Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Drums’

On the Passing of Sam Ulano

Monday, January 6th, 2014

One-Of-A-Kind Drummer And Educator

Drummer, teacher, and controversial drumming icon Sam Ulano, shown at his 92nd birthday celebration and drum clinic in July of 2012.

On January 1 of this year we lost a genuine drumming icon when Sam Ulano passed away at the age of ninety-three. For those who may not know Sam, he was a fixture on the New York City drumming scene for more than sixty years. He was also quite a character, and it’s hardly surprising that “Sam the showman” would make his exit on New Year’s Day.

Sam enjoyed a long and successful career as a performer, including thousands of club dates, shows, and other gigs in the New York City area. He performed or recorded with diverse artists ranging from Moondog to Johnny Lydon’s PiL. And I’m proud to say that Sam began playing and endorsing Gretsch drums in 1947—making him the longest-running Gretsch drum artist.  He was still swingin’ on his Gretsch kit in NYC clubs until shortly before his passing.

But it’s as an educator that Sam truly made his mark on the national drum scene. And he definitely did it his own way—making him equally revered and controversial. Besides his private teaching practice, he founded a drum studio in the 1950s that hosted such guest artist/instructors as Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Papa Jo Jones. Sam also had the first-ever drum-oriented cable TV program, which ran from 1975 to 1981. And he released literally dozens of self-produced books and CDs, along with over 2,500 pamphlets that he called “Foldys.”

Sam’s publications had almost comically “lo-fi” production values, but they were nonetheless high in informational content. In what was perhaps his most controversial teaching philosophy, Sam denounced rudiments as having nothing to do with playing a drumset, since drumsets didn’t exist when the rudiments were established for marching drummers in the 1800s. Instead, Sam focused on reading, timekeeping, and providing the foundation for a band in a musical situation. “Your hands can’t see, hear, or think,” Sam declared at a Gretsch-sponsored clinic at Manhattan’s Sam Ash Music in July of 2012. “You do that all with your brain. That’s where you learn to play the drums. And that’s the only way you’re going to be successful as a player in the music industry.”

Sixth-generation Gretsch family member Logan Thomas (at left) met with Sam at Steve Maxwell’s Vintage And Custom Drums in Manhattan this past August 3. Logan began his own drumming career with a Gretsch kit this Christmas. Also shown are Rob Cook and John Sheridan (left and right, behind Sam), authors of The Gretsch Drum Book, and Logan’s proud grandfather, Fred W. Gretsch.

I’m gratified that my grandson Logan Thomas—a sixth-generation member of the Gretsch family—had a chance to meet and speak with Sam at a Gretsch Day event at Steve Maxwell’s Vintage & Custom Drums this past August. Logan got his first drumset as a Christmas present shortly thereafter, and I know he’ll benefit from the advice that Sam gave him during their discussion at Maxwell’s.

Logan will be in good company, since Sam’s former students include noted TV drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, New York studio stalwart Allen Schwartzberg, and jazz great Art Taylor. These drummers and dozens like them benefitted from Sam’s major premise, which was that reading is the means to success. According to Sam, drummers who can read—and who can play in many styles as a result—are more likely to get work than are drummers with great rudimental technique or blazing speed.

Sam recommended practicing with metal sticks—or even lengths of copper pipe, as shown here.

Another controversial recommendation from Sam was regular practicing with metal sticks to improve hand and arm strength. “If I hadn’t practiced with metal sticks all these years,” he said at the July 2012 clinic, “there’s no way I could still be playing at ninety-two years old.”

Admittedly, Sam had his detractors—or at least those who would debate his opinions about rudiments. Few, if any, teachers would argue Sam’s point about the importance of reading for a drummer with professional aspirations. But many also stress the value of listening to music in order to develop an “ear” for various styles. Some teachers tend to focus on this ear training as the way to develop an authentic “feel” within any given style.

Sam Ulano might have taken issue with these points…but that’s what drumming education is all about: different approaches. Sam’s approach was a practical one, based on years of working within the music business and a desire to prepare drummers for that sort of work. You can agree with that approach, or disagree, or take some of it and leave the rest. But no matter what you do, you should absorb Sam’s fundamental, overriding message: You need to learn to play the drums. Drumming may come “naturally” to you, but to develop those natural skills you need to pursue an education on the instrument. That, I think, will be Sam Ulano’s lasting legacy.

For more information on Sam Ulano, visit samulano.com. There are also some great YouTube clips of Sam. Go to this video to learn how Sam set an early record for long-term drumming. Go to this video to hear Sam discussing how rudiments don’t serve drumset playing. And go to this video to view Sam in performance at his birthday celebration and clinic, held at Sam Ash Music in Manhattan on, July 2012 (just prior to his 92nd birthday that August).

Sam authored dozens of books, CDs, and DVDs over his sixty-year teaching career.

A Look Back at Our 130th Anniversary Events

Monday, October 28th, 2013

A Gretsch Retrospective

The year 2013 marked Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary—a milestone that was celebrated with a wide variety of activities and events throughout the year. Here’s a chronological retrospective of the excitement that marked this historic achievement.

Announcing The Celebration

The year kicked off in January with a message to the music world from Fred Gretsch himself, inviting everyone to join the entire Gretsch Family in celebrating their 130th year in the music business. Said Fred: “When my great-grandfather, Friedrich Gretsch, opened his instrument-making shop in Brooklyn, New York back in 1883, he couldn’t know that he was establishing a musical dynasty that has continued over four generations.”

The celebration was officially kicked off in January at the 2013 NAMM show in Anaheim, California, where the Gretsch Guitars’ Custom Shop launched the beautiful G6118T 130th Anniversary model guitar. It’s a gorgeous instrument, with a high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in Metallic Gold on the top and Black on the back and sides, with multiple silver-sparkle bindings. (Details and specs at Gretschguitars.com.) Let me just say here that it definitely reflects 130 years of Gretsch craftsmanship.

On the percussion side, Gretsch Drums introduced a limited run of USA-made Anniversary drumsets and snare drums, to be released throughout the year. Distinctive in sound and in appearance, they represent the finest work of the best drum-builders in America. (Visit Gretschdrums.com for more info.)

The anniversary guitars and drums were made even more special by the addition of a special logo badge that boldly announces Gretsch’s 130th year as a manufacturer. “It’s a striking design,” said Fred Gretsch, “and I’m proud to see it on our instruments. I’m confident that you will be, too. So please join us in celebrating our 130th anniversary. It’s going to be a great year!”

Gretsch Guitars’ USA Custom Shop created this G6118T model to commemorate the company’s 130th Anniversary.

This limited edition USA Custom 130th Anniversary kit features a Gold Satin Flame Nitron finish and quintessential hardware appointments. Only thirty-five were manufactured.

This Satin Birdseye Maple model is one of three Gretsch three special limited edition snare drums created to celebrate the company’s 130th Anniversary.

