Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Drums’

Appreciating Sonny Payne

Friday, September 16th, 2011

by Fred Gretsch

I recently came across a terrific YouTube link leading to a rare early TV clip that showcases the Count Basie Orchestra performing at New York City’s legendary Birdland club in the mid-1950s. Among the many great moments in this clip are several shots of drummer Sonny Payne driving the band in his inimitable style.

Because Gretsch drums are so strongly identified with the small-group drummers of the be-bop era, people sometimes forget that they were also the choice of some of the greatest big band drummers ever to play, including Louie Bellson, Don Lamond, Sam Woodyard—and Sonny Payne.

Vintage Gretsch Ad Featuring the Great Sonny Payne

Sonny played with the Count Basie band from 1955 through 1965. And though initially it might have been a challenging task for him to follow his predecessors—the inimitable “Papa” Jo Jones and the vastly underappreciated Shadow Wilson—Sonny brought his own special brand of dynamic technique and showmanship to the drum chair.

No less a drum giant than Elvin Jones said of Sonny: “I first saw Sonny in the early 1950s with Count Basie. Swinging…dynamics…intensity. He was happy—a pure showman. But a showman who knew what he was doing. He just made that band come alive.”

Louie Bellson added, “For a while everybody was criticizing Sonny [because] he was a [drumstick] juggler. But boy, he kicked that Basie band. The minute you walked in and heard Basie’s band, right away your eyes went up to Sonny Payne. Basie himself summed it up, when he said ‘No question about it, Sonny Payne was the spark plug in my band.’”

Sonny Payne and That Great Gretsch Sound

Sonny left the Count Basie Orchestra in 1965. He worked with a number of different artists over the next several years, but his main gig was drumming for Harry James, whose high-energy band was a perfect fit for Sonny’s high-energy style. Sonny drummed with the Harry James band from 1966 until his untimely passing in 1979 at the age of fifty-four.

You can find additional terrific clips of Sonny’s drumming at YouTube:  Sonny Solo and  Zurich Concert.  All great viewing and listening!

Stanton Moore Brings N’Awlins Down Under

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Stanton Moore

Gretsch drum great Stanton Moore recently completed a whirlwind clinic/performance tour of Australia, where he delighted drummers with his New Orleans-flavored funky style. Stanton’s appearances were part of the Drumscene Live Australia Tour 2011, sponsored by Drumtek, the country’s largest percussion retailer.

From August 14 through August 21 Stanton and his tour mates crossed the continent, entertaining drummers in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, and Adelaide. They finished up at the 2011 edition of Australia’s Ultimate Drummers Weekend & Drum Expo in Melbourne, where Stanton conducted master classes on Saturday the 20th and closed the show on Sunday the 21st.

As a native son of New Orleans, Stanton is especially connected to that city, its culture, and its collaborative spirit. Inspired by a thriving music scene that includes such greats as Professor Longhair, Doctor John, and The Meters, Stanton is now regularly mentioned amongst these Big Easy mainstays.

In the early ’90s, Stanton helped found the New Orleans-based essential funk band Galactic. Their first album, 1996’s widely acclaimed Coolin’ Off, led to intense touring over the next ten years. Six additional albums later, Galactic continues to amass a worldwide audience.

In 1998 Stanton launched his solo career, aided by guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter and saxophonist Skerik. The group’s All Kooked Out! release evolved into another project, leading to the first Garage a Trois release, Mysteryfunk (1999). In 2000 the trio was joined by percussionist Mike Dillon and has since released three more albums: Emphasizer in 2003, Outre Mer in 2005, and Power Patriot in 2009.

Stanton is also highly regarded as a clinician and educator. His Groove Alchemy book/DVD/CD package has been hailed by drummers and teachers alike, and was named best educational book and DVD in the 2011 Modern Drummer Readers Poll.

More information on the Drumscene Live tour is available at drumtek.com.au. More information on Stanton Moore is available at Gretschdrums.com and StantonMoore.com.

Gretsch USA Custom Drums: It’s All About Options

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Gretsch’s top-of-the-line drums are called USA Custom for two very good reasons. The first reason is the fact that every drum is hand-crafted in Gretsch’s Ridgeland, South Carolina factory. The second reason is the staggering number of options available to drummers who want to create truly personalized kits.

USA Custom Gold Glass Nitron

USA Custom toms and bass drums all start with legendary Gretsch 6-ply shells. They’re given the famous Silver Sealer interior coating, 30-degree bearing edges, and Gretsch’s trademark die-cast hoops. From there on, the choices are almost endless.

