drum off its stand.  According to Chet Falzerano in Gretsch Drums: The Legacy Of “That Great Gretsch Sound,” Gretsch-Gladstone drums debuted in 1937 and shortly became the choice of prominent drummers of the day. And the “paramount endorser among this group” was Chick Webb.

If Gretsch-Gladstone drums were unusual, Chick’s kit was downright unique. It was a combination of drums and “traps”—percussive sound effects including temple blocks—all mounted on a rolling console frame. The bass drum was 28″ in diameter; the “rack” tom was 9×13, and the floor tom was 14×16. Zildjian cymbals–one large on Chick’s right and one small on his left–were hung on loop hangers from gooseneck stands attached to the bass drum. The drums were covered in a striking oriental pearl finish inlayed with contrasting green sparkle “chicks” around the center of each drum.

Chick was touted as “king of the drums” on the cover of the 1939 Gretsch Drums catalog.

The unique nature of Chick’s drumkit mirrored his unique qualities as a drummer. No less a drum giant than Buddy Rich revered Chick, saying that Chick “represented true hipness. His playing was original, different, completely his own. If he were alive now, most drummers would be trying to figure out why they decided to play drums. That’s how good he was.”

Chick’s Extraordinary Background

Chick’s abilities as a drummer were made all the more astounding by the fact that he was physically handicapped.  Shortly after his birth (in 1905 in Baltimore) he contracted spinal tuberculosis. The debilitating illness left him with a hunchback and little use of his legs. Doctors suggested that he take up drumming as a remedy for stiff joints.  Chick worked as a paperboy to earn enough to buy a drumset that was fitted with special custom-pedals so that he could reach them. He taught himself to play, and he made his professional debut at the age of eleven.

Chick’s diminutive size sometimes made him hard to see behind his large drums.

When Chick was seventeen he moved to New York, where he started playing with such jazz notables as Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, and Duke Ellington. At less than five feet tall, he could barely be seen when seated behind his drums. But he could certainly be heard. His forceful sense of swing, accurate technique, control of dynamics, and imaginative breaks and fills gained him the respect of his peers and the admiration of fans. As a result, by 1926 Chick was leading his own band. Although he was unable to read music, he easily memorized the arrangements played by the band. This, in turn, allowed him to direct performances from a raised platform in the center of the ensemble, giving cues with his drumming.

Chick’s band alternated between road tours and long-term stands at New York City clubs through the late 1920s. In 1931, his group became the house band at Harlem’s legendary Savoy Ballroom. There the band delighted dance-crazy audiences with songs like “Stomping At The Savoy” and “Blue Lou.”

Legendary Band Battles

The Savoy regularly featured “battles” between the name big bands of the day, with Chick Webb’s band taking on the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. On one such occasion in 1937, Chick’s band faced the high-flying Goodman band at its peak, with popular superstar Gene Krupa in the drummer’s chair. According to all reports, Chick’s band left Benny’s group drained and defeated. And as for the drumming, Gene Krupa himself put it succinctly: “Chick cut me to ribbons.”

Chick’s Later Career

Another colorized shot depicting Chick in 1938 with his vocal “discovery”—a then-teenaged Ella Fitzgerald.

In 1935, Chick hired a seventeen-year-old vocalist who’d just won a talent contest at the Apollo Theater. Her name was Ella Fitzgerald, and Chick recognized her amazing talent immediately—to the point that he rebuilt his show around her. They formed a powerful partnership and recorded over sixty songs in the next three years. These included “A Tisket-A-Tasket,” which remained at the top of the charts for seventeen weeks in 1938.

The fame of Chick Webb and his band continued to grow, fueled by the group’s reputation as a giant-killer in the Savoy battles and a continuous string of record hits like “T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and “Liza.” But sadly, Chick’s always-precarious health began to give way, and he started to have difficulty finishing performances.