Take a look at some other great photos from the show: Gretsch NAMM Show Album, Bigsby gallery, Gretsch Guitars and Drums Facebook pages, and the GretschPages.

Tempe Guitar Show & Gretsch Anniversary Twang-O-Rama Concert

On March 23 the 2013 Tempe Guitar Show presented by CE Distribution hosted Gretsch Guitar’s 130th Anniversary Twang-O-Rama concert event. Featured performers included Lee Rocker and Buzz Campbell, the Mike Elred Trio, Big Nick & the Gila Monsters, and the Saucy Jacks. A total of 48 vendors, 5 bands, and 1,800 people attended the show.

Fred Gretsch In GermanyPresentations Prove You CAN Go Home Again

The month of April saw Fred Gretsch and his wife Dinah (who is also Gretsch Company CFO) in Germany, where they celebrated the 130th Anniversary in a unique fashion: by taking Fred’s legendary presentation of Gretsch Family history “on the road” to the family’s ancestral homeland.

Fred and Dinah started out by representing Gretsch drums and guitars at the world’s largest musical-instrument tradeshow—the Musikmesse, held in Frankfurt, Germany from April 10 through 13. A record 113,000 visitors from 142 countries attended. Bigsby Vibratos exhibited with TV Jones Pickups, and Gretsch Guitars and Drums had a great setup in Hall 4. Check out our picture gallery and the Bigsby site for a post-show report.

Following Musikmesse Fred made personal appearances at major German music retailers in Hamburg and Cologne. There he delighted his audience by delivering his presentation in fluent German. Gretsch fans in Germany greatly enjoyed hearing Fred relate the 130-year history of Gretsch, complete with personal anecdotes and humorous stories. For Fred, it was a particularly satisfying experience, since he was able to bring the family’s history “back home” to where it all began.

Fred W. Gretsch delivering his popular presentation on Gretsch Family history—in German—at No. 1 Guitar Center in Hamburg on April 17.

Celebrating Two Anniversaries In May

Grey skies and occasional showers couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those attending the Gretsch Company’s 130th Anniversary Event, held on May 4 at Randy Wood’s Pickin’ Parlor in Bloomingdale, Georgia—just across the river from the Gretsch USA Custom Drums factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina. The event was made all the more special by the fact that it also celebrated the wedding anniversary of Fred and Dinah Gretsch, who reside in nearby Pooler, Georgia. Friends, business associates, and family members were on hand to help the anniversary couple commemorate this unique occasion.

Comments made by Fred and Dinah during the event highlighted their pride in the Gretsch family’s history. As Fred put it, “I’m a fourth-generation member of the family business. My grandfather first brought me to the factory in the 1950s, and I’m still here some forty-eight years later. Dinah’s business skills and warm, outgoing personality have made her an integral part of the Gretsch operation—and my indispensable partner—for thirty-four years. And for more than nineteen years Dinah and I have been ably supported by our daughter Lena Thomas, who is a skilled administrator and operations guru. Between Lena, Dinah, and me, that’s just over 100 combined years of ‘sweat equity’ in the family business. And I’m pleased to report that the sixth Gretsch generation includes sixteen-plus grandchildren, many of whom are pursuing educational tracks that will help them continue the family legacy for years to come.”

Entertainment for the double anniversary event was provided by the husband-and-wife team of Richard Smith (guitar) and Julie Adams (cello), and by an exciting trio led by guitar phenom Joe Robinson. Virtuoso playing was the order of the day, and the 100-plus guests rewarded the performers with rousing ovations.

Fred Gretsch (shown at center with wife Dinah) represents the fourth generation of the Gretsch family business. The generations continue with (from left) cousin Paul Getchell, granddaughter Abbey Gretsch, grandson Will Gretsch, daughter Lena Thomas, and grandson Logan Thomas.

After leading his own trio in an exciting performance, guitar star Joe Robinson (left) joined Richard Smith for an impromptu finger-picking session that brought the house down.

The Fred & Dinah Gretsch 130th Anniversary Tour Kicks Off In June

Gretsch went all-out to celebrate the 130th Anniversary in 2013. Special promotional events in cities across the US and Canada showcased Gretsch guitars and drums, with concert performances by top Gretsch artists.

A special element at many of these events was the personal appearance of Fred Gretsch representing the fourth generation of the Gretsch Family. Fred was on hand to personally greet Gretsch fans, sign autographs, and act as emcee for the events.

Dinah & Fred Gretsch. Photo: Spark St. Jude/MagicOnFilm.

At several of the events Fred was joined by his wife Dinah. CFO of The Gretsch Company and a notable industry figure in her own right, Dinah is also the founder of the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, a charitable organization that supports music education in rural schools.

Said Fred Gretsch, “Among the things Dinah and I love most in the world are traveling, meeting folks who appreciate Gretsch drums and guitars, and enjoying the performances of great Gretsch musical artists. And it’s a special joy for me to have the opportunity to share anecdotes and stories about my family’s 130-year history in the music business.”

The Fred & Dinah 130th Anniversary Tour kicked off on June 15 at StreetSounds in Brooklyn, New York (see story below). Then it was on to The Sweetwater Gearfest (Fort Wayne, IN, June 22), Bizarre Guitar (Reno, NV, June 29), the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention (Nashville, TN, July 10-13), Sam Ash Music (Hollywood, CA, July 20), Rudy’s Music & Steve Maxwell Drums (New York, NY, August 3), Guitar Center (Chicago, IL, August 15), Cream City Music (Brookfield, WI, August 17), Blues Angel Music (Pensacola, FL, September 14), and Class Axe Guitars (Kemptville, ON, Canada, October 12).

Artists who appeared at these events included The Romantics, the Michelle Marie Trio, Jet Weston and his Atomic Ranch Hands, Foxy Studs, Fountains of Wayne, the Joe Robinson Trio, Rosie Flores & The Rivetors, Mister Barrington (featuring drummer Zach Danziger), The Octanes, Steve Ferrone, Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley, the Mike Elred Trio, Ed Roland & The Sweet Tea Project, Gretsch Lyles and the Modern Eldoradoes, and the Kimberly Thompson Quartet (featuring Beyonce drummer Kim Thompson).

Joe Robinson: Globe-Trotting Gretsch Guitar Great

Traveling is part of the job for any successful musician. But Gretsch artist Joe Robinson put in some “above and beyond the call” mileage on behalf of Gretsch Guitars and the 130th Anniversary.

Joe Robinson and his trio celebrated Gretsch’s 130th anniversary with a performance in Tokyo.

Saturday, June 15 saw Joe performing in Tokyo, Japan at a celebration presented by Gretsch’s Japanese distributor, Kanda Shokai. The event also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Gretsch/Kanda Shokai partnership. Joe wowed the audience with his combination of brilliant technique, tasteful musicality, and imaginative composition.

Joe took his talents 5,000 miles from Tokyo to appear at Sweetwater Gearfest in Ft. Wayne, IN. Photo: Jim Sites.