Decisions, Decisions
Sizes? How ‘bout twenty bass drums, thirty-eight rack toms, and nine floor toms. Finishes? Pick from twenty-six Nitron wraps, twenty-three nitro cellulose gloss lacquers, and fourteen nitro cellulose satin lacquers. Any of those lacquers can be combined with black in a diamond pattern called Harlequin, and any lacquer finish can be applied over an outer ply of highly figured curly maple.

USA Custom Satin Ebony

But the options don’t stop there. Gretsch USA Custom bass drums can be ordered with a variety of hoops, T-rods, spurs, mufflers, tom mounts, and cymbal holders. Floor toms can be fitted with four different models of leg brackets, including Millennium or Vintage Diamond. And virtually all of these hardware components are available in chrome, black, and gold finish.

That Special Drum
Most drummers consider the snare to be their most personal drum. The USA Custom line of wood snare drums offers seven sizes and five lug configurations (ranging from six to twenty) to suit virtually any musical application. And if those aren’t enough, four solid-maple and four solid-walnut G-5000 models are also hand-crafted in the Ridgeland factory…along with unique signature snares designed with and for Vinnie Colaiuta, Stephen Ferrone, and Stanton Moore.

Any snare drum may be ordered with the drummer’s choice of the classic Gretsch Lightning, Nickel Drumworks, or Dunnet strainer and butt. And now there’s a fourth choice: the fabled and much-loved Gretsch Micro-Sensitive strainer.

Just like it used to be, only better.

Making History…Again
The 2011 Micro-Sensitive strainer is actually a re-launch of a design that graced Gretsch snares from the mid-1950s to 1969, and that’s been a favorite of players and collectors alike ever since. But the new version has the added advantage of updated internal mechanics designed to meet contemporary standards of functionality. It’s a classic case of “just like it used to be…only better.”

Also available in a revamped and improved version is the new G5463 bass drum claw. It’s modeled after the classic G5462 claw hook, which has been in use since the 1950s. The new version is die-cast and triple chrome plated, and it features an interior pad that acts as a buffer between the claw and the bass drum hoop.

Along with the dozens of other options available, the return of the revered Micro-Sensitive strainer and the G5463 claw hook provide even more choices to make your USA Custom kit truly your own.

To see the complete line of Gretsch drums, visit the Gretsch Drums website.

Spotlight: Renown 57 Motor City Black

Monday, August 8th, 2011

From the GretschDrums.com site:

Renown 57 Motor City Black

Inspired by the great American car companies from the 1950’s, Motor City Black adds a new color dimension to the innovative Gretsch Renown 57 drum set. All drums feature the distinctive ‘57 Chevron, which features an aluminum panel with raised edges and embossed badge. Each drum has its own sized chevron, scaled to symmetrically fit that specific drum size. Renown 57 includes standard Renown maple specifications to produce punchy, full tones and rock solid performance.

Drum Set Features:
• Innovative drum set design
• Proportionately-sized 3-D chevrons
• Maple shells with 30-degree edges and Silver Sealer interiors
• Die-cast hoops on snare and toms
• Hinged tom and FT leg brackets
• Heavy duty 12.7mm FT legs
• Gretsch ball-socket tom holder with 12.7mm tom arms
• Chambered FT rubber tips for enhanced sustain
• Evans G1 coated batter heads on toms/snare
• Evans EMAD BD batter head

Click here for all the details.

Jack Gavin Revisits His Youth at The CMT Awards

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

For any country musician, performing on the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards Show is an exciting experience. But for Gretsch artist Jack Gavin, this year’s show—which aired live from Nashville to 90 million people this past June 8—provided a special thrill.

Anchoring the show’s house band was a fun gig for the veteran drummer whose credits include long stints with country greats Tracy Lawrence, Mel McDaniel, the Charlie Daniels Band, and presently Tanya Tucker who will soon be departing for some European tour dates. During the show Jack was kept busy backing artists including Hunter Hayes, The Jandear Girls, Thompson Square, Kid Rock, Wynona, Hines Ward, and Colt Ford, as well as playing for every presenter and every commercial break.

Jack's 1970s Gretsch kit was in pretty sad shape to begin with.

But while Jack certainly enjoyed performing behind all of these talented artists, it was the Gretsch drumkit he was doing it on that made the evening unique. That kit has a special place in Jack’s heart, because it’s the one that Jack’s dad gave him when he was starting his career as a young drummer in the 1970s.

Jack practiced and “played out” on that drumset while growing up in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo, New York area, so it held many fond memories for him. But, as will happen with professional players, Jack moved on to other kits over the years, and the ’70s Gretsch kit wound up gathering dust on a shelf. That is, until early in 2010, when Jack’s drum tech Kendal Kramer undertook the challenge of restoring the vintage kit to like-new condition so that Jack could use it for performances again.

First the old covering had to be removed, exposing the old adhesive beneath.

The shells had to be sanded smooth.

Kendal’s task involved stripping the shells of the existing covering and adhesive, working with Gretsch to obtain parts, having new bearing edges cut, plugging holes from the original hardware, and re-covering the drum with a new wrap. Then he had to drill holes for new hardware—including new lugs necessary to convert the drums from single-headed concert toms to standard double-headed toms. It was a long process that had to be done with loving care. But the outcome of that process was a like-new version of that classic Gretsch kit, now covered in a white satin finish that Kendall describes as, “classy, but with an electrifying look under stage lighting.”

Holes from old hardware were carefully plugged.

When Jack Gavin sat atop the drum riser at the CMT awards, he had still another reason to be thrilled: His parents were in the audience. There they could not only enjoy Jack’s playing, but could also enjoy the new look, the great sound—and the fond memories—produced by his beautifully restored Gretsch set. It was a special night for the Gavin family.

A beautiful new White Satin wrap was applied.

A very proud Jack Gavin sits behind his restored kit.

A Birthday Salute to Charlie Watts

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

From the GretschDrums.com website:

This past June 2 marked the 70th birthday of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. And While Gretsch Drums and the whole Gretsch family join the drumming world in congratulating Charlie on this milestone, we have a reason of our own to celebrate. Charlie is the longest-running Gretsch endorsing artist. He’s played Gretsch drums for his entire career…starting even before he joined “The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” in 1963.

Charlie Watts in 1969

As Charlie puts it, “I’ve always used Gretsch. I still use the same one that Max Roach advertised you should buy, which was the soft [rack] tom-tom, bass drum, deep [floor] tom-tom, and a snare drum.” That simple four-piece kit has anchored The Rolling Stones over a history that spans forty-eight years, more than thirty record albums, and dozens of legendary (and sometimes infamous) tours.

Although he established his reputation as one of the simplest and steadiest—and yet most recognizable and emulated—of all rock drummers, Charlie’s own musical tastes run toward jazz. In the late ’70s he joined fellow Stone Ian “Stu” Stewart in the retro boogie-woogie party band Rocket 88, which featured many of the UK’s top jazz, rock, and R&B musicians. In the 1980s, he founded and toured worldwide with a big band that included such jazz/rock luminaries as Evan Parker, Courtney Pine, and Jack Bruce.

In 1991 Charlie founded a quintet to honor his personal hero, Charlie Parker. Two years later that quintet recorded the critically regarded Warm & Tender, which reached #6 on the Billboard jazz charts. All told, Charlie recorded seven jazz albums between 1986 and 2004. And as recently as 2010 Charlie was gigging with a quartet called The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie, together with pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters, plus Charlie’s childhood friend Dave Green on bass.

There’s much more to this story.  To read the rest of it, click here!

Spotlight: Gretsch USA Custom

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

From the Gretsch Drums website:

The epitome and legend of “That Great Gretsch Sound.” The USA Custom series is hand-crafted every step of the way in our Ridgeland, SC factory by highly experienced and skilled drumsmiths. Our legendary Gretsch formula 6-ply shell is the cornerstone of our legendary sound. Shells are completed with 30-degree bearing edges, Silver Sealer, die-cast hoops and custom finishes – ingredients all combined to make a sound long recognized for its classic clear timbre, balanced tone and explosive projection. Custom design your Gretsch dream kit “a la cart” by choosing your desired drum sizes, colors and hardware options. The Gretsch legend continues.

Get all the details here.

Gretsch NAMM Show Highlights

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Anaheim Convention Center

The 2011 NAMM musical-instrument show was held this past January 13 through 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. This annual event, sponsored by the International Music Products Association, is America’s largest trade show for the showcasing of musical instruments and accessories.

Gretsch Drums and Gretsch Guitars were both major participants in this year’s show, with plenty of new products to display. In addition, Fred and Dinah Gretsch were on hand—along with other members of the Gretsch family—to lend their special personal touch to all of the Gretsch-related activities.

Here are a few of the many highlights from this year’s show:

Fred and Kanda Shokai

Fred Speaks with Kanda Staff

The NAMM show always involves lots of terrific new product introductions, thrilling artist performances and generally a great deal of excitement all around.  But ultimately all the companies are there to do business and as pictured here, Fred briefs representatives from Kanda Shokai, Gretsch’s Japanese distributor, on all the new products being introduced at the show.  Kanda Shokai is one of Gretsch’s longest-serving international distributors and the Gretsch family have enjoyed a close relationship with the company for many, many years.

Gretsch Drums on Display

Gretsch Drums had plenty of great new gear to showcase at this year’s NAMM show. Here are just a few:

JUST-FOR-FUN MONSTER SETUP SHOWCASES A GRETSCH NEW CLASSIC KIT WITH BLACK SPARKLE LACQUER FINISH MOUNTED ON AN ULTRA-CUSTOM GIBRALTAR RACK.

GRETSCH RENOWN MAPLE DRUMSET—CALLED THE RENOWN 57—WAS INSPIRED BY THE GREAT AMERICAN CAR MAKERS OF THE 50s. ITS MOTOR CITY BLUE FINISH FEATURES WHITE PANELS SET APART BY CHROME CHEVRONS AND EMBOSSED CHROME GRETSCH BADGES.

USA CUSTOM KIT FEATURING GOLD HARDWARE AND FITTINGS, FINISHED IN A BEAUTIFUL SAVANNAH SUNSET DUCO LACQUER, ONE OF SEVERAL SUPERB NEW USA CUSTOM LACQUER FINISHES INTRODUCED AT THE SHOW.

AFICIONADOS OF JAZZ WILL RECOGNIZE THIS CLASSIC CONFIGURATION--A USA CUSTOM KIT IN SMALL “BOP” SIZES FITTED WITH VINTAGE-STYLE “RAIL CONSOLETTE” TOM HOLDER AND FEATURING ANOTHER STUNNING NEW USA CUSTOM LACQUER FINISH: CHESTNUT DUCO.

THE NAME OF THIS KIT’S FINISH IS AS BIG A MOUTHFUL AS ITS STRIKING LOOKS ARE AN EYEFUL. IT’S A CATALINA BIRCH KIT FINISHED IN EBONY DIAMOND HALOGEN BURST.

GRETSCH DISPLAYED NO FEWER THAN TWELVE UNIQUE SNARE DRUMS AT THE SHOW . . . DESIGNATED AS “THE DANGEROUS DOZEN.”

AMONG THE “DANGEROUS DOZEN”, MARK SCHULMAN'S SIGNATURE MODEL FEATURING A MAPLE SHELL WITH BUBINGA INLAY, DIE-CAST HOOPS, AND 42-STRAND SNARE WIRES. IT’S AVAILABLE IN SIX-LUG 6X12 AND EIGHT-LUG 6X13 SIZES.

THIS NEW SNARE DRUM HAS METAL HOOPS SURROUNDED BY CONTOURED WOOD HOOPS. THE COMBINATION PROVIDES UNUSUAL SONIC POSSIBILITIES AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL HOOP RIGIDITY.

A WELCOME VISITOR TO THE BOOTH--GREAT GRETSCH DRUMMER STANTON MOORE.

Fred Gretsch Meets CoverBand 2011 Drum Winner

Fred and Tohbias (Photo by Tom Schwarz, Courtesy of KMC Music).

Fred Gretsch enjoyed a special treat at the NAMM show this year: the opportunity to congratulate Tohbias Juniel of Denver, Colorado, who was the winning drummer in the CoverBand 2011 contest. Gretsch Drums was one of several major musical instrument manufacturers who combined to sponsor the online competition.

The contest invited individual musicians and vocalists to upload a two-minute video to the CoverBand 2011 website between July and December of last year. A general-public vote determined the finalists. A panel of celebrity judges then selected the winners.

A trip to Anaheim to perform at the NAMM show was part of the prize for the winning CoverBand members. For thirty-one-year-old Tohbias, that was just part of the thrill. He also received a brand-new Gretsch Renown four-piece kit in a classy Satin Black finish, along with a Full Range Hammered Steel Shell snare drum. The kit was complemented with a terrific cymbal package from Sabian and road-tested hardware from Gibraltar.

Fred and Tohbias met at the Gretsch Drums booth on Saturday morning, January 15. They had the opportunity to chat a bit before Tohbias left to rehearse for the CoverBand 2011 concert later that evening. During their meeting, Fred was particularly pleased to learn that Tohbias is already a dedicated Gretsch player. As Tohbias explained, “I’ve been playing Gretsch drums for most of my career. I bought a Renown Maple kit about ten years ago, and it’s all I’ve been playing. So I’m thrilled to be getting a new Gretsch kit to work with.”

When Fred asked Tohbias how he came to be a drummer, Tohbias replied, “My father, Chester Juniel, was a director of a drum & bugle corps in the Denver area. So from the time I was about two years old I was always around drumming. I learned how to read music and how to read books at the same time.”

But drum & bugle corps wasn’t the only style of drumming that Tohbias was exposed to at home. “My father also played drumset,” said Tohbias, “and so did my older brother Steven. So I was playing on a set by the time I was in elementary school. Later I went to high school at the Denver School of the Arts. Orlando Otis, the instrumental music director there, pushed me to pursue drumset seriously, since I was already heavily into marching and concert percussion.”

Tohbias did, indeed, pursue drumset seriously. In fact, he took every possible opportunity to expand his musical skills. “When I was fourteen I was playing with cats in their forties and fifties,” he related. “My dad would take me to shows and then stay in the parking lot and read a paper until the gig was finished, since I had to have a parent around. I was sitting in on blues and rock gigs, but the jazz cats wouldn’t let me sit in because there was so much more to jazz music than just pocket. Fortunately for me, a local drummer named Rudy Roysten—who’s played with everybody—took me under his wing and showed me how to do some things. Still, it took me a while to get to where I could do the things I wanted to—the way I heard guys like Brian Blade and Jeff Watts do them.”

Tohbias in Action with CoverBand 2011 Performing at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel (Photo by Tom Schwarz, Courtesy of KMC Music).

Tohbias’s entry for the CoverBand 2011 contest displayed the influence of his musical education, along with a substantial amount of his own talent and originality. His two-minute video was a mix of funk, pop, and fusion-esque styles that burned and grooved at the same time. When Fred Gretsch asked Tohbias about his favorite musical style to play, he replied, “I really love everything. Right now I’m playing a lot with a singer-songwriter from Nashville named Calvin Locklear. And I’m playing in a funk/alternative band called Bop Skizzum here in Denver. I play pop, R&B, Latin . . . I love it all. I feel that as a drummer it’s important to be diverse. Basically I’m on call for whatever anybody wants. I try to study, do my homework, and keep up with all the different genres. If I sit down on a gig and the song is a polka, I want people to think I specialize in polka music.”

Finally, Fred asked Tohbias about his aspirations and goals. The talented drummer responded, “Right now I’m looking to move up in my career . . . to play on the big stages. I’d really like to get some tours and some recording sessions with top artists around the world. I also want to do some writing and see where that goes. So I’m looking to relocate to the L.A. area. I was out there in the summer of 2008, doing some sessions and playing with a hip-hop group. I want to be where things are happening in the music scene. I’ve been fortunate to meet some pretty talented people with kind hearts who are willing to share information. I definitely want to pursue those possibilities.”

Gretsch Guitars Launches George Harrison Tribute Model

Harrison Tribute Guitar

There was lots of excitement at the Gretsch Guitars booth, where a large display of George Harrison and Beatle memorabilia was highlighted by a case containing a new Gretsch guitar created as a tribute to the great George Harrison.

The tribute guitar is a faithful reproduction of a guitar that George played and favored in the 1960s, in the early days of his career. That instrument, well worn and road-traveled, was loaned by the George Harrison estate to the skilled guitar customizers at Gretsch to use as the basis of a modern replica. At the same time, Fred and Dinah Gretsch communicated with George Harrison’s family to obtain their blessing for a tribute instrument bearing of the late former Beatle’s name.

Harrison Tribute Display

Time and loving care were invested in both efforts, and the result is the Gretsch Custom Shop G6128T-GH George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet guitar. This exceptionally special instrument will be available in a very limited edition.

And Then There’s Kim . . .

Fans of Gretsch guitars also tend to be fans of the Great Gretsch Girl . . . Kim Falcon. The lovely pin-up girl has appeared for Gretsch on posters, in ads, and at live events all across the country. Now she’s on her very own guitar. It features a gloss white finish as a background for an artistically created rendering of Kim herself, with her autograph shown below. It turned a lot of heads while in a glass case at a trade show. Imagine the effect it will have on stage!

Kim Falcon on a Gretsch Guitar!

A Family Gathering

Rane, Fred Gretsch, and Fred Jr.

Three generations of Gretsches were on hand at this year’s NAMM show. Fred and Dinah were joined by son, Fred Gretsch Jr., who is actively involved with the Gretsch Foundation and is becoming a regular attendee at NAMM shows. In addition, one of their 16 grandchildren, grandson Calvin Rane Gretsch, was in attendance and saw duty behind the counter of the Bigsby Vibrato booth.

This year’s NAMM show was a great success with many new products on display and excitement to spare. Gretsch is now busy preparing for other events in 2011 including the Summer NAMM show which will feature a “Wanna Play” public day on July 23.

Check back often for all the latest news and updates.