Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Guitars’

Chet Atkins: CGP Exhibit To Close with Slew of Special Programs

Monday, June 18th, 2012

From The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum:

Slate of Finale Programs Includes a Special June 30 Performance by Earl Klugh, Tribute Concerts, Film Screenings and More.

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is preparing to bid farewell to the cameo exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible by the Gretsch Company, which opened in the museum’s East Gallery on August 12, 2011.  In recognition of the exhibit’s July 15 finale, the museum is offering a packed lineup of Atkins-themed programs including a special program starring Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh on Saturday, June 30; additional concerts by some of Atkins’ friends, peers and protégés; a series of film screenings; and daily instrument demonstrations.

The Earl Klugh program, instrument demonstrations and concerts are included with museum admission and free to museum members; admission to the film screenings is free. Visit the museum’s website for complete admission details.

Born Chester Burton Atkins on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tennessee, Chet Atkins became one of the most respected musicians and producers in American music history.   His unparalleled achievements were acknowledged formally with his 1973 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Atkins died on June 30, 2001, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Renowned for his sweet tone and his mastery of the acoustic guitar, Grammy Award-winner Earl Klugh ranks as one of the world’s finest guitarists. He was barely a teen in Detroit when he was awestruck by seeing Atkins play guitar on television. After meeting in the late 1970s, Klugh and Atkins collaborated frequently. “Earl can wail with the best,” Atkins told Guitar Player magazine, “but he prefers to touch people emotionally. He reaches your heart with that romantic special something.”

On Saturday, July 7, the museum will pay tribute to Atkins’ thumbpicking inspiration, Merle Travis, with the concert Muhlenburg County Thumbpickers, a reference to Travis’ birthplace in Kentucky. Award-winning Muhlenburg County-area guitarists Joe Hudson, Paul Mosely, Eddie Pennington and Freddie Russell will perform.

On Saturday, July 14, at 1:30 p.m., Chet Atkins: Friends and Flame Keepers will honor Atkins’ legacy as a generous teacher, collaborator, and even a student of other guitarists. The concert will highlight the relationships forged and nurtured around Atkins’ music, as well as the artists who are carrying on and expanding Atkins’ guitar style. Performers include John Knowles, c.g.p., Guy Van Duser, Thom Bresh with Brooks Robertson, Ben Hall with Megan Taylor Anderson and more.

A complete list of closing programs presented in conjunction with the exhibition follows below:

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible by the Gretsch Company, Closing Programs–

Sunday, June 24, 2:00 p.m., CDT – Film Screening: Chet Atkins and Friends: Music from the Heart (1987)

Chet Atkins fronts an ace band and hosts this concert special, originally recorded for television in Nashville. Guest performers include the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson, and others. 60 Minutes. Free.

Saturday, June 30, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Earl Klugh

Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh will perform solo in tribute to his hero, Chet Atkins. This concert will be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org. Following the program, Klugh will sign copies of his CDs and a limited edition Hatch Show Print.

Sunday, July 1, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: The Jerry Reed Show (1976)

This colorful episode of The Jerry Reed Show features performances by and interviews with Lynn Anderson, Atkins, Jerry Clower, and Terry McMillan. Reed performs “Baby’s Coming Home” with Atkins, and all the guests join in on “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” The live house band is conducted by Bill Justis. 45 minutes. Free.

Saturday, July 7, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Muhlenburg County Thumbpickers

Chet Atkins was inspired by the complex fingerstyle guitar playing of Merle Travis called “thumbpicking.” This guitar style has been developed, passed down, preserved, and expanded by generations of players around Travis’s birthplace in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky. Award-winning Muhlenburg area guitarists Joe Hudson, Paul Mosely, Eddie Pennington, and Freddie Russell will perform.

Sunday, July 8, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Joe Edwards

Sunday, July 8, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: Nine Pound Hammer (1998)

In the early 20th century a few guitar players in Western Kentucky developed a unique style of guitar playing that used the thumb to pick out a steady bass rhythm while the first finger played a melody. This style, which became known as “thumbpicking” was popularized by Capitol Records recording artist and Muhlenburg County native Merle Travis, and had a significant influence on Chet Atkins. This film features stories and performances from eight Kentucky thumbpickers, some of whom have been playing since the time Travis rose to stardom, while others are from a younger generation of guitarists who have carried on and expanded this traditional style. 52 minutes. Free.

