Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Drums’

Gretsch News From NAMM: A Report On What’s Changing And What’s Not

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Shortly after the turn of the new year it was announced that the license to manufacture and distribute Gretsch drums had been acquired by Drum Workshop. Not surprisingly, this set off a storm of rumor and speculation about the future of the brand and of the drums themselves.

In order to address the concerns of the drum community, a presentation for the music-industry press was held on Friday, January 23 at the NAMM musical instrument trade show in Anaheim, California. There, comments were offered by key figures from both companies, including DW founder Don Lombardi and Gretsch Company president Fred Gretsch.

Don was careful to stress the respect that he and everyone at DW shares for the legacy of Gretsch drums, as well as for the passion for quality displayed by the folks who make them at the Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. He stated unequivocally that there are no plans to make any changes to that manufacturing operation.

For his part, Fred Gretsch stated that throughout the 132 years of Gretsch history, the goal of the Gretsch Family has been to manufacture the best drums in the world, and today the family is pleased to have a new partner in that effort. He went on to note the strong parallels between Gretsch and DW, including that fact that, like Gretsch, DW is “a family-owned company run by people who have a genuine understanding of–and respect for–the art of top-quality custom drum manufacturing.”

Fred concluded by saying, “I’m confident that this new partnership will generate continued expansion of the world-wide market for Gretsch drums, while honoring the time-tested design and unique legacy that are so much a part of ‘That Great Gretsch Sound.’”

In addition to the press presentation, the continuity of Gretsch drum production was dramatically illustrated by a display of beautiful kits and snare drums. These included:

A new Broadkaster kit finished in Satin Copper Lacquer.

A Brooklyn Classic configuration in Satin Dark Ebony.

A flagship USA Custom kit finished in Dark Walnut Gloss.

A kit from the new Renown Walnut series, in natural gloss. It features 6-ply walnut-maple-walnut shells.

Wood Burned Snare Drums developed in conjunction with drum star Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean.



From Around the NAMM Show 2015

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

At the 2015 NAMM Show, the first major industry event of the year, the throngs of eager music-gear-minded in attendance each day were treated to an exciting array of new and unique products to see, hear, and test out.

We’ve captured some (because we couldn’t possibly have gotten it all) Gretsch-related photos and postings from around the show.

NAMM Show Eve:

Posted by Bigsby – (To see all Bigsby Twitter posts, follow @Bigsby.)

It all started Wednesday night as the Bigsby/Gretsch booth began to come together -


NAMM Show Day 1:

Posted by @Bigsby –

Fender custom beauty.

Posted by Gretsch – (To see all Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @Gretsch.)

Gretsch drum artist Mark Guiliana wowed folks as he demo-ed Sabian cymbals atop a new Broadkaster kit.

Posted by Fred Gretsch – (To see all Fred Gretsch Twitter posts, follow @FredGretsch.)

To cap off a terrific first day: a special dinner with friends including from Kanda Shokai, Fender, and guitar artist Joe Robinson.

Posted by Gretsch Guitars -  (To see all Gretsch Guitars Twitter posts, follow @GretschUSA.)

The newly updated Brian Setzer Professional Collection of Gretsch Hollow Body guitars was unveiled.

Joe Carducci and Jeff Cary hanging with Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick.

The great Billy Duffy was hanging at Gretsch Guitars’ “backstage” area.

They had everyone feasting their eyes on these beauties.

Posted by Gretsch Drums – (To see all Gretsch Drums Twitter posts, follow @GretschDrums.)

Gretsch Broadkaster in the house with this gorgeous Satin Copper with Vintage Hardware.

At the Gretsch Drums booth you’ll find this USA Custom in Dark Walnut Gloss Lacquer.


NAMM Show Day 2:

Posted by @GretschUSA Guitars -

Gretsch (RED) Bono Signature Model

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Mark Guiliana and Mike Johnston at the Gretsch Drums booth!

There’s a whole lot of drumming going on at the Gretsch Drums booth!

Posted by @Bigsby -

In case you didn’t hear, Bigsby goes great on an acoustics too!


NAMM Show Day 3:

Posted by @FredGretsch -

A mix-and-match Gretsch kit belonging to Taylor Hawkins part of the Zildjian display.