With barely enough time to catch his breath, Joe was on the road (actually, in the air) again. His next stop was 5,000 miles away, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where he appeared on Saturday, June 22 at the Sweetwater GearFest as part of yet another anniversary celebration (which also included a performance by Gretsch artists Fountains Of Wayne). Fred Gretsch himself was on hand to introduce the performers and thank all of the Gretsch fans in attendance.

Joe’s travels continued throughout the year, with additional 130th anniversary shows at Sam Ash Music in Hollywood on July 20 and at Guitar Center in Chicago on August 15. Fred and Dinah Gretsch acted as emcees for both events.

Brooklyn’s Street Sounds Stages Major Gretsch Day Event

Street Sounds, Brooklyn, NY

The first stop on Fred and Dinah Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary Tour was at Street Sounds in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, June 15. Touting itself as “the world’s largest Gretsch dealer” (for guitars, amps, and related accessories), Street Sounds staged an all-day event that showcased Gretsch products and Gretsch artists alike.

Store owner Rocky Schiano began the festivities by giving the Gretsch fans in attendance a guided tour of the shop’s impressive array of Gretsch guitars. This presentation segued into a video about the Gretsch Custom Shop operation, introduced by Gretsch’s lead custom guitar builder Stephen Stern. Rocky then introduced Fred and Dinah Gretsch, who greeted the crowd on behalf of the Gretsch Family and Gretsch Guitars.

Fred spoke about the importance of family heritage to a business, commenting on how he and Dinah shared a multi-generational involvement in business with Rocky and his family. Dinah Gretsch offered her thanks to the audience for their attendance, then went on to express her deep personal conviction that music enriches the lives of those who pursue it. She encouraged all the musicians in the room to offer their time and skills to local schools as a way to promote and perpetuate the impact of music on young people.

The Foxy Studs. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

Entertainment for the day began with Foxy Studs—a talented young contemporary rock group featuring Rocky’s daughter Kristina on drums. They were followed by a video tribute to veteran studio and touring guitarist Al Caiola. On hand as an honored guest, Al came on stage to receive a plaque commemorating his long and distinguished musical career.

Al Caiola Sits in with Jet Weston & the Atomic Ranch Hands.

Next up was Jet Weston and his Atomic Ranch Hands, who offered an eclectic mix of western swing and jazz standards. Later in their set they invited Al Caiola to join them, and the 92-year-old guitar star added his special touch to several tunes . . . including his own 1960s hit, “Theme From The Magnificent Seven.”

Rocky Presents Fred with Anniversary Cake. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

Rocky Schiano returned to the stage to display a large sheet cake decorated with the Gretsch Logo and the words “Happy 130th Anniversary.” Everyone in the crowd was invited to enjoy the anniversary treat.

Michelle Marie on Stage. Photo by Mike Beitchman.

When introducing the next act, Fred Gretsch said that it was “great to see a girl playing guitar.” The “girl” in question was Michelle Marie, and play she did, leading her own trio in a set of primarily instrumental fusion and progressive jazz compositions.

Throughout the day Dinah Gretsch joined with Rocky to give away a selection of door prizes. These included Gretsch T-shirts as well as several Gretsch guitars. The day’s big winner took home a classic orange-finish Gretsch Electromatic guitar.

The performances closed with an appearance by 1970s New Wave recording stars The Romantics. The group immediately launched into their signature style of pop-punk rock, playing two tunes before stopping to greet the crowd, to thank Street Sounds for inviting them, and to acknowledge Fred and Dinah Gretsch. Then it was right back into the music, rocking song after song before closing with their monster hit “What I Like About You.”

Rocky Schiano joined Fred and Dinah Gretsch in thanking everyone for attending and offering one more round of congratulations to Gretsch on its 130th Anniversary.

The Romantics.

Gretsch Anniversary Honored In US Congress

Gretsch’s 130th anniversary celebration reached all the way to Washington DC on Thursday, June 25th, when the honorable Jack Kingston, representative from Georgia’s 1st congressional district, rose to congratulate Fred and Dinah Gretsch, and to note the history and achievements of the Gretsch Company.

As part of his remarks, congressman Kingston said, “Over a span of 130 years, the Gretsch Company has grown into an international business and produces some of the world’s finest drums and guitars. Because of the tireless dedication of Mr. Fred Gretsch and his wife, Dinah to their family business and the music industry, The Gretsch Company is celebrating a significant milestone that many small businesses never reach. I am happy to congratulate them on this accomplishment.”

Congressman Kingston’s remarks were entered into The Congressional Record, and may be seen in full at this link.

Congressman Jack Kingston.

Fred And Dinah Gretsch Attend Music Makes Us Event Celebrating Nashville’s Commitment To Music Education

On July 11 an event was held in coordination with the Summer NAMM musical-instrument trade show in Nashville, Tennessee. There the Music Makes Us luncheon celebrated the importance of music education in the enrichment of young people’s lives. Fred and Dinah Gretsch—well known for their charitable efforts on behalf of music education—attended the event as honored guests, accompanied by their grandson Logan Thomas.

Fred Gretsch commented, “Dinah and I were pleased to attend the Music Makes Us luncheon, where we were honored to sit with Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, and NAMM president Joe Lamond. We were also extremely impressed with the Music Makes Us program, and with the Nashville school system’s overall commitment to music education. I believe that Nashville’s progressive approach to music and arts education should be a model for the rest of the country.”

Postcard From Nashville

Each summer two exciting musical events happen simultaneously in Nashville. One is the annual convention of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS), which draws Atkins fans and guitar aficionados from across the country. The other is the Summer NAMM trade show, which attracts thousands of music retailers to view the musical-instrument industry’s latest products. Gretsch Guitars is a sponsor and participant in the CAAS convention, and is an exhibitor at the NAMM show.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch (along with grandson Logan Thomas) attended both of these events this past July 10 through 14. Fred is grateful to those who visited with him, and offers the following photos as a “postcard from Nashville.”

Met lots of great folks in Nashville such as Osmond Patterson of Artesian Music, Jerry Ozee, Don Graham, Don Cerce, Carlton, Bill Lord, Eric Hartley, Joey Joy, and Harrison Woodlief.

Fred Gretsch Offers Insight at Summer NAMM, Participates In a Unique Panel of Industry Icons

With nearly fifty years in the music business, Fred Gretsch has earned the respect and admiration of his industry peers—including the organizers of the NAMM musical-instrument trade show. That admiration led them to invite Fred to participate in their “Insight—Hard-Earned Wisdom From Industry Icons” panel event on July 11. The event was a feature of the Summer NAMM show held in Nashville from July 11 through July 13.

The Insight Panel Along with NAMM President Joe Lamond and Moderators Tom Bedell and Vince Gill.