Monday, July 9, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Vocal and Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Jim and Morning Nichols

Tuesday, July 10, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Phil Hunt and Eddie Estes

Wednesday, July 11, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Mark Mazengarb and Loren Barrigar

Thursday, July 12, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: John Standefer

John Standefer is the winner of the 2002 National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship at Winfield, Kansas, and the Open Division winner of the 2004 International Home of the Legends Competition. He teaches and performs yearly at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention in Nashville. Made possible by Gibson Guitar Corporation. Presented in support of the exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible by the Gretsch Company. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Thursday, July 12, 1:00 p. m., CDT, Offsite Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Program: Panel Discussion: Remembering Chet

John Rumble, senior historian for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, will lead a panel discussion featuring four highly acclaimed music veterans who worked closely with Chet Atkins for many years. Panelists include Jim Ed Brown, Ray Edenton, Charlie McCoy, and Wayne Moss. Presented in support of the exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible by the Gretsch Company. [program at CAAS - NOT HELD AT THE MUSEUM]

Friday, July 13, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown is a fingerstyle guitarist and composer from Nashville. His influences include Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, George Benson, Lenny Breau, and Tommy Emmanuel. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Saturday, July 14, 11:30 a.m., CDT, Lecture-demonstration: Chet Atkins with Strings: Pat Kirtley

Starting in the late 1950s, Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, Ken Nelson, and arranger Anita Kerr brought violins, violas, and cellos into the sonic blend that would become the Nashville Sound. The sophisticated arrangements created for Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and others attracted new listeners and sold millions of records. Atkins was also a pioneer in using string sections on his own recordings. Guitarist Pat Kirtley and the Endless Road Strings will tell the story by recreating some of Chet’s signature pieces, with added commentary on the history of pop and country string sections in Nashville. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Saturday, July 14, 1:30 p.m., CDT, Concert: Chet Atkins: Friends and Flame Keepers

Chet Atkins was known as an innovative guitarist; as a producer who helped define the Nashville Sound; as a generous teacher and collaborator; and even as a student of other guitarists. This exhibit-closing concert will highlight the relationships that have been sparked and continue to grow around Chet’s music, as well as the artists who are carrying on and expanding Chet’s guitar style. John Knowles, c.g.p., will host this tribute with guest performances by Megan Taylor Anderson, Muriel Anderson, Thom Bresh, Guy Van Duser, Ben Hall, Brooks Robertson, Joe Robinson, and others.  The program will be streamed live on www.countrymusichalloffame.org. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Sunday, July 15, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Brooks Robertson

Oregon-based Brooks Robertson is a composer and arranger in the style of Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Thom Bresh, and his own mentor, Buster B. Jones. In 2004, Robertson won first place in Prairie Home Companion’s Talent from Twelve to Twenty Contest.  Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. Included with museum admission. Free to museum members. Limited seating. Program pass required.

Sunday, July 15, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: Austin City Limits – “Chet Atkins and Friends” (1987)

In this episode of the long-running public television series, Chet Atkins demonstrates his trademark guitar style as well his love of collaboration. His guests include Thom Bresh, Larry Carlton, Johnny Gimble, Peter Ostroushko, Butch Thompson, and the Prairie Home Companion Band. Offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company. 55minutes. Free.

These programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Film screenings are made possible by Iron Mountain Film and Sound Archives.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture.  With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.

Gretsch Day 2012 at Street Sounds in Brooklyn

Friday, June 1st, 2012

A Huge Success!

Street Sounds and Gretsch guitars teamed up once again to present the Gretsch Fred & Joe Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival event on Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Street Sounds music store on 9206 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.

The free event featured top-notch musical performances beginning with Foxy Studs, followed by The Octanes, Paul Pigat and Cousin Harley, Nik & Sam, and headliners, the pop rock quartet Fountains of Wayne.

Fred Gretsch and Gretsch Guitars product specialist Joe Carducci presented their popular “Fred & Joe Show” and OK Go frontman Damian Kulash kicked off the evening by signing autographs for fans.  In addition, guests were treated to a hands-on guitar clinic with Gretsch Guitars Custom Shop Master Builder, Stephen Stern, as well as the opportunity to meet Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon who graciously signed her new posters for attendees.

During the evening two lucky attendees won guitars including a Gretsch Double Jet with Bigsby and a Chet Atkins Country Gentleman 12-String.  Other prizes were awarded as well.

A special thank-you to The GretschPages for streaming the event, and to Rocky and his fantastic team at Street Sounds.

Check out images from the evening below:

Street Sounds Brooklyn--Rocky & Gretsch families baked Gretsch collector cookies for event. First-come, first-served!

Fred Gretsch Gets Damian Kulash's Autograph for Granddaughters!

Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern Talks Gretsch Guitars

Stephen Stern Knows His Stuff

Fred & Joe - What a Team!

The Foxy Studs Kicked Off the Evening's Live Music

The Foxy Studs

Joe Introduces Our Lovely Gretsch Girl Kim Falcon

Adam Burchfield of The Octanes

The Octanes

Paul Pigat & Cousin Harley

Paul Pigat Working His Guitar Magic

Nik & Sam

Fred Gretsch with Nik & Sam

Toni from Brooklyn Wins a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman 12-String Guitar!!

Headliners Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Fountains of Wayne

Thanks Everyone! See You Next Year!

German Guitar Heroes–Legendary Craftsman from Germany to America

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By Fred Gretsch

Not long ago I was on a visit to New York City. While there, I took the opportunity to attend an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled: “Guitar Heroes—Legendary Craftsmen From Italy to New York.” The exhibit showcased the history of guitar making in Italy, and how Italian luthiers brought their craft with them when they emigrated to New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As the namesake of one of America’s premier guitar brands, I was fascinated by the Met’s exhibit. However, as an individual of German heritage, whose family has been keenly involved with guitar production for four generations, I felt that an important part of history was not being represented.