At the Gretsch Guitars booth with Spanish Gretsch endorsee Al Dual.

Had a nice visit with the fine folks from Lane Music, Memphis. Another family-owned business.

Posted by @Gretsch -

Here’s a close-up of a Gretsch Wood Burned Snare developed in conjunction with drum artist Matt Sorum and hand-crafted by artist Mathieu Jean of PyroKraft.

Posted by @GretschDrums -

Steve Ferrone visits the Gretsch Drums booth!!

Posted by @GretschUSA -

The G9555 New Yorker

Gretsch Guitar booth getting crowded.


NAMM Show Day 4 (Final Day):

Posted by @GretschUSA -

Brian Setzer Beauties!

Posted by Other Sources -

Thanks Matt Sorum (@MattSorum) for posting this fabulous photo of you and Mr. Gretsch!

And also for this photo of you (@MattSorum) and Mathieu Jean (@MathieuJean7) with the Wood Burned Gretsch Snares.

Check out this incredible photo posted by Sam Ash Music (@samashmusic).

Nice shot of Bigsby Vibratos on display by Guitar World Magazine (@GuitarWorld).

Love this shot of Michael W. Stand of the Altar Billies (@TheAltarBillies) with the world renowned Joe Carducci.



Great Gretsch Educators: Mark Schulman

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Mark Schulman: Mr. Energy

by Fred W. Gretsch

If you had to pick one drummer in the world to personify boundless enthusiasm, unwavering dedication to purpose, and sheer, unadulterated energy, you’d need look no further than Mark Schulman.

To begin with, there’s Mark’s musical career. His performing and recording resume would do credit to five drummers, let alone one. Besides his current gig with superstar P!nk, Mark has worked with a “Who’s Who” of international rock & roll royalty including Foreigner, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Destiny’s Child, and Billy Idol. He anchored Cher’s Believe and Farewell tours—two of the most-attended tours in music history. He drummed with Velvet Revolver at Ozzfest and with Simple Minds at Glastonbury (for 200,000 people).

Mark with P!nk

He’s the recipient of numerous gold and platinum discs, he’s appeared on nearly every American and European TV variety show, and he was named among the top three pop-rock drummers of 2014 in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll. Mark is also a music producer, trained audio engineer, and co-owner of West Triad Recording Studio in Venice, California.

But we’re here to examine Mark’s work as an educator. Not surprisingly, he’s just as busy in that area as he is in his performing career. He’s taught at the prestigious Los Angeles Music Academy, and he has a top-rated educational DVD titled A Day In The Recording Studio: A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Recording Great Drum Tracks For Drummers And Musicians, distributed by Hudson Music.  Mark has also become one of the world’s most sought-after drum clinicians, hosting clinics and master classes in countries around the world.

Oh, and lest we forget, Mark is an author, too. His website is chock-full of his blogs, which offer great advice on a variety of drum-related topics. Meanwhile, he recently published a book, titled Nerve Breakers, Conquering Life’s Stage Fright. This terrific work arms readers with the essential tools to break through the daunting yet defining moments in life. After performing for more than a billion people on the biggest stages in the world over the past twenty years, Mark has developed his own “nerve breakers.” In addition, during the past year he’s interviewed some of the world’s most famous people, from all walks of life, to learn their “nerve breakers”: how they conquer fear, from running into a burning building to placing a foot on the moon to kicking a last-second field goal on national television. His book offers inspiration and easy-to-follow action steps to enable readers to break through the barriers that have held them back from fulfilling their dreams and goals.

And in his spare time (!) Mark has been chairman of the board and a major force in the development of Create Now!, a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to help change troubled children’s lives through creative arts mentoring. And, as a cancer survivor himself, Mark has also motivated children and teens through his work doing seminars with the Ronald McDonald House as well as benefits for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK.

Mark Schulman Signature Snare Drum

Everyone at Gretsch is proud of Mark’s accomplishments as a musician. (And by the fact that his Signature Snare Drum is the best-selling signature product in the history of Gretsch Drums.) But we’re just as proud of Mark’s stellar accomplishments as an educator, mentor, motivator, and all-around dynamo. Mr. Energy, indeed!

Learn more about Mark Schulman and his educational activities at

And enjoy a YouTube clip of his playing with P!nk, and an excerpt from his Day In The Recording Studio DVD.



Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . and Hitters

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Tony Williams: The Innovator

by Fred W. Gretsch

Music is, and always has been, an ever-evolving medium. Styles are developed, made popular, changed, and re-developed as something new again. And just as it takes a drummer to propel a band, it often takes a drummer to propel these stylistic changes.

I’m proud to say that many of the drummers who have provided this propulsion over the past decades have done so on Gretsch drums. And while each of those drummers has had his or her own distinctive playing style and sound, the “Great Gretsch Sound” of their drums has been the starting point.

From time to time I’m going to take the opportunity to share with you just a few performances by some of those great Gretsch drummers. I hope they’ll encourage you to do your own exploration to see and hear what made these incredible artists so important to the history of music.

Tony Williams - The Early Days

There’s simply no better drummer to start this series with than the great Tony Williams. While not the earliest “Great Gretsch Drummer” (and we’ll get to those earlier drummers in the future), Tony is arguably the single most influential drummer of the 20th century. Initially identified as a “jazz” drummer—mainly because he arrived on the scene as a member of Miles Davis’s legendary 1960s quintet—Tony quickly demonstrated that he was not to be pigeonholed within any style. His playing encompassed elements of jazz, rock, R&B, and Latin music. He combined these with formidable technique and unbridled passion to create dynamic performances that electrified audiences around the world—and sent millions of drummers racing to their practice rooms. Many of today’s greatest drum figures cite Tony Williams as their most important influence.

Tony and his Big Gretsch Kit

So check out the following YouTube clips as a starting point for your own exploration into the talent, passion, and undeniable uniqueness that defined Tony Williams:

1.  This is a performance by the Miles Davis Quintet at the Stadthalle in Karlsruhe, Germany, in November of 1967. Tony was only twenty-one years old at this time, but he had already become recognized as the drummer to watch on the jazz scene.  WATCH.

2.  By 1979 Tony was leading his own groups. At this performance in France Tony gets funky –and incredibly dynamic—on a tune called “Wild Life.”  WATCH.

3.  From the same concert, here’s Tony’s drum solo from “There Comes The Time.”  WATCH.

4.  For an idea of how Tony drove a band, there’s no better example than this recording made live in New York in 1989 by Tony’s Quartet. This clip is Part 1.  WATCH.

5.  And here’s Part 2. What it must have been like to be in the audience for this show!  WATCH.

6.  Here’s another incredible drum solo from Tony, performed at the International Jazz Festival in Berghausen, Austria, in 1989.  WATCH.


Tony's Famous Yellow Gretsch



“Fluke” Holland: Drummer for The Man In Black

Monday, December 15th, 2014

A Rock & Roll Pioneer On Gretsch Drums

By Fred Gretsch

Fluke with Gretsch Kit

On a recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee, my wife Dinah and I had the opportunity to visit the Johnny Cash museum (an experience we heartily recommend). In addition to all the fascinating information and memorabilia on display about the legendary “Man In Black,” we discovered a particular exhibit that immediately captured our attention: a classic 1950s-era Gretsch drumkit. This was the kit played during Johnny Cash’s early touring years by W. S. “Fluke” Holland, who was Johnny’s one and only drummer throughout the singer’s storied career.

As a member of Carl Perkins’ band in the mid-’50s Fluke recorded many of Carl’s hits at Memphis’ Sun Recording Studio. These included such classics as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Matchbox,” and “Honey Don’t.” Fluke toured with other rock pioneers—including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison—and was the first musician to play a full set of drums on the stage of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Fluke on Snare with Johnny Cash

Holland went on to perform on the “Million Dollar Quartet” session that featured Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. This brought him to Johnny’s attention, and in 1960 the singer asked Fluke to join his band for what was to be a two-week tour. But instead of two weeks, Fluke stayed with “The Man In Black” until the singer’s retirement in 1997. Along the way Fluke played in all of Johnny’s backing bands, including The Tennessee Three, The Great Eighties Eight, and The Johnny Cash Show Band.

Fluke is also heard on many of Johnny’s famous recordings, including “Ring of Fire.” The sound that became famous on virtually all of Johnny’s hit records (known as the “Tennessee Three sound”) was largely developed by Fluke’s “train-like” rhythms and driving beat.

The Gretsch drumkit that caught our eyes in the Johnny Cash museum is the one that Fluke played first with the Carl Perkins band and later for many years on the road with Johnny. It’s also the kit that was the first to grace the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In addition to its “Great Gretsch Sound,” the kit has a unique feature. Its bass drum has a front head made of Naugahyde, with a zipper that opens to provide access to the inside of the drum. When Fluke toured in the early days with Johnny, they traveled in a car, with very little room for instruments and luggage. So, in true “road warrior” style, Fluke opened the zipper on the bass drum and packed his clothes inside!

For more information on W. S. “Fluke” Holland, visit his website. You can also check him out on YouTube. Suggested clips include an interview with Fluke, a live performance of “I Walk The Line,” and a 1963 performance of “Ring Of Fire.” (Note Fluke’s “backwards setup,” with his hi-hat on his right. He says he set the drums up this way on his first recording session with Carl Perkins because he’d never played a drumset before!)

Fluke Holland’s contribution to rock & roll and the signature sound of Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three has earned him recognition the world over as a true American music pioneer. Dinah and I are proud that—as has happened so many times—a Gretsch drumset helped to make such an important contribution to music history.



Great Gretsch Educators: Stanton Moore

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Stanton Moore: From New Orleans To The World

by Fred W. Gretsch

There’s an old adage that says: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Well, all you have to do to disprove that adage is to take a look at the incredible Gretsch drummers who most certainly can and do play brilliantly, and who still take the time to share their knowledge and talent with other drummers in clinics, master classes, and drum camps.

Just as one stellar example, check out Stanton Moore’s recent schedule. Hard on the heels of recording and releasing a wonderful new jazz trio album called Conversations, Stanton has been on the road doing a series of clinics and master classes in Europe and the UK. Most recently he played with his jazz trio at the famous Blue Note in New York City. (This guy has so many things going on at the same time that it makes you wonder when he sleeps.)

It won’t be in December, because that’s when Stanton will be anchoring a unique educational experience for drummers: Stanton Moore’s SONO-NOLA Drum Camp. “SONO” stands for “Sounds of New Orleans,” and “NOLA” is, of course, the acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana, where this unique event will be held from December 5th through the 7th. This exclusive camp celebrates the legacy and rich musical tradition that is uniquely New Orleans’. From Mardi Gras Indian to the evolution of jazz and funk, students will enjoy three days of hands-on drumming, live performances, a private tour of the Old U.S. Mint’s “New Orleans Jazz” exhibit and much more. For more information go to; to sign up go to

Photos: Allison Murphy.

Stanton is just one of the Great Gretsch drummers who are willing to share his unique talents with other drummers around the world. In the future I’ll tell you about other great Gretsch drummer/educators, so stay tuned!



A Great Gretsch Weekend-Plus In Nashville

Friday, October 24th, 2014

This past September 20 through 23 saw Fred and Dinah Gretsch in Music City USA—Nashville, Tennessee. The extended weekend was packed with activities involving Gretsch history, Gretsch drums, and Gretsch artists.

Nashville Drum Show

To begin with there was the Nashville Drum Show, held September 20 and 21 at the Nashville Expo Center on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Gretsch Drums was proud to be an exhibitor and supporter. This popular event—which drew over 1,000 attendees—connects consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors. There’s also a grass roots swap meet/drummers’ hang component that includes vintage drum collectors and dealers, used gear sales and consignments, a drum museum sponsored by Not So Modern Drummer, and drumkits set up outside for attendees to play and show off.

The show also presents drum performers in clinic appearances, and Gretsch artists were key among those. Veteran country drummer Pat MacDonald (of the Charlie Daniels Band) was on hand—just having arrived from Oklahoma City, where he was helping his boss celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. Also performing was stellar drummer/educator Bob Harsen, who has performed with Tiger Okoshi, Randy Brecker, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, as well as teaching at the Berklee College of Music.

Fred Gretsch’s personal narrative about the history of the Gretsch Family and the Gretsch Company was a big hit with show-goers.

But if anyone was to appear on behalf of Gretsch Drums, who better than Fred Gretsch himself? On Saturday afternoon the fourth-generation drum maker fascinated attendees with his historical presentation regarding the Gretsch Family and its conduct of Gretsch company business over more than 130 years.

Commenting on Fred’s presentation, Gary Forkum (owner of top Nashville drum retailer Fork’s Drum Closet and a supporter of the Nashville Drum Show) says, “Fred has done a ton of research about his family history. That’s very interesting to me, and I think it’s interesting to most serious drum people who have a respect for drum history. I think it’s vital for them to know that there was somebody named Gretsch who started things. There are a lot of drum companies where there’s no Mr. Gretsch, Mr. Ludwig—or Mr. Anybody—who stands for the company. Fortunately, Fred was able to get the company back into the family and has been able to keep it going. I definitely

The Great Gretsch Drums team: (from left) Fred Gretsch, product marketing manager John Palmer, and factory production manager Paul Cooper.

have customers to whom it matters that Fred is involved…that there’s a human face to the company, and not just a corporate one. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that I personally like the Gretsch company so much. Gretsch was the very first line that I carried in my store when I started, thirty-two years ago. And I’ve been playing Gretsch drums myself ever since. I know the drums are distributed by another company today, but Fred is still involved. And the people that are involved in the day-to-day of the business, like John Palmer, Paul Cooper, and Joe Mazza, are passionate about it too.”

Meeting Mr. Gretsch

Following Fred Gretsch’s presentation, show attendees were pleased to have an opportunity to meet Fred in person, have a photo taken with him, and share with him their feelings about Gretsch drums past and present. “I was proud to meet so many Gretsch fans,” says Fred, “and to hear their comments—especially since I was the only person present at the Nashville Drum Show whose name was actually on many of the drums on display.”

Broadkasters Are Back

Gretsch Drums used the occasion of the Nashville Drum Show to launch the newly re-introduced Broadkaster drum series. This legendary line originally debuted in 1937.

And speaking of “drums on display,” the Nashville Drum Show was the setting for the launch of the newly re-introduced Gretsch Broadkaster drumset, which was personally conducted by Fred Gretsch (with the able assistance of key Gretsch personalities Paul Cooper, Joe Mazza, and John Palmer). This legendary drum series was originally introduced in 1935, and the new versions faithfully re-create the 3-ply non-reinforced shell that gave them their rich, warm tone. As part of his introduction, Fred Gretsch commented, “No other drums made today offer the unique sound—and the equally unique pedigree—of this historic line.”

When asked his opinion of the Broadkaster launch, Gary Forkum replies, “I think it’s a home run. It’s still early on, but we’ve sold a few kits already. It’s a different sound with the 3-ply shell. And it’s resurrecting a period of Gretsch manufacturing that’s been very popular in terms of used vintage kits. So now, with the USA Custom and the Brooklyn Series Gretsch has three US-made product lines with three distinctive sounds. That’s very valuable.”

At least one show-goer agreed; after having his photo taken with Fred Gretsch in front of a Broadkaster kit, he came back later to purchase that very kit.

Pat MacDonald of the Charlie Daniels Band presented his clinic on a Broadkaster kit.

The versatile and talented Bob Harsen gave his clinic on his personalized Gretsch USA Custom kit.

The versatile and talented Bob Harsen gave his clinic on his personalized Gretsch USA Custom kit.

Bob Harsen's Gretsch Kit.

Drummer and Gretsch fan Perry Curtis got a thrill from playing on a new set of Broadkasters at the Gretsch booth.

All photos above courtesy of Bob Campbell.

Going To A Party

Following the close of Saturday’s show, Fred and Dinah Gretsch were Gary Forkum’s guests at a music festival that Gary hosts each year on his South Creek farm just outside of Nashville. Officially called the South Creek Music Festival but nicknamed “Forkfest” by most locals, the event brings the Nashville music community together. Says Gary, “We have a couple of bands, plenty of food. This year we had about 250 people who came and enjoyed the great weather, the camaraderie, and the music. It was a good night with lots of fun.

The Music Didn’t Stop

Fred and Dinah enjoyed another night of music on Tuesday, September 23, when they attended the Tom Petty concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Tom’s band, the legendary Heartbreakers, is anchored by great Gretsch drummer Stephen Ferrone, and the Gretsches made a point to visit with Steve prior to the opening of the show. They were accompanied by Gary Forkum and his son Matt, and by Gretsch Drums production manager Paul Cooper. Paul had brought with him a snare drum made expressly for Steve, and the visitors all took pleasure in seeing his response. Steve was so pleased, in fact, that he took it on stage and played it that very night!

Matt and Gary Forkum with Fred Gretsch and Paul Cooper.



Brooklyn Walking Tour: Traveling Through Gretsch History Today

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

By Fred Gretsch

On July 30, 2014 I had a unique opportunity to take a step back into Gretsch Company history. As a matter of fact, I actually took several hundred steps, as I walked the streets of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where the company got its start. Along the way I visited several sites that mark the evolution of the company from its inception in 1883 through 1969, some seven decades later.

Gretsch drummers and history buffs joined the walking tour of historic Gretsch locations in Brooklyn.

Best of all, I had the pleasure of being joined by more than twenty drummers who are fans of Gretsch drums and their fascinating history. Since these drummers were all from the New York area, the information offered in our “Brooklyn Walking Tour” was all the more personal for them.

We started the day by meeting at Main Drag Music, which is located in the heart of the Williamsburg district—and thus in the heart of historic Gretsch territory. John Fell of Main Drag helped to coordinate the list of attendees, and he provided us all with a great base of operations. Before leaving for our walk, I spent a little time sharing specific facts and anecdotes about the Gretsch Family itself.

A History Synopsis
I began with how my great-grandfather, Friedrich Gretsch, founded the company in 1883 when he opened a little shop at 128 Middleton Street in Brooklyn. There he and a few workmen made drums, banjos, tambourines, and other musical items.

Fred Gretsch, Sr.

When Friedrich Gretsch died suddenly in 1895, his eldest son (and my grandfather) Fred Gretsch Sr. took over the company—at the tender age of fifteen. Initially he was aided by his mother, Rosa, who was by all accounts a remarkable woman. But he showed considerable business acumen on his own, and by the turn of the century five years later he’d expanded the business significantly. By the time the 1912 catalog was published, Gretsch could justifiably claim to have “the largest musical instrument factory in the U.S.”

My grandfather ran the business with his two younger brothers—Walter and Louis—for several years. They later left to pursue other interests, while he

Fred Gretsch Jr.

continued to direct company operations. Eventually, his two sons—my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., and my father, William W.

William Walter "Bill" Gretsch

Gretsch—joined the business. My uncle took over when my grandfather retired in 1942, but he took a hiatus to serve in World War II. My father then ran the company from 1942 until his own untimely death in 1948. My uncle returned to lead the company until its sale to the Baldwin Company in 1967—which marked the close of the Gretsch Brooklyn era.

Stepping Out In Brooklyn
Through the good graces of KMC Music—the company that exclusively distributes Gretsch Drums throughout the USA & worldwide—I was fitted with a wireless headset microphone system so that I could narrate the walking tour to all of the attendees, who were themselves fitted with earphones. It was a pretty modern way to delve back into more than 130 years of history.

Gretsch Building #2 at 104 to 114 South Fourth Street. Built around 1895.

Once we all had our audio connection set, it was time to head out for our first destination:  104-114 South 4th Street, which was home to Gretsch Building #2, built circa 1895. The original Gretsch building #1, built in 1883, had been at 128 Middleton Street, about a mile away off Broadway. But regrettably, it no longer stands.

As we made our way south on Wythe Street, I pointed out how the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn was a great industrial area in the years that Gretsch operated there. In fact, the area and the company share some significant dates. My great-grandfather opened his shop in 1883, the same year that the Brooklyn Bridge opened. In 1903 the Gretsch Company was incorporated, with Fred Sr. and his brother Walter as directors. In that same year the Williamsburg Bridge opened.

Today, Williamsburg has become pretty gentrified. Only a few remnants from Brooklyn’s industrial heyday remain among its trendy restaurants and residential lofts. Fortunately, some of those are the very buildings we were to visit.

Our next stop was right around the same block, facing the Williamsburg Bridge. It was Gretsch Building #3, at 109 South 5th Street. Located directly behind the South 4th Street building, Building #3 was owned by a Gretsch cousin.

By 1916 the company had to expand again, so the ten-story Gretsch Building #4 was erected at 60 Broadway.

Continuing under the Williamsburg Bridge via Berry Street, we emerged into the shadow of Gretsch Building #4 at 60 Broadway. This iconic ten-story structure was erected in 1916. It’s the classic edifice that graced the pages of Gretsch catalogs, flyers, and advertisements—and gave birth to Gretsch’s most famous instruments—for more than sixty years. The basement was used for storing parts, most notably die-cast hoops by the thousands. I vividly remember visiting that building as a youngster.

Speaking of youngsters, one tour attendee who had a special interest in Gretsch history was my young cousin, Garrett Gretsch. Representing the fifth generation of the Gretsch Family in America, Garrett is the grandson of my uncle Richard “Dick” Gretsch—a unique family figure who passed away in 2010 at the age of one hundred and one. Although he didn’t work for the Gretsch

From left, John Palmer (of KMC Music), Fred Gretsch, and drummer/author John Sheridan (in foreground) standing at the corner of Broadway and Wythe street in Brooklyn and looking up at the top of the iconic Gretsch Building #4 at 60 Broadway. (Photo by Vincent Tese.)

Company as an adult, Uncle Dick certainly would have been employed in Building #4 as a teenager. His father (and my grandfather) Fred Gretsch Sr. would likely have had him (and his two brothers) packing phonograph needles, which were hot items in the early years of the 20th century.

Although drum and guitar production originally took place at 60 Broadway, by the mid-’60s drum production had to be relocated to 109 South 5th Street in order to expand guitar production in the wake of Beatlemania. Drums came into similar demand. Those were heady days for the Gretsch Company.

Sadly, those heady days didn’t last long. As I explained in my narrative, in 1967 my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., sold the Gretsch Company to the Baldwin Piano company. That company moved instrument production from Brooklyn to Arkansas in mid-1969. However, in 1985 my wife Dinah and I were successful at returning Gretsch to family ownership. At that time we relocated drum production from DeQueen, Arkansas to Ridgeland, South Carolina, where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today.

As we all stood and viewed the building at 60 Broadway—which still bears the Gretsch name—I told my tourmates that in 1999 my cousins, my sisters, and I sold the building to a developer, who renovated it into luxury condos, adding two more stories for additional penthouses. (By 2004, a one-bedroom studio apartment at “The Gretsch” sold for $650K!)

On the way back to Main Drag Music from 60 Broadway, we stopped at an old building on Dunham Place. It featured ancient wooden double-doors that arched at the top and came to a point, looking very much like the entrance to a carriage house. I pointed out that this was yet another location that Gretsch used for the purpose of warehousing product. Standing there, you could just imagine a 19th-century horse-drawn wagon emerging from those peaked double-doors, on its way to deliver Gretsch instruments to local customers. I thought that was a pretty charming image with which to close what I hoped was an informative and enjoyable tour.

Post-Tour Gatherings
When we returned to Main Drag Music I had a great time answering questions, signing autographs, and taking photos with the drummers who had come on the tour (as well as many who hadn’t). John Palmer of KMC music acted as host, answering questions about current Gretsch products. And to top things off, a beautiful Gretsch snare drum was raffled off to a lucky attendee. (I’ll let him tell you about it in his comments below.)

Following the event at Main Drag Music, John Palmer and I moved into mid-town Manhattan, where we visited with a whole new batch of Gretsch drum enthusiasts at a reception sponsored by Steve Maxwell’s Drum Shop at 7th Avenue and 48th Street. Steve’s shop is the de facto headquarters for Gretsch drums in New York City, specializing in Gretsch USA products.

Attendee Comments
I was thrilled to be able to share such a great day with so many drummers. And I’m even more thrilled to share some of the wonderful things that they had to say about the Brooklyn Walking Tour, about Gretsch history in general, and about Gretsch drums in particular.

To begin with, Mark Giuliana, who is a Gretsch drum endorsing artist with two outstanding CDs to his credit, said: “I found Fred Gretsch’s encyclopedic knowledge very impressive and inspiring. I guess by most accounts I’m a jazz drummer, so my heroes are Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Art Blakey—a long list of guys who made their names on Gretsch drums. It was cool to tie the research that I’ve done on those drummers to the history that Fred was providing—oftentimes from his own first-person experience. Specifically I remember Fred talking about one of the first buildings we saw—on South Fifth Street. He pointed to a window on the second floor and said that it was where they did some of the drum wraps back in the early 1960s. It was nice to imagine how, as he described, great drummers would come in all the time—some to get new drums, some to just bounce ideas off each other. That was really cool. To be honest I learned nearly as much about the history of Brooklyn and New York City as I did about Gretsch drums. It was beautiful how Fred tied in a focus on the company with a history of the city and how the company grew and shifted with all its changes.”

Here’s what Brooklyn-based drummer Tony Leone thought of the day: “I found the Brooklyn Walking Tour to be interesting, informative, and above all inspiring. Having played Gretsch drums for over twenty-five years and having owned several ‘Round Badge’ kits and snare drums, it was great to visit the buildings where, ‘that great Gretsch sound!’ was born. Hearing Fred himself speak about his family lineage and about his time working in the factory as a kid added an air of pure authenticity. It felt like the spirits of the great Gretsch legends, like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams were walking along with us!

“When we returned to Main Drag Music after the tour I expected there would be giveaways of T-shirts, stickers, and the like. I did not expect to walk out as the winner of a new Gretsch Brooklyn Series chrome over steel snare drum. And besides being a wonderful surprise, that drum has proved to be exactly the drum I needed to add to my arsenal! It has a crack that cuts right through the volume of any mix, but it also has warmth, depth, and an extremely musical tone, with far more dynamic range than any other snare drum in my collection. I’ve taken that drum on every gig I’ve had since winning it!”

Mishka Shubaly is a modern-day renaissance man, with a new album coming out on CD and vinyl, as well as five bestselling Kindle Single stories to his credit. He comments, “I’m a huge fan of Gretsch—the story, the people, and the products. One of the things that impressed me about the Brooklyn Walking Tour was how the Gretsch story is such a deeply American story, as well as a deeply New York story: A talented, hard-working immigrant comes here and builds something that goes on to touch the entire world.

“What I found particularly interesting is how significant milestones in Gretsch history line up with events in New York City’s history. And the story’s ending is so fantastic, with Fred reclaiming the company from an investor that devalued it, and returning it to the Gretsch family. It’s like a Hollywood movie! I’d love to see the Brooklyn Walking Tour become not just a yearly thing for drum insiders but a cultural event for folks interested in New York/ Brooklyn/manufacturing history in general. It really is an amazing story, and Fred’s genuine enthusiasm is as rare as it is touching.”

John Sheridan, who, in addition to describing himself as “a player/collector/aficionado of Gretsch instruments for more than forty years,” is also the co-author (with Rob Cook) of the recently published Gretsch Drum Book, offers these kind remarks: “Along the entire tour Fred revealed interesting historical facts as well as answering a steady flow of questions from tour members, myself included. Of particular interest to me was the South 4th Street building (I lived in nearby Greenpoint for ten years and never saw that building’s exact location), as well as the Dunham Place warehouse, which I never knew existed. Fred kept us all moving and well-informed. He also carried a binder filled with archival Gretsch photographs and documents, which he freely shared with us onlookers. Bottom line:  A splendid time was had by all, with Fred W. Gretsch at the heart of it!”

Steve Maxwell is an old and dear friend as well as a great Gretsch supporter, and I’m flattered by his comments: “We had a nice reception at my shop for anyone who wanted to meet Fred, say hello, take a photo, get an autograph, and talk about Gretsch drums with the family member who’s helped to keep the business alive. He is hugely important. Though the reception was scheduled from 4:30 to 6:30, we didn’t leave until about 7:45. We had a lot of people, and it was a fun time.

“Later, Fred was kind enough to express his appreciation for what we do to support the Gretsch brand. I, in turn, am very appreciative of how the quality of the product has been so superb for so many years, and how the dedication to the brand is there because Fred’s kept it a family-owned business. It’s a great product with historical significance.”