As part of the “Insight” panel Fred joined several other gentlemen whose family names are also iconic musical brands, including Chris Martin, Sterling Ball, Jim D’Addario, Bob Taylor, and Hartley Peavey. Other industry notables included Henry Juszkiewicz (Gibson Guitars) and Andy Zildjian (Sabian Cymbals). The panel was hosted jointly by country music superstar Vince Gill and NAMM director Tom Bedell.

Fred Gretsch Shares a Thought as Sterling Ball Looks On

The evening’s program gave each member an opportunity to address topics of personal interest, as well as to respond to specific questions posed by the moderators. The goal was to offer meaningful advice to the music retailers in attendance. “I was honored to be a part of this great program,” says Fred Gretsch, “and to share some of my thoughts about the current state of the music industry and how it can be improved. When we were asked what we would do if we were ‘king for a day,’ I responded that my ‘kingly decree’ would be to implement Nashville’s progressive music-education program in all 164,000 school systems in America. I got a terrific round of applause from the 1,000-plus folks in attendance.”

A Special Card For Bill

July 13 marked the 90th birthday of Bill Hagner—a gentleman who figures highly in the history of Gretsch musical-instrument manufacturing. Bill started working at Gretsch’s Brooklyn factory as a clerk in 1941 and eventually rose to the position of plant manager. When Fred Gretsch brought the Gretsch Company back to family ownership in 1985, Bill’s help proved invaluable in getting the operation up and running in its new home in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

All in all, Bill Hagner spent fifty-eight years associated with Gretsch. His contributions over that time are a significant part of the Gretsch legacy. So it was important to Fred Gretsch to do something special to mark Bill’s 90th birthday. To help him in this project, he turned to Rob Cook—producer of the Chicago Drum Show, noted drum historian, and author of the recently released Gretsch Drum Book.

Rob picks up the story saying, “I immediately thought of all the drummers coming to the Chicago Drum Show in May who would want to send their best wishes. So we created a giant birthday card that could accommodate lots of signatures. And we definitely got them, from drummers across the country.”

This special card was created to mark Bill Hagner’s 90th birthday. It was signed by over ninety drummers at the Chicago Drum Show this past May

After collecting all the signatures, Rob forwarded the card to Fred Gretsch. Fred and his wife Dinah added their own congratulatory message, and then arranged to have the card presented to Bill Hagner on their behalf by Ken “K.C.” Kramer—who lives in Florida not far from Bill’s home in Fort Myers. Ken is the son of Duke Kramer, who was himself a key figure in Gretsch operations for almost seventy years.

Ken “K.C.”Kramer (right) presented the card to Bill Hagner.

“Bill was extremely appreciative of the card and all the well wishes that came with it,” says Ken. “In addition to the card, my wife Gail and I gave him ninety Florida lottery scratch-offs, just for fun. He told us that this was the best birthday he’s had in many years.”

Along with the card, Bill received ninety Florida lottery scratch-off sheets to commemorate his ninety years.

Party At 12,000 Feet! – Taking Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary Celebration To New Heights

After criss-crossing the United States to attend 130th Anniversary events this year, Fred and Dinah Gretsch took the celebration international. Following a stop at the Sam Ash Music store in Hollywood on July 20th, they left Los Angeles on the 22nd for a flight to Tokyo, Japan. Because they crossed the International Date Line they arrived on the 23rd—an auspicious date in itself, since it was Fred Gretsch’s birthday.

The Gretsches were actually in Japan to celebrate two anniversaries. The first is the Gretsch Company’s 130th. The second is the 25th anniversary of Gretsch’s distribution partnership with the Kanda Shokai Company. To make that celebration particularly special, the directors of Kanda Shokai arranged for Fred and Dinah to take part in a unique excursion: a journey to the top of Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji.

Fred Gretsch left at 4:30 a.m. for his ascent of Mt. Fuji. It takes twelve to fourteen hours to make the climb up and down.

On July 26 at 4:30 a.m. Fred Gretsch left his hotel for a car trip to a point nearly 8,000 feet up on the mountain. (Dinah followed in a car a bit later to a station at 6,600 feet.) After spending an hour acclimating to the lower air pressure at that elevation, Fred embarked with a Kanda Shokai team and an experienced mountain guide on a six-hour climb to the summit. There—at an elevation of just over 12,000 feet—Fred proudly displayed Gretsch drum and guitar banners to commemorate his accomplishment and celebrate the double anniversary. Then it was another six-hour descent back to the 7,300-foot point and a welcome car ride back to the hotel.

Dinah Gretsch traveled by car to Mt. Fuji’s 4th station, at 2020 meters (6,300 feet). “It was a three-hour wait to go any higher,” says Dinah. “Beautiful ride.”

Fred Gretsch and Kanda Shokai director Mr. Sakurai at the 8th station, on their way towards the summit.

Taking a break.

Fred Gretsch and Kanda Shokai Team at Top of Mt. Fuji 7-26-13

Gretsch’s Anniversary Celebration Comes “Home” To NYC

Events celebrating Gretsch’s 130th anniversary took place all over the U.S. this year—as well as in Canada and Japan. But it was particularly fitting for two of those events to be held on August 3 in Gretsch’s “home town” of New York City. The Gretsch Company was founded in 1883 when Friedrich Gretsch opened his musical-instrument shop in Brooklyn. The company grew over the next several decades, ultimately being located in the famous Gretsch factory building at 60 Broadway, in the shadow of the Williamsburg bridge. And although the company vacated that building in the late 1960s, it still stands today as a monument to the legacy of a great New York-based musical enterprise.

And so it was that Fred Gretsch—representing the fourth generation of the Gretsch Family—came to New York City on August 3 to bring the anniversary celebration “back home.” Accompanying Fred (who himself grew up in Forest Hills, Long Island) was his grandson Logan Thomas—a sixth-generation Gretsch family member.

Meet And Greet At Maxwell’s Drum Shop

Fred and Logan’s first stop was at Steve Maxwell’s Custom & Vintage Drum Shop on Seventh Avenue at 48th Street. In addition to serving drummers across the country with vintage sales and custom repairs, Maxwell’s is the second-largest dealer of new Gretsch USA Custom drums in America. The shop is filled with new and vintage Gretsch drums, posters, and memorabilia, including a drumkit that once belonged to jazz legend Elvin Jones.

At Steve Maxwell’s Custom & Vintage Drum Shop, celebrating Gretsch’s 130th anniversary and the release of Rob Cook’s The Gretsch Drum Book. From left: Steve Maxwell, Fred Gretsch, Rob Cook, Logan Thomas, and John Sheridan. Rob presented Steve, Fred, and John with special leather-bound editions of the new book.

Owner Steve Maxwell offered his shop as a site for a meet-and-greet between local drummers and Fred Gretsch. In addition, the shop hosted a book-signing party celebrating the release of The Gretsch Drum Book, a new in-depth chronicle of Gretsch drums and the Gretsch Company authored by noted drum historian Rob Cook with researcher John Sheridan.

A special guest at the event was Sam Ulano, who himself is an NYC drumming icon. Sam has been an active player and a highly revered teacher since the early 1950s. And, at the age of ninety-three, he’s the oldest living Gretsch drum endorser.

Fred Gretsch spent most of the time chatting with drummers, signing autographs, and even adding his signature to several drums. One was a 1961 Starlight Sparkle kit owned by jazz drummer Brandon Sanders. Another was a snare drum belonging to Pavel Timoveev, who had just come to America from Moscow a week earlier dreaming of owning Gretsch drums and who couldn’t quite believe his good fortune.

Distant cousins Bill Gretsch (at left) and Sally Gretsch Coulson presented Fred Gretsch with an album documenting many generations of Gretsch Family history.

Fred himself received a pleasant surprise with the arrival of two distant relatives—Bill Gretsch, of Maryland, and his sister Sally Gretsch Coulson, of New Jersey—who had traveled to this event specifically to present Fred with an album illustrating Gretsch Family history back to well before Friedrich Gretsch came to America. Fred commented that having documentation of the family that far back in his hand while his grandson was at his side placed seven Gretsch generations in the room.

Gretsch’s anniversary celebration at Maxwell’s was also attended by several key figures in the Gretsch Drums manufacturing and sales operation. These included Jim Druckrey (COO of distributor KMC Music) and his family, John Palmer (Gretsch Drums product manager for KMC), Steve Nigohosian and Kim Graham (KMC artist relations), and Paul Cooper (production manager for Gretsch USA Custom drums).

The indomitable Sam Ulano was a special guest at the anniversary event. At ninety-three Sam is the oldest Gretsch drum endorser. He’s still an active player and teacher in NYC. Here Sam autographs a drumhead for an admirer.

Russian jazz drummer Pavel Timoveev (at right) got the thrill of a lifetime when he was able to purchase the Gretsch snare drum he’d always dreamed of owning—and then have it personally autographed by Fred Gretsch himself.

Concert at Rudy’s Music

Rudy's Gretsch Guitar Wall and Posters

In quintessential New York fashion, Fred Gretsch and Logan Thomas then took a subway from Midtown south to SoHo for the second event of the day: A concert held at Rudy’s Music on Broome Street (just across the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, and thus even “closer to home” for Gretsch). Rudy’s is an upscale shop specializing in upscale new and vintage guitars, and Gretsch guitars of both types were on display.

Once again Fred and Logan represented the family, signing autographs and chatting with Gretsch fans. Meanwhile, a stellar roster of performers was on hand to entertain the enthusiastic crowd. Fred acted as emcee, introducing each of the artists.

Kim with Her Band.

The first performer the talented Kimberly Thompson. Well known as the former drummer for pop star Beyonce, Kim is also extremely skilled at jazz, as was made evident by the playing she did with her own quartet. Up next were the CAAS Cats, a group named for and drawn from the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society. Led by long-time Gretsch guitar artist Bobby Gibson, the group demonstrated the finger-picking playing style made famous by Chet Atkins (himself an iconic Gretsch artist and the namesake of several Gretsch guitar models).

The CAAS Cats ably demonstrated the finger-picking style of guitar playing made famous by Chet Atkins.

Shop owner Rudy Pensa took the stage next to thank the audience for coming, and to deliver a heartfelt description of how he came to America from Argentina with the dream of operating a professional guitar shop. He offered his thanks to Gretsch Guitars for helping to make that happen.

Fred Gretsch returned to the stage to make some special presentations. The first was plaques for Rudy Pensa and Steve Maxwell honoring their achievements in the music business and particularly on behalf of Gretsch guitars and drums. The second was framed copies of the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Timeline Poster, which graphically depicts significant milestones in the company’s history.

Fred next introduced the day’s closing act: Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley. This Vancouver, Canada-based trio played an eclectic set of rockabilly, country, Latin, swing, and blues—all founded on Paul’s blazing guitar technique and roots-rock vocals.

Guitar ace Paul Pigat led his trio through a rousing and eclectic set of rockabilly, country, swing, blues…and much more.

Fred Gretsch closed the show with his thanks to everyone for their support of the day’s events and for their ongoing allegiance to Gretsch guitars and drums. It had been an amazing party, celebrating an equally amazing 130 years of That Great Gretsch Sound!

Video clips from the concert event at Rudy’s Music can be seen on the Gretsch Company’s YouTube channel.

Twang-O-Rama Concert at Guitar Center Chicago

On August 15 the anniversary celebration moved to Chicago, where Guitar Center Chicago hosted a concert event at their North Halsted location. Music was provided by the Joe Robinson Trio and Mister Barrington.

Twang-O-Rama Concert at Cream City Music

The next stop in August was Cream City Music in Brookfield, Wisconsin. There the Twang-O-Rama concert event on Saturday, the 17th, featured Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley, The Mike Elred Trio, and Jet Weston and his Atomic Ranch Hands. In addition, the appearance of Fred and Dinah Gretsch delighted attendees.

Twang-O-Rama Concert at Blues Angel Music

In September the anniversary celebration moved south to Pensacola, Florida, where a Twang-O-Rama concert was held at Blues Angel Music on Saturday, the 14th. There the music was provided by The Romantics, Rosie Flores & the Rivetors, Ed Roland and the Sweet Tea Project, The Octanes, and Gretsch Lyles and the Modern Eldoradoes.

Gretsch Guitar Round-Ups

Clair Tappaan Lodge

From Thursday September 5th through Sunday the 8th Gretsch Guitar aficionados came to the Claire Tappaan Lodge in Norden, California for the first Guitar Round-Up of 2013. Organized and run annually by Gretsch guitar aficionados from across the country, the weekend-long Round-Ups feature camping, camaraderie, story-swapping…and lots of guitar playing.

Nashville

From Thursday September 26th through Sunday the 29th the scene moved to Hachland Hill Farms in Joelton, Tennessee, nestled in a rural setting in the Tennessee hills. More info and photos can be found at Gretschpages.com, under “Happenings.”

The Nashville Gretsch Guitar Roundup

130th Anniversary Multi-Media Presentation at Class Axe Guitars

The final 130th Anniversary event—originally scheduled to be held at Class Axe Guitars in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, October 12—generated such a high demand for tickets that it had to be moved to a larger venue. That evening Fred and Dinah Gretsch hosted a special multi-media presentation that explored the remarkable musical journey of the Gretsch Family that began in 1883. There were also great prizes including a Gretsch G5420T Electromatic® guitar. It was a true Gretsch extravaganza and a fitting close to a year of 130th Anniversary celebrations.

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Gretsch’s Anniversary Celebration Comes “Home” To NYC

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Events celebrating Gretsch’s 130th anniversary have been taking place all over the U.S. this year—as well as in Canada and Japan. (Don’t miss the story of Fred & Dinah Gretsch’s expedition to climb Mt. Fuji, which you can find here.) But it was particularly fitting for two of those events to be held this past August 3 in Gretsch’s “home town” of New York City.

The Gretsch Company was founded in 1883 when Friedrich Gretsch opened his musical-instrument shop in Brooklyn. The company grew over the next several decades, ultimately being located in the famous Gretsch factory building at 60 Broadway, in the shadow of the Williamsburg bridge. And although the company vacated that building in the late 1960s, it still stands today as a monument to the legacy of a great New York-based musical enterprise.

And so it was that Fred Gretsch—representing the fourth generation of the Gretsch Family—came to New York City on August 3 to bring the anniversary celebration “back home.” Accompanying Fred (who himself grew up in Forest Hills, Long Island) was his grandson Logan Thomas—a sixth-generation Gretsch family member.

Meet And Greet At Maxwell’s Drum Shop

Fred and Logan’s first stop was at Steve Maxwell’s Custom & Vintage Drum Shop on Seventh Avenue at 48th Street. In addition to serving drummers across the country with vintage sales and custom repairs, Maxwell’s is the second-largest dealer of new Gretsch USA Custom drums in America. The shop is filled with new and vintage Gretsch drums, posters, and memorabilia, including a drumkit that once belonged to jazz legend Elvin Jones.

At Steve Maxwell’s Custom & Vintage Drum Shop, celebrating Gretsch’s 130th anniversary and the release of Rob Cook’s The Gretsch Drum Book. From left: Steve Maxwell, Fred Gretsch, Rob Cook, Logan Thomas, and John Sheridan. Rob presented Steve, Fred, and John with special leather-bound editions of the new book.

Owner Steve Maxwell offered his shop as a site for a meet-and-greet between local drummers and Fred Gretsch. In addition, the shop hosted a book-signing party celebrating the release of The Gretsch Drum Book, a new in-depth chronicle of Gretsch drums and the Gretsch Company authored by noted drum historian Rob Cook with researcher John Sheridan. While paperback production editions of the book were on sale, Rob presented Fred Gretsch, John Sheridan, and Steve Maxwell with special leather-bound commemorative editions to mark the occasion.

A special guest at the event was Sam Ulano, who himself is an NYC drumming icon. Sam has been an active player and a highly revered teacher since the early 1950s. And, at the age of ninety-three, he’s the oldest living Gretsch drum endorser. Although in a wheelchair following recent surgery, Sam “held court” in a lively fashion for drummers in attendance, inviting everyone to attend his birthday party on August 12.

Fred Gretsch spent most of the time chatting with drummers, signing autographs, and even adding his signature to several drums. One was a 1961 Starlight Sparkle kit owned by jazz drummer Brandon Sanders. Another was a snare drum belonging to Pavel Timoveev, who had just come to America from Moscow a week earlier dreaming of owning Gretsch drums and who couldn’t quite believe his good fortune.

Distant cousins Bill Gretsch (at left) and Sally Gretsch Coulson presented Fred Gretsch with an album documenting many generations of Gretsch Family history.

Fred himself received a pleasant surprise with the arrival of two distant relatives—Bill Gretsch, of Maryland, and his sister Sally Gretsch Coulson, of New Jersey—who had traveled to this event specifically to present Fred with a gift. That gift was an album illustrating Gretsch Family history back to well before Friedrich Gretsch came to America. Bill and Sally told Fred that their great-grandfathers were brothers, and thus they shared a common great-great-grandfather. Fred commented that having documentation of the family that far back in his hand while his grandson was at his side placed seven Gretsch generations in the room.

Gretsch’s anniversary celebration at Maxwell’s was also attended by several key figures in the Gretsch Drums manufacturing and sales operation. These included Jim Druckrey (COO of distributor KMC Music) and his family, John Palmer (Gretsch Drums product manager for KMC), Steve Nigohosian and Kim Graham (KMC artist relations), and Paul Cooper (production manager for Gretsch USA Custom drums).

The indomitable Sam Ulano was a special guest at the anniversary event. At ninety-three Sam is the oldest Gretsch drum endorser. He’s still an active player and teacher in NYC. Here Sam autographs a drumhead for an admirer.

Russian jazz drummer Pavel Timoveev (at right) got the thrill of a lifetime when he was able to purchase the Gretsch snare drum he’d always dreamed of owning—and then have it personally autographed by Fred Gretsch himself.

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Concert At Rudy’s Music

Rudy's Gretsch Guitar Wall and Posters.

In quintessential New York fashion, Fred Gretsch and Logan Thomas then took a subway from Midtown south to SoHo for the second event of the day: A concert held at Rudy’s Music on Broome Street (just across the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, and thus even “closer to home” for Gretsch). Rudy’s is an upscale shop specializing in upscale new and vintage guitars, and Gretsch guitars of both types were on display. These included a classic 1956 “Black Gold” 6120 model custom-made for Chet Atkins.

Once again Fred and Logan represented the family, once again signing autographs and chatting with Gretsch fans. Meanwhile, a stellar roster of performers was on hand to entertain the enthusiastic crowd. Fred acted as emcee, introducing each of the artists.

Kim with Her Band.

Although the main focus of the show at Rudy’s was on the guitar side of Gretsch musical-instrument manufacturing, the first Gretsch performer was a drummer: the talented Kimberly Thompson. Well known as the former drummer for pop star Beyonce, Kim is also extremely skilled at jazz, as was made evident by the playing she did with her own quartet. The group played an adventurous yet eminently musical set, combining odd times, dramatic dynamic shifts, poignant melodies, and complex compositions to earn a well-deserved series of enthusiastic ovations from the crowd. Kim herself proved an exciting soloist, with power, speed, and inventiveness to spare.

Up next were the CAAS Cats, a group named for and drawn from the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society. Led by long-time Gretsch guitar artist Bobby Gibson, the group demonstrated the finger-picking playing style made famous by Chet Atkins (himself an iconic Gretsch artist and the namesake of several Gretsch guitar models). With additional guitarist John Standefer, bassist Frank Gruner, and drummer Wayne Johnson, the Cats combined folksy humor with virtuoso playing to the delight of the audience.

Shop owner Rudy Pensa thanked Gretsch Guitars for helping him realize his dream of owning an upscale guitar store.

Shop owner Rudy Pensa took the stage next to thank the audience for coming, and to deliver a heartfelt description of how he came to America from Argentina with the dream of operating a professional guitar shop. With the opening of his SoHo shop—along with another location on 48th Street in Midtown—Rudy’s dream was realized, and he offered his thanks to Gretsch Guitars for helping to make that happen. In so doing, he singled out Gretsch Guitars national sales manager Joe Carducci and FMIC/Gretsch regional sales manager Dave Waters—both of who were in attendance—for their efforts.

Fred Gretsch returned to the stage to make some special presentations. The first was plaques for Rudy Pensa and Steve Maxwell honoring their achievements in the music business and particularly on behalf of Gretsch guitars and drums. The second was framed copies of the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Timeline Poster, which graphically depicts significant milestones in the company’s history.

Fred next introduced the day’s closing act: Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley. This Vancouver, Canada-based trio (with Keith Picot on bass and Jesse Cahill on drums) played an eclectic set of rockabilly, country, Latin, swing, and blues—all founded on Paul’s blazing guitar technique and roots-rock vocals. The group literally flooded the audience with musical energy, stopping at the end of their planned set only long enough to catch a moment’s breath before responding to demands for an encore.

Fred Gretsch closed the show with his thanks to everyone for their support of the day’s events and for their ongoing allegiance to Gretsch guitars and drums. It had been a heck of a party!

The CAAS Cats ably demonstrated the finger-picking style of guitar playing made famous by Chet Atkins.

Guitar ace Paul Pigat led his trio through a rousing and eclectic set of rockabilly, country, swing, blues…and much more.

Additional photos from the Gretsch events at Steve Maxwell’s Custom & Vintage Drum Shop and Rudy’s Music:

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Video clips from the concert event at Rudy’s Music can be seen on the Gretsch Company’s YouTube channel.

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Spotlight: The New Renown

Friday, June 7th, 2013

FROM THE GRETSCH DRUMS WEBSITE:

New Styling. Enhanced Features. The Same Great Gretsch Sound.

Some Change is Good
The concept of the Renown redesign was to give the series fresh visual appeal and enhance sonic performance, while preserving its classic Gretsch vibe and spirit. The newly designed round, two-toned badge features gleaming silver artwork embossed over a black nickel background.

Some Things Didn’t Need to Change
The Renown has always been revered for its rock-solid craftsmanship and excellent sonic performance. Gretsch still uses the proven and unique Renown formula that combines North American Rock Maple with a slightly softer maple species. Each drum is expertly completed with smooth 30 degree bearing edges and Gretsch’s exclusive Silver Sealer interior finish. Heavy-duty Gretsch die-cast hoops are fitted to all tom and snare shells and classic Gretsch lugs adorn each drum. This Gretsch-engineered shell/hoop combination produces explosive attack and power that is rich with warm, low-end timbre.

For all the details including kit configurations and finishes, visit GretschDrums.com.

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Remembering Robert Zildjian

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

With the passing of Sabian Cymbals founder Robert Zildjian this past March 28 the percussion industry has lost one of its genuine originals. And I’ve lost a colleague that I respected and admired.

Bob Zildjian’s life and career—which were completely inseparable—covered more than six decades. He was a living bridge between the era when drum and cymbal companies were owned and run by individuals (with last names like Ludwig, Zildjian, Slingerland, Paiste, and, of course, Gretsch) and today’s incredibly expansive percussion industry.

Most drummers know something about Bob’s story, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief synopsis: Bob was the son of Avedis Zildjian, who established the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company in the Boston suburb of Quincy, Massachusetts in 1923. Along with his older brother Armand, Bob worked for his father from a very young age, learning every aspect of the cymbal business. That business became everything to Bob, and he approached it with a passion that remained his driving motivation for the rest of his life.

Bob took extended time off from the cymbal business only twice. The first was to attend Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1945. It might surprise some people to learn that Bob’s degree was not in business, but in history and philosophy. But anyone who had the pleasure of spending time with Bob soon learned that his brusque, plain-spoken manner disguised a keen intellect and a philosophical outlook on the world.

Bob’s second “break” from the cymbal business was a stint in the infantry during World War II. Upon his return, he joined a friend’s hunting party on the St. John River in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada. He fell in love with the picturesque setting, and when it came time for the Zildjian Company to expand its production and export capacity with a second factory, Bob established that factory in Meductic. There the company first made AZCO cymbals, and later made hand-hammered K Zildjian models.

When Bob’s father died in 1979, disagreements between Bob and his brother Armand over the company’s future ultimately led to an irresolvable conflict. Bob was given the choice of taking a cash buyout and leaving the cymbal business altogether, or taking ownership of the Meductic factory in order to stay in the business. But he couldn’t use his own family’s name in any advertising. In effect, at middle age and with a wife and three children to support, he’d have to start all over again.

This prospect might have daunted other men, but not Bob. With the support of his family, he launched a totally new cymbal brand. At his wife Willi’s suggestion, the company’s name was created from the first two letters of their children’s names: SAlly, BIll, and ANdy. Cymbals were first introduced to Europe and Asia in 1982, and to the American market in 1983.

From that time until shortly before his passing, Bob remained totally dedicated and deeply involved in the development of Sabian, taking pride in the growth of that company into an international leader. Although he relinquished the day-to-day reins to his son Andy in 1996, he retained the title of “Chairman,” and his presence was a constant inspiration to everyone in the company—as well as to the percussion industry at large.

History includes quite a few connections between the Gretsch and Zildjian families, with Bob a major figure within them. When he worked for the Zildjian company in the 1940s he dealt closely with my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr.—who was president of the company for most of that time—as well as with my father, Bill Gretsch, who ran the company briefly while my uncle served in the navy during World War II. In fact, Bob was one of the few people in today’s music business who knew my father, who passed away in 1948.

Bob and I also had somewhat of a personal connection—if only coincidentally. He founded Sabian in 1982 and first brought cymbals into the US market in 1983—thus establishing his own family business. In that same year I purchased the Gretsch Company from Baldwin—thus returning that business to family ownership.

When Bob was still working for Zildjian in the 1950s and ’60s he was involved in a dispute between Zildjian and Gretsch concerning the ownership of the K Zildjian trademark and the distribution of K Zildjian cymbals. That dispute went on for several years, and many of the exact details have been lost to time. In an effort to rectify that situation I had the pleasure of sharing a breakfast meeting with Bob and his wife Willi at the 2011 NAMM show. I listened avidly as Bob regaled us with story after story about Zildjian history, and how it related to Gretsch history as well. He even told me some things about my uncle Fred that I hadn’t known before.

My wife Dinah and I spoke with Bob and Willi again in July of 2011 when we visited their home town of Brunswick, Maine. Regrettably, circumstances prevented our accepting an invitation to visit with them at their house—for the second time. (A freak snowstorm had forced us to cancel a planned visit some years earlier.)

It was a pleasure to know Bob, whose unique personality and hands-on, no-nonsense style set him apart from the “corporate” image that has come to identify many of today’s music-industry leaders. His like will not be seen again, and I will miss him tremendously.

Fred Gretsch

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Building the Great American Drum Set for 130 Years

Friday, January 25th, 2013

FROM THE GRETSCH DRUMS WEBSITE:

Since 1883, Gretsch has proudly been making drums in the USA. For many, owning an American-made Gretsch drum set is a dream come true–a hard-earned return on the investment a drummer makes to become the best player they can be.

Gretsch Drums is proud to celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2013 with a limited run of commemorative USA made drum sets and snare drums that will be released throughout the year. Each drum will include a special 130th anniversary interior shell label that is numbered to signify its production sequence. Drum sets will also include a hand signed Certificate of Authenticity.

Anniversary Drum Sets and Snare Drums

The original Gretsch factories were located in Brooklyn, New York. It was there that a design formula was developed that would result in what drummers all over the world would come to recognize as “That Great Gretsch Sound.™” Today, Ridgeland, South Carolina is the home of Gretsch Drums and the craftsmen there are still using the same techniques and formulas to build the highly coveted Gretsch USA Custom Drums and Gretsch Brooklyn Series Drums.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SATIN BIRDSEYE MAPLE

This classic five-piece USA Custom Drum Set features a breathtaking Birdseye Maple veneer. The wood was carefully hand selected for its unique figuring and its grain and color consistency. Only 30 sets will be produced world-wide. The shells are hand sanded and are finished with a clear, non-tinted Nitrocellulose Satin lacquer to preserve the wood’s natural beauty. The shells interiors are finished with Gretsch’s time-honored Silver Sealer and include numbered 130th Anniversary commemorative shell labels. The set also includes matching Birdseye Maple bass drum hoops and Gretsch Permatone drum heads by Remo® with 130th Anniversary logos. All drums are fully made to USA Custom specifications in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SILVER SATIN FLAME

Globally limited to only 35 sets, this USA Custom 130th Anniversary kit features a spectacular Silver Satin Flame Nitron. Silver Satin Flame is a classic finish used by Gretsch during the late 1960s. The kit comes with numbered and serialized 130th Anniversary interior shell labels and Certificate of Authenticity. All drums are precision made to Gretsch USA Custom specifications.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED SATIN VINTAGE CHERRY BURST

The Gretsch Factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina, USA developed one of the most stunning finishes ever to celebrate the company’s 130th Anniversary. Vintage Cherry Burst is a Nitrocellulose Satin Lacquer that is warm and captivating and, with only 30 sets being produced for worldwide distribution, this six-piece kit is sure to become an immediate collectable.

130TH ANNIVERSARY LIMITED GOLD SATIN FLAME

For those looking to go completely retro, this limited edition four-piece set has all of the classic styling to suit your taste. Built in traditional sizes, this USA Custom Anniversary kit features a Gold Satin Flame Nitron finish and truly quintessential hardware appointments. Shell interiors are finished with Gretsch® Silver Sealer and carry a numbered commemorative shell label. Only 35 of these incredible drum sets will be manufactured and each comes with its own Certificate of Authenticity.

130TH ANNIVERSARY BROOKLYN SERIES LIMITED PEWTER SPARKLE

The USA Factory has also created a celebratory limited edition of the Gretsch® Brooklyn Series. This incredible four-piece set is finished in a stunning Pewter Sparkle Nitron. This beautiful finish must be seen to be believed. The silver-gray Nitron flakes reflect ambient light in a fashion that produces subtle yet striking colors, ranging from a shimmering silver to a gleaming lavender. The four-piece configuration is a “playe’r’s” kit that drives strong grooves in a variety of musical styles. Each set comes with 130th Anniversary internal shell labels and signed Certificate of Authenticity.

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Limited Edition Snare Drums

Gretsch® has released three special limited edition snare drums to celebrate the company’s 130th Anniversary. The interior of each shell carries a commemorative label with the drum’s hand-written individual production number. These drums will only be offered in 2013.

130TH ANNIVERSARY SATIN BIRDSEYE MAPLE SNARE DRUM

6.5″x14″ Satin Birsdeye Maple snare drum; 6-ply Gretsch maple shell with Satin Nitrocellulose Lacquer Birdseye veneer; Silver Sealer with 130th Anniversary interior shell label. 30-degree bearing edge; Lightning throw-off and butt plate, batter side muffler, 16 lugs, Snap-in key holder, 42-strand snares.

130TH ANNIVERSARY CLARO WALNUT SNARE DRUM

6.5″x14″ Solid Claro walnut with Claro walnut reinforcement rings, finished in Satin Nitrocellulose lacquer; Natural interior with 130th Anniversary interior shell label; 30-degree bearing edge; Gretsch Round Badge; Lightning throw-off and butt plate, 10 lugs, 20-strand snares.

130TH ANNIVERSARY FLAT BLACK SOLID ALUMINUM SNARE DRUM

7″x14″ Flat Black Solid Aluminum snare drum; Black Hardware; 45-degree bearing edge; Gretsch Round Badge; Black Lightning throw-off and butt plate, Black Suede Ambassador batter drum head, 20 lugs, 42-strand snares.

For more information, photos, and specs on these and other Gretsch Drums, visit their website.

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Round Badge Makes Return to Gretsch USA Custom Drums

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As the Gretsch Company celebrates it’s 130th anniversary in 2013, it is also reintroducing the iconic round badge.  Made of brass with a vent hole, the badge will be included on all USA Custom drums, including the 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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Music Icons Meet In Brooklyn

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Charlie Watts and Fred Gretsch Celebrate Each Other’s Anniversaries

This past December 8 saw a unique meeting between two icons of the music industry—both of whom were celebrating very special anniversaries.

Legendary drummer Charlie Watts was performing at the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The seventy-one-year-old Watts and his compatriots in the Rolling Stones were celebrating their fiftieth anniversary as “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.”

Fred W. Gretsch and his wife Dinah attended the Stones concert as a way to celebrate two anniversaries of their own: fifty years of association with Charlie Watts as a Gretsch drums endorser, and Gretsch’s 130th anniversary as a musical instrument manufacturer, which the company will mark in 2013.

The location of the meeting held a special poignancy for Fred and Charlie both, since the Barclays Center is only a short distance away from the original Gretsch factory at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. As a boy, Fred spent many a summer there working for his uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr. And it was in that very factory that the drumkits used by Charlie in his early career with the Stones were built. (The program for the Barclays Center show, titled 50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live included thanks from Charlie to Gretsch Drums and to Fred Gretsch.)

Fred Gretsch and Charlie Watts backstage.

At the Brooklyn show Fred and Dinah had a chance to visit backstage with Charlie, and to exchange reminiscences about Charlie’s long and storied career on Gretsch drums. This was their second meeting this year; they’d gotten together this past March when Fred and Dinah were vacationing in Europe and Charlie was performing in Vienna, Austria with an eclectic group called The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie.

While backstage at the Barclays Center Fred and Dinah also chatted with Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell. This was another reunion of sorts; they had connected in 2008 when Chuck served as the musical director and bandleader for the Gretsch Big Event. That was a concert held at New York City’s Highline Ballroom to celebrate Gretsch’s 125th anniversary.

The Stones’ “50 & Counting” mini-tour started in November with two shows at London’s O2 arena. The show at the Barclays Center was the first on the US leg—and their first in the US since 2006. It is scheduled to be followed by performances at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on December 13 and 15. But another, very special appearance was added to their agenda: the 12/12/12 benefit concert at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. On that show the band will be joined by such stellar artists as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, and The Who to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.