Despite his health problems, Chick continued to tour and record with his orchestra in order to keep them employed during the Depression. But in June of 1939 he became seriously ill, and he entered Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After undergoing a major operation, he passed away on June 16, 1939, at the age of thirty-four. His last words reportedly were, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.”

With the passing of Chick Webb the world lost a legend…and Gretsch lost an association that was more than just an endorsement deal.  Still, though Chick is gone, his legacy remains. Drummers everywhere who appreciate the history of the instrument know that Chick Webb stands as one of the great innovators. According to Barry Ulanov in A History Of Jazz In America, he was, “perhaps the greatest of jazz drummers—a gallant little man who made his contribution to jazz within a framework of pain and suffering.”

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Gretsch Supports AROTR: America’s Largest Beatles Festival

September 6th, 2012

Bands at Abbey Road on the River played inside the Potomac Ballroom of the Gaylord Convention Center as well as outside on the pier. Photo: Joshua Yospyn.

The 2012 Abbey Road on the River festival—held this past August 30-September 3 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland—is America’s largest musical celebration of all things Beatles. This five-day music festival takes place twice each year: In Louisville, Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, and in the Washington, D.C. area over Labor Day weekend. The D.C. festival includes two indoor and four outdoor stages, as well as additional rooms for speakers and film screenings.

The festival had its start in 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio, and then moved to its current locations in 2005. Since the move, Abbey Road on the River has expanded greatly, with an average of over sixty bands annually. Many are full-on tribute acts that strive to recreate as faithfully as possible the sound and image of The Fab Four at various points in their career. Other bands play Beatles music accurately, but don’t dress or act like Beatles. Still others honor the music of Lennon & McCartney and George Harrison without trying to reproduce the Beatles’ sound.

Giving their tribute to The Beatles was Jukebox, from Puerto Rico.

In addition to bands from across the USA, many come from around the world to take part in AROTR. This year’s lineup included The Beatrips (Japan), The Beafore (Germany), All You Need Is Love (Canada), Jukebox (Puerto Rico), and The Day Trippers and The LSB Experience (both from Holland). Altogether it makes for a lot of great entertainment, so it’s not surprising that AROTR draws nearly 30,000 Beatles fans from all over the globe. These fans also enjoy presentations by Beatles-related speakers, discussion panels, film screenings, and the sale of Beatles merchandise.

The drummer for The Beatrips enjoyed the sound of great drumkit provided by Gretsch Drums. Photos: Joshua Yospyn.

AROTR also draws a variety of industry sponsors. In particular, this past weekend’s event benefited from just about as much Gretsch participation as it was possible to receive. There were Gretsch drums on the stages, as well as Gretsch guitars in the hands of many players as a tribute to the instruments that helped George Harrison and John Lennon create their signature sounds.

Fred spent time visiting with AROTR attendees, signing autographs and chatting about the connection between The Beatles and Gretsch guitars. Pictured with Frank Ceresi.

And there was Fred Gretsch himself, on hand to greet Gretsch aficionados, sign autographs, and take part in the popular “Fred & Joe Show.” In tandem with Joe Carducci of Gretsch Guitars, Fred outlined the history of the Gretsch Family and its multi-generational place within the musical instrument industry. And, in keeping with the spirit of the AROTR event, Fred & Joe offered a special “Tribute To George Harrison” feature.

On Saturday, September 1 festival-goers were also given an opportunity to bid at a live auction that offered three great Gretsch guitars from the AROTR private collection. These classic models included a Country Gentleman, a Tennessee Rose, and a George Harrison Signature Duo Jet. Partial proceeds from the auction went to benefit The Desmoid Tumor Foundation and The American Red Cross.

Gretsch Electromatic G5422 TDC Guitar

Gretsch Guitars also donated a beautiful Electromatic G5422 TDC electric guitar in walnut stain to be raffled off on Saturday in support of the Red Cross. Later that evening Gretsch Guitars sponsored the Love Album Live concert, featuring All You Need Is Love, Britbeat, and The Newbees.