My feelings were made all the more acute by the fact that my granddaughter Chelsea (a sixth-generation Gretsch) was at the Met with me. I wanted her to know and appreciate how important the contributions of German immigrant craftsmen—including members of her own family—were and still are to guitar innovation and production in America. So I decided to prepare this examination of those contributions.

Using the format of the Met’s exhibit as a basis for my look at German Guitar Heroes, I discovered a fascinating array of comparisons, contrasts, and connections. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

It Starts With C.F. Martin

To begin with a contrast: Significant emigration of Italian luthiers to New York took place between 1880 and 1920. But German luthier Christian Frederick Martin arrived half a century earlier, in 1833. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Christian Martin was the founder and namesake of C. F. Martin & Company, makers of world-famous Martin flat-top acoustic guitars. Christian Martin was born on January 31, 1796 in Markneukirchen, Germany. Born into a family of cabinetmakers and woodworkers, he eventually moved to Vienna, where he apprenticed to noted Austrian guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer.

At that time European craftsmen operated under the guild system. The guitar (as we know it today) was a relatively new instrument, and most guitar makers—including C.F. Martin—were members of the Cabinet Makers’ Guild. But the Violin Makers’ Guild claimed exclusive rights to manufacture musical instruments. They filed appeals on three occasions to prevent cabinet makers from producing guitars. The cabinet makers successfully defended their right to build guitars, but Martin felt that the guild system was too restrictive. He wanted to work where his skill could advance his personal success without limitations. So in 1833 he emigrated to New York City.

Martin established a shop at 196 Hudson Street on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, with a workshop in the back and a small retail music store in the front. He remained in New York City for five years, then relocated to Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The company is still family-owned and operated to this day.

In an example of German craftsmanship and innovation, the Martin company employed the X-bracing system for guitars during the 1850s. In fact, X-bracing was used by several guitar makers in the 1850s—all German immigrants who knew each other—and there is no evidence that C. F. Martin invented the system. But the Martin Company was the first to use it on a large scale.

What makes this important is that from the 1860s on, fan bracing was the standard in Europe. Martin and other American builders (including such forgotten German names as Schmidt & Maul and Stumcke) used X-bracing. The sound produced by X-bracing on a guitar with gut strings may be considered less delicate. But it prepared the American guitar for steel strings, which emerged in the first quarter of the 20th century and eventually dominated the acoustic guitar market.

The German-heritage family leadership of the Martin company continued to result in important innovations as time went on. When the Great Depression of 1929 drastically reduced sales, the company came up with the 14-fret neck, which allowed players to reach higher notes more easily. Martin intended it to appeal to banjo players interested in switching to guitar for increased work opportunities. The longer neck became so popular that Martin made it standard on all of its guitars, and the rest of the guitar industry soon followed. Classical guitars, which were evolving on their own track largely among European builders, retained the 12-fret neck design.

Martin’s second major innovation within the period between 1915 and 1930 was the dreadnought guitar. First designed in 1916 as a collaboration between Martin and prominent retailer Oliver Ditson Co., the dreadnought body style was larger and deeper than most guitars. It took its name from the British Royal Navy’s HMS Dreadnought, which at the time was the largest battleship ever built.

HD-28 Dreadnought in moulded case

The greater volume and louder bass produced by the dreadnought design was intended to make the guitar more useful as an accompaniment instrument for singers working with the limited sound equipment of the day. Martin gave the dreadnought X-bracing in 1931, and two years later gave it a modified body shape to accommodate a 14-fret neck. From there it quickly became their best-selling guitar. Today the dreadnought size and shape is a “standard” acoustic guitar design, highly regarded for its usefulness in a wide variety of musical genres.

Enter Gretsch

The appearance of the Gretsch name as part of the German Guitar Heroes story also pre-dates the Italian emigration to the U.S. It happens in 1872, when my great-grandfather Friedrich Gretsch moved from Germany to Brooklyn at the age of sixteen. Very shortly thereafter he went to work at Albert Houdlett & Sons—a musical-instrument manufacturer that specialized in drums and banjos.

By the time 1883 came around, Friedrich was in his mid-twenties and had been married for four years. He had done many different music-related jobs, including expanding his skills to include guitars. That’s when he founded his own business, operating out of a small shop in Brooklyn.

Sadly, Friedrich didn’t remain at the helm of the business he founded for very long. In 1895, while on a trip to his German homeland, he died unexpectedly at the age of thirty-nine.

The Second Gretsch Generation

Friedrich’s death left the leadership of the company to the enterprising mind of his fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, who was still in knickers at the time. Energetic as he was enterprising, Fred Gretsch, Sr. built the business on a reputation for precision and quality. In 1916—two decades after assuming direction of the company—Fred Gretsch Sr. moved the factory and sales operation into a ten-story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. From this headquarters he responded to the growing demand for more specialized instruments, including guitars.

In one of the contrasts I mentioned earlier, New York’s Italian luthiers worked on a local, artisan basis. By 1920 Gretsch was the world’s largest instrument manufacturer, making and selling guitars across the country. (At that time, guitars were sold to wholesalers, who put their own brands on them.) And, in one of the connections I mentioned earlier, Gretsch was also distributing Martin guitars.