The mission statement of the Abbey Road on the River festival states: “Because John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr made the world a happier place, we promise to extend their vision by creating a welcoming and carefree environment for their fans to come together with friends and family to experience their gift of music, written and performed with peace, love, and non-violence at its heart. We further pledge to emulate their gentleness and compassion, and as John and George lived on their own terms, so too, do Paul and Ringo continue to live in good health and communicate their unique talents and love for humanity. It is with great respect and gratitude that we celebrate their music and
the spirit that continues to bring us all together. In their names, we pledge to have fun.”

There’s no doubt that this year’s AROTR Labor Day Weekend event lived up to that pledge.

The next Abbey Road On The River festival will be held from Thursday, May 23 through Monday, May 27, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information visit abbeyroadontheriver.com.

For more information on Gretsch history as well as Gretsch guitars and drums, visit gretsch.com.

More event photos:

Fred Gretsch with John Martellaro, winner of the Gretsch George Harrison Signature Duo Jet.

The same Gretsch kit helped CB Radio’s drummer entertain the ballroom crowd. Photo: Joshua Yospyn.

Fred Gretsch (at microphone) and Joe Carducci offered their popular “Fred & Joe Show” historical presentation.

Yet another Gretsch kit powered the Steve Sizemore Group’s set on the AROTR pier stage. Photo: Joshua Yospyn.

Tim Seiwert of the Cincinnati-based rock band The Newbees created a left-handed version of the Gretsch kit during the band’s “All Together Now” performance. Photo: Joshua Yospyn.

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Additional photos from the event can be seen in this PHOTO GALLERY.

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Spotlight: Gretsch Brooklyn Metal Snares

September 3rd, 2012

From the Gretsch Drums website:

Gretsch Brooklyn series metal snare drums add another professional and distinctive voice to the Gretsch snare line up. The straight-sided chrome over brass shell (with Gretsch center knurl pattern) is offered in two sizes, 5×14 (8 lug) and 6.5×14 (10 lug). Also offered is a hammered chrome over brass shell in 6.5×14 (10 lug). All shells include Gretsch “302” 3mm/double-flanged hoops, Lightning throw off and butt plate, “Snap-in” drum key holder, 20-strand snare wire and Gretsch Permatone drum heads. The brass shells resonate with classic, musical tones and are extremely versatile. The “302” hoops provide a timbre that is more open and ambient than traditional Gretsch die-cast hoops.

Models:

GB4160

5×14 8 Lug Chrome over Brass Snare Drum

SHELL: Rolled 1.1mm brass with center knurl pattern
HEADS: Permatone coated batter with white sound dot and clear snare-side heads
FINISH: Chrome with chrome hardware
HOOPS: Gretsch “302” 3mm, double flanged
THROW-OFF: Lightning Throw-off/Butt plate
SNARE STRANDS: 20 Strand
FEATURES: Snap-in key holder

GB4164

6.5×14 10 Lug Chrome over Brass Snare Drum

SHELL: Rolled 1.1mm brass with center knurl pattern
HEADS: Permatone coated batter with white sound dot and clear snare-side heads
FINISH: Chrome with chrome hardware
HOOPS: Gretsch “302” 3mm, double flanged
THROW-OFF: Lightning Throw-off/Butt plat
SNARE STRANDS: 20 Strand
FEATURES: Snap-in key holder

GB4164HB

6.5×14 10 Lug Hammered Chrome over Brass Snare Drum

SHELL: Rolled 1.1mm brass with center knurl pattern
HEADS: Permatone coated batter with white sound dot and clear snare-side heads
FINISH: Chrome with chrome hardware
HOOPS: Gretsch “302” 3mm, double flanged
THROW-OFF: Lightning Throw-off/Butt plate
SNARE STRANDS: 20 Strand
FEATURES: Snap-in key holder

For more details, visit Gretsch Drums.

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