In 1927 the popularity of Gretsch-made guitars prompted the company to officially create their own brand of guitars. Thus the Gretsch name appeared on guitars for the first time. Back in 1918 Fred Gretsch Sr. had developed a revolutionary multi-ply lamination process that resulted in the world’s first “warp-free” drum hoop and led to the development of multi-ply drumshells. (Prior to that time drum shells and hoops had been made of steam-bent single-ply boards.) This historic innovation later had a major impact on guitar manufacturing, as we’ll see in a bit.

In 1935, Fred Gretsch Sr.’s son Bill was managing the company’s Chicago distribution office when he met a nineteen-year-old saxophonist named Charles “Duke” Kramer, who was playing in local clubs. Bill saw something special in the teenager and offered him a job polishing horns for $11 a week. Duke—himself of German heritage—accepted the job and never left the company. His career with Gretsch spanned an amazing seventy years, during which time he came to be known as “Mr. Guitar Man” for his pivotal role in making Gretsch electric guitars what they are today.

Gretsch Sychromatic Guitar

And what they are today began in 1939 with the introduction of the first Gretsch electric guitar—the Electromatic—along with the Synchromatic archtop guitar series. In that same year guitar player and innovator Jimmie Webster joined the company. Meanwhile, Gretsch acoustic guitars appeared with a distinctive triangle-shaped sound hole.

The Third Gretsch Generation

In 1942 my grandfather, Fred Gretsch, Sr., retired, leaving the day-to-day operations of running the company to his sons, Fred Gretsch, Jr. (my uncle) and William “Bill” Gretsch (my father). Both had been active in the business since 1927. After a brief term at the company’s helm, Fred Gretsch, Jr. left to serve as a commander in the US Navy. Bill Gretsch became president, and during his tenure the company forged a musical relationship with the legendary Birdland jazz club in New York City.

The company lost its president, and I lost my father, to illness in 1948. Fred Gretsch, Jr. assumed control of the business, just in time for the dawn of rock ’n’ roll at the beginning of the 1950s. While other guitar manufacturers held to traditional designs tied to older musical styles, Gretsch embraced rock ’n’ roll as an opportunity for innovation and expansion. The early years of the decade saw the first cutaway bodies appear on Electromatic and new Electro II guitar models, as well as the introduction of the legendary Duo-Jet model (which sparked the entire Jet line of Gretsch solid-body guitars).

In 1954 Jimmie Webster struck a deal with guitar great Chet Atkins to design and develop a Gretsch guitar. In this same year the first Bigsby vibratos—designed by inventor, machinist, musician, and engineer Paul Bigsby—were offered on Gretsch electrics. The two brands have since become inseparably identified.

Special Connections

The 1950s featured several fascinating connections between Gretsch and one of the Italian guitar makers showcased in the Metropolitan Museum’s Guitar Heroes exhibit: John D’Angelico. In the 1950s D’Angelico’s Manhattan shop and Gretsch’s Brooklyn factory were at opposite ends of the Williamsburg Bridge. John used to take the subway from Delancy Street over to the Brooklyn side, then walk down to our building, where we sold him our remaining stock of solid-wood tops, backs, sides, and wood blocks for neck-making. That material was surplus to us, but it was the basic ingredient for his stock in trade. Gretsch was a large buyer of wood and wood products; John was a small buyer. And he was able to buy things from us, including ebony and rosewood, which we were importing in large quantities. So John D’Angelico was a customer of ours.

Chet Atkins' D'Angelico Guitar. Courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Bob Delevante.

The lead picture on the Met exhibit calendar is a D’Angelico guitar built in 1959. It’s a beautiful blonde spruce-top guitar, and I’m pretty certain that we sold John some or all of the wood that he used to build that instrument. And the August 2012 page of the calendar depicts a 1950 D’Angelico guitar that was owned and played by Chet Atkins prior to his coming on board with Gretsch. It’s currently on exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. That guitar is also probably made of wood obtained from Gretsch. And it features an early Bigsby bridge and pickups—characteristic elements of Gretsch guitars.

More Innovation

In 1955 the multi-ply drum construction method introduced by my grandfather back in 1918 had its impact on guitar design. Up until that time, virtually all hollow-bodied electric guitars were made with one-piece tops and backs. When these instruments were played at the new volume levels of rock ’n’ roll music, they tended to feed back. In 1955, with input from Chet Atkins, Gretsch pioneered three-ply tops and backs on their guitars. This resulted in the White Falcon and 6120 Chet Atkins models, and set the stage for artists like Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, and Beatle George Harrison.

Gretsch 6120 Nashville Guitar

As the 1950s continued, Gretsch began production of the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar, as well as the futuristic Jupiter Thunderbird guitar designed for Bo Diddley. And as the decade ended and a new one began, an event took place that changed the course of musical history. That was when, in 1960, a young British guitarist named George Harrison bought a used 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet guitar. He used that guitar on the earliest recordings and tours by his band, The Beatles.

Only four years later “Beatlemania” was born on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison’s use of a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar ignited a frenzy for that model among aspiring guitarists. And, in yet another connection to German guitar manufacturing, Harrison’s bandmate Paul McCartney performed on a German-made Hofner “violin” bass . . . an instrument that has since become a Beatles icon.

The Fourth Gretsch Generation

In 1967 my uncle, Fred Gretsch, Jr. retired. At the same time he sold The Gretsch Company to the Baldwin Music Company. Over the next eighteen years instrument production facilities and sales offices were moved around the country. Guitar production was limited, and was ultimately shut down completely in 1980. During all that time, it was my fervent desire to return the company to Gretsch family ownership. I was able to achieve that goal in 1985, when I bought the Gretsch Company back from Baldwin.

Shortly after the reacquisition of the company, Gretsch guitar production was started up again. This was helped immeasurably by the resurgence a few years earlier of the rockabilly sound of Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats—a sound that depended largely on Brian’s classic hollow-body Gretsch electric guitar.  In 1988 there was another boost when George Harrison collaborated with Gretsch designers to produce the unique Traveling Wilburys collector guitar. By 1989 Gretsch guitar production had begun in earnest, with full professional lines of Gretsch electric and acoustic guitars.

From the early 1990s through today, Gretsch guitar innovation has continued. This innovation includes the introduction of the Brian Setzer signature model (1993), budget-priced Electromatic, Synchromatic, and Historic guitar lines (1998), the purchase of the Bigsby Accessory company and the re-introduction of the Bo Diddley rectangular signature guitar (1999), the Bo Diddley/Billy Gibbons Billy-Bo Jupiter Thunderbird guitar (2006), a reintroduced line of Chet Atkins models (2007), an Eddie Cochrane tribute model (2010), the George Harrison Tribute Duo-Jet (2011), and a Duane Eddy signature model (2012).

The Legacy Continues

I now represent the fourth generation of Gretsch Company ownership, dating back to my great-grandfather Friedrich. And when it comes to the subject of guitar manufacturing, I’m proud to represent not only my own family’s contributions, but also a legacy of craftsmanship and innovation brought to this country from Germany over 175 years ago.

For exclusive souvenirs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Guitar Heroes exhibition please visit the following links:

Calendar

Postcards

Calendar & Postcard Set

Introducing the New Gretsch Roots Collection

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

From the Gretsch Guitars website:


Gretsch is very proud to take players on a musical journey through nearly a century of great Gretsch history by introducing its Roots Collection of acoustic instruments. This exciting new family of banjos, mandolins, resonator guitars and ukuleles feature classically authentic Gretsch designs that transport players to a bygone era well before rock ‘n’ roll blasted off in the 1950s.

The Collection:

Banjos -
The Gretsch Roots Collection’s five new banjo models feature solid modern craftsmanship and sparkling good-time sound and feel while authentically evoking the company’s innovative banjo models of the early 20th century. From the 5-string mahogany-neck Broadkaster® Deluxe and Broadkaster Special resonator models and Dixie open-back model to the diminutively striking Clarophone™ Banjo-Ukulele and the guitarist-friendly Dixie 6 Guitar-Banjo, all provide a splendid Southern surfeit of outstanding sound, performance and value for established artist, seasoned player and eager student alike.

Resonators -
Three remarkable Gretsch Ampli-Sonic™ resonator guitars add powerfully distinctive tone to the Roots Collection. The mahogany-body Boxcar™ Standard and Bobtail™ Deluxe each come in round-neck and square-neck models, and the round-neck Honey Dipper™ has a nickel-plated brass body. The heart of each richly resounding guitar is the new Gretsch Ampli-Sonic resonator cone, hand-spun in Eastern Europe from nearly 99-percent pure aluminum for fantastic volume and sonic projection.

Ukuleles -
At the request of Gretsch fans worldwide, the Roots Collection also presents half a dozen new Gretsch ukulele models. The uke is experiencing one if its phenomenal resurgences in popularity, once again bringing the lilting sounds of the South Sea islands to delighted ears everywhere, Gretsch’s three deluxe ukuleles—the Concert Deluxe, Tenor Deluxe and Tenor Cutaway Electric models—boast premium construction features such as quartersawn solid mahogany top, back and sides; one-piece mahogany necks and handsome semi-gloss finishes. The three standard ukes—the Soprano Standard, Concert Standard and Tenor Standard models—deliver laminated mahogany build and other fine features. All six new Gretsch ukuleles deliver great looks, smooth feel and wonderfully singing tone.

Mandolins -
The Roots Collection also heralds the return of the revered Gretsch New Yorker™ mandolin. Styled after the brightly ringing 1950s classic, a trio of modern—day models-the New Yorker Standard, New Yorker Deluxe and New Yorker Supreme—offer premium features with authentic vintage touches, full-bodied tone, smooth-playing performance and eye-catching design beauty.

For all the details including demo videos, visit the Gretsch Guitars website HERE.

Spotlight: Gretsch Rancher Acoustic Guitars

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

From the Gretsch Guitars website:

A great Gretsch name is back with the return of Rancher acoustic guitars. The richly resonant Rancher first appeared in the early 1950s with its highly distinctive triangular sound hole and sweepingly elegant pickguard, and Gretsch is now very proud to re-introduce the model. With a great new selection of body sizes, styles and features that combine the best of the guitar’s acclaimed past with the best in modern sound, strength, style and playability, Gretsch now gives you the best of all Ranchers.

The biggest and fullest-sounding Rancher is the G5022CE Rancher Jumbo Cutaway Electric, which produces great volume and broadly expansive tone complemented by its elegant Venetian cutaway for easy access to the fingerboard’s upper reaches and onboard electronics that let it be heard even more loudly and clearly. Premium features include a solid spruce top with scalloped X bracing and the traditional Gretsch Rancher triangular sound hole, flame maple back and sides, mahogany neck, 21-fret rosewood fingerboard with Neo-Classic™ thumbnail inlays, 1940s-style pickguard with Gretsch logo, compensated bridge with rosewood base, gold-plated hardware, deluxe die-cast tuners and a classic gloss Savannah Sunset finish. Onboard Fishman® electronics include a Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Isys+ preamp system with onboard tuner, battery life indicator and controls for volume, treble, bass and phase.

Pictured below:  G5022CE Rancher Jumbo Cutaway Electric.

Specs HERE.

G5022CE Rancher Jumbo Cutaway Electric

Enter HERE for your chance to win this guitar.  Enter until June 6, 2012.

For information on other Rancher models and other Gretsch acoustics, visit the Gretsch Guitars website.

Chet Atkins Exhibit Extended Through July 15!

Friday, April 13th, 2012

From the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum:

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM TO EXTEND ITS EXHIBITION CHET ATKINS: CERTIFIED GUITAR PLAYER THROUGH JULY 15, 2012

Upcoming Programs Include April 28 Interview with Jerry Bradley and May 5 Concert, Guitar Man: A Tribute to Jerry Reed

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, which was originally scheduled to close June 11, 2012, has been extended through July 15, 2012, museum officials announced.  The exhibit is being held over in part to accommodate members of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society, who will visit Nashville in July; the extension also allows the museum to present additional public programs exploring the Hall of Fame member’s robust career and lasting influence.   Among the upcoming programming highlights are an April 28 interview with Jerry Bradley, and a May 5 concert saluting Jerry Reed.

On April 28, music executive Jerry Bradley will sit down with museum Senior Historian John Rumble for an interview at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Bradley, son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley, learned record engineering and production from his father before working at RCA Records with Chet Atkins. First Atkins’ assistant then his successor, Bradley headed RCA Nashville from 1973–82. He signed Alabama and Ronnie Milsap, among others, and contributed greatly to the creation of country music’s ‘Outlaw’ movement. Bradley will discuss his career and the influence Atkins had on it.

On May 5, Guitar Man: A Tribute to Jerry Reed, a concert celebrating the music of Chet Atkins’ friend and collaborator, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Jerry Reed was known for his innovative fingerstyle guitar playing; his catalog of boisterous country hits including “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”; and his good-humored film roles (Smokey and the Bandit). Chet Atkins helped shepherd Reed’s career at RCA, recorded dozens of his musical compositions and gave him the coveted honorary designation certified guitar player (c.g.p.).  Thom Bresh, Craig Dobbins, John Knowles c.g.p., Brent Mason, Richard Smith, Mark Thornton, Darrell Toney and Sean Weaver, backed by a house band of Steve Bryant, Ric McClure and Matt Raum, will perform their favorite Reed tunes.

Both programs, offered as part of the special exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company with additional support provided by Great American Country Television Network, are included with museum admission and free to museum members. The Ford Theater offers limited seating. Museum ticket or membership does not guarantee entry to museum programs. Both programs will also be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player Upcoming Programs Schedule

All programs are included with museum admission and free to museum members, except as noted below.

Sunday, April 29, 1:00 p.m., CDT

Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Pat Kirtley

Guitarist Pat Kirtley blends the musical heritage of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins with an eclectic and contemporary repertoire, in genres from bluegrass to Brazilian. Kirtley has won the title of U.S. National Fingerstyle Champion, and in 2006 he was inducted into the National Thumbpicking Hall of Fame.

Sunday, April 29, 2:00 p.m. CDT

Film Screening: Chet Atkins: Rare Performances 1976-1995 (FREE)

Saturday, May 12, 1:00 p.m. CDT

Family Program: Introduction to Thumbpick Guitar (FREE)

Learn to play guitar like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. This hands-on workshop will teach the basics of thumbpick guitar. Led by versatile guitar player Sean Weaver, recipient of awards from Home of the Legends Thumbpickers Contest and the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition. Guitars provided. Ages 6 to 18. No reservations required.

Sunday, May 13, 1:00 p.m. CDT

Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Craig Dobbins

Craig Dobbins is an Alabama-based guitarist, writer, and composer. He has authored many books and recordings about fingerstyle guitar, and has contributed to Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Workshop, Fingerstyle Guitar and Just Jazz Guitar magazines.

Saturday, May 19, 2:00 p.m. CDT

Community Outreach: Introduction to Thumbpick Guitar at Nashville Public Library, Goodlettsville Branch

205 Rivergate Parkway, Nashville, TN 37072. (615) 862-5862. Ages 13 to 19. No reservations required. Free.

Museum programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.

Musikmesse–Where the Music World Comes Together

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

With over 1,500 exhibitors, Musikmesse, “the world’s most international fair for musical instruments, sheet music, music production and marketing, and . . . the foremost meeting place for the musical-instrument industry for over 25 years,” took place from March 21 to 24 in Frankfurt, Germany.

This year Bigsby Vibratos worked in cooperation with the Warwick and Framus companies and set up shop at their booth.  In addition to showcasing the Bigsby vibrato line, product specialist Adam Seutter kept very busy conducting twice-daily installation demonstrations and answering attendee questions.

Framus Panthera with Bigsby

Guitars that received special Bigsby installations courtesy of Adam included the Framus Panthera and Mayfield models.

For all things Bigsby as well as a post-Messe report and pictures, please visit Bigsby.com.

Other Sights and Sounds at Messe:

Gretsch drummer Mark Schulman participated as part of the Fender Rock Trio along with Greg Koch and Roscoe Beck and gave standing-room-only daily performances on the Agora Stage.

GuitarPoint Vintage Instruments brought along a beautiful 1955 Gretsch Roundup to display at the International Vintage Show. A very nice example to be appreciated by all, not just vintage guitar collectors.

1955 Gretsch Roundup

Gretsch Brushed Brass Snare

And Gretsch Drums released a new Brushed Brass Snare combining the sound of a brass shell with the look and feel of a hand-finished shell.  Due to the hand-brushing process, no two shells are identical.

Bigsby Display Looking Good

Gretsch USA Brooklyn Kit

Tower of Gretsch Drums

And Here’s Some Photos of Dinah, Fred, and Friends (Old and New).

Dinah & Fred with Messe thumbpicking enthusiast Roger, a regular visitor. Nice t-shirt too!

The GuitarPoint Germany family photo: Detlef, Fred, Petra, Wolfgang, & Karolin.

Fred and Mark Schulman

Musikmesse 2012 is now in the history books.  It was another great trade show for Gretsch Guitars, Drums, and Bigsby Vibratos.  We look forward to being back in Frankfurt in 2013.

Gretsch 2012 NAMM Show Highlights

Monday, February 6th, 2012

2012 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center

The 2012 NAMM musical-instrument show took place January 19 through 22 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. This year’s show was the 110th edition, and attendance reached a record high. A whopping 95,709 visitors filled the halls with an all-new level of energy and excitement.

Gretsch Drums and Gretsch Guitars were a major reason for that excitement, with plenty of new products to display. In addition, Fred and Dinah Gretsch were on hand—joined by other members of the Gretsch family—to lend their special personal touch to all of the Gretsch-related activities.

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 highlights.

Fred Gretsch and New Brooklyn Series Kit

The focus of the 2012 NAMM display was the launch of the new Brooklyn Series. Made in Gretsch’s US factory, the new series is a tribute to the city in which the Gretsch Company got its start back in 1883.  And who better to help introduce the new series than Fred Gretsch himself?

Among the beautiful new Brooklyn series kits in the Gretsch booth was a classic five-piece configuration with a Smoke Grey Oyster Nitron wrap. The drums feature Gretsch maple/poplar shells with classic 30-degree bearing edges and the legendary Silver Sealer on their insides. Toms and snares come fitted with new “302” model 3mm double-flanged hoops, which are reminiscent of hoops used by Gretsch up until the mid-1950s.

Gretsch Brooklyn Display

These hoops have the same height profile as the classic Gretsch die-cast hoop in order to provide a playing experience that feels the same as traditional Gretsch USA Custom drums. All other drum hardware components—including lugs, claws, brackets, and spurs—are the same as those used on USA Custom kits. And perhaps best of all for Gretsch “purists,” the return to Brooklyn means a return to a round badge. The Brooklyn Round Badge has a black/pewter color scheme with a classic embossed Gretsch design.

Brooklyn Jazz Kit

Aficionados of jazz will recognize this classic configuration. It’s a Brooklyn Series kit in small “bop” sizes, finished in a mahogany lacquer.

Gretsch Snares

This bevy of beautiful snare drums includes one wood-shell (top left) and three metal-shell (bottom row) Brooklyn Series models, along with two brand-new Brushed Brass snares that feature a hand-brushed finish that creates a distinctive two-toned vintage patina effect.

A just-for-fun monster setup showcased a Gretsch USA Custom kit with a Chrome Nitron finish mounted on an ultra-customized Gibraltar rack.

The distinctive Gretsch Renown 57 kit debuted last year, with a design inspired by the great American car manufacturers of the 1950s. The new Motor City Red finish introduced for 2012 was so hot that the kit had to be displayed behind a plastic shield!

Gretsch Energy Kit

This eight-piece, double-bass kit is from Gretsch’s new affordable Energy Series. “Quick”-sized toms on GTS mounts produce maximum tone, cutting attack, and thunderous low end. Classic Gretsch features include 30-degree bearing edges, 5-lug configurations for the 8”, 10”, and 12” rack toms, and Gretsch-style lugs.

For more highlights-related photos, please visit our photo gallery here.

Goings-On at Gretsch Guitars

Gretsch Guitars Main Display

There’s nothing like a room full of the world’s finest guitars to attract the attention of NAMM show-goers. So there was no shortage of visitors to the Gretsch Guitars exhibit. The fact that Fred Gretsch was also often on hand to greet and chat with Gretsch guitar fans made this year’s exhibit even more special.

Although Gretsch is best known today for the manufacture of great guitars, the company got its start in 1883 making an even more traditional type of American instrument: banjos—as demonstrated by Fred Gretsch.

Fred Gretsch on the Banjo

Not long afterward came mandolins, flat-top guitars, ukuleles, and other instruments that contributed to what we now call “roots” or “Americana” music. Gretsch celebrated this important contribution to American history with a display of authentic recreations of those classic instruments.

Gretsch Roots Disply

When it comes to a recognizable guitar sound, there’s no mistaking the unique twang of rock pioneer Duane Eddy. A long-time user and aficionado of Gretsch guitars, Duane was honored at this year’s NAMM show by having his signature guitar as the focal point of the Gretsch contemporary guitar display.

And a great Gretsch name also returned with the re-introduction of the Rancher acoustic guitars. The richly resonant Rancher first appeared in the early 1950s with its highly distinctive triangular sound hole and sweepingly elegant pickguard. Gretsch proudly re-introduced the model at the show with a great new five-instrument selection of body sizes, styles, and features.

For more highlights-related photos, please visit our photo gallery here.

Gretsch Artists In The House!

A welcome visitor to the Gretsch Drums booth was great Gretsch drummer Stanton Moore. Van Romaine was also on hand to greet and sign autographs for Gretsch drum fans.

Steve, Will, Dinah & Rane

Gretsch artists are considered “part of the family” by Fred and Dinah Gretsch. So it was a family gathering when touring and studio star Stephen Ferrone (far left) stopped by the drum exhibit to sign autographs for show-goers, and to visit with Dinah Gretsch and sixth-generation family members Will (left) and Rane Gretsch.

Gretsch Guitars sponsored a number of artists in live performances throughout the NAMM show. These included guitar stars like Paul Pigat and Duane Eddy, as well as roots musicians Nik & Sam.

Stellar among all the Gretsch artists was Australian guitar phenom Joe Robinson. After breaking onto the scene at the age of sixteen as the youngest-ever winner of Australia’s Got Talent, Joe has gone on to become one of the most exciting and promising young artists on the scene today. His combination of compositional skill and unbelievable technical abilities had jaws dropping at each of his performances.

Fred and Friends

When your name is on the finest drums and guitars in the world, you tend to enjoy the company of others who share a similar status. So it was with Fred Gretsch at the 2012 NAMM Show.

Before the start of the show on Friday, January 20, Fred had the opportunity to share a convivial breakfast with Robert Zildjian and his wife, Willi. After working for many years in the family business that bears his name, Robert Zildjian left in the early 1980s to found his own company: Sabian Cymbals. With generations of business as well as family history behind each of them, Fred and Bob enjoyed swapping stories at breakfast.

Fred and Jeff Pevar

Later in the show Fred enjoyed a visit at the Gretsch Guitars booth from Jeff Pevar. In addition to being a first-call guitarist for artists like David Foster, Rikki Lee Jones, and David Lindley, Jeff is the “P” in CPR, a band in which he plays with rock icon David Crosby and keyboardist/composer James Raymond.

Big Doings At Bigsby

Bigsby Booth

This year saw the Bigsby Vibratos booth taken to a whole new level. The display featured new custom-built vintage-style vibrato cases (like the ones Paul Bigsby made all those years ago) as well as two racks of guitars supplied by thirteen different manufacturers—showcasing the wide array of makes and models that sport Bigsby Vibratos. Visitors to the booth repeatedly expressed how surprised they were at the number and variety of different guitars with Bigsby tailpieces.

Bigsby also set some new records at the show. A total of thirty-two different guitar manufacturers were utilizing Bigsby Vibratos, not only on guitars displayed in their booths, but also in the hands of their performing artists on stage. This was an incredible 39% increase over 2011. In addition, 160 individual Bigsby Vibratos were on display in various booths throughout the exhibition halls—an astounding 44% increase over the number at last year’s show.

Supporting the USPTO

Bigsby Helps Out at USPTO Booth

For the second straight year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) exhibited at the NAMM Show in an effort to encourage patent and trademark protection and discourage copying within the music industry. Bigsby was happy to aid in this effort by providing a display board that was originally created for the USPTO Trademark Expo in Alexandria, Virginia this past year.

A Celebration of 129 Years

There’s nothing like an anniversary to inspire a celebration. So, to mark the 129th year of business for Gretsch, Dinah and Fred Gretsch invited a group of family, friends, artists, and business partners to a dinner party on Saturday, January 21. The event was held at the Jazz Kitchen restaurant within the Downtown Disney complex in Anaheim.

At one point during the evening Fred and Dinah rose to toast those in attendance, thanking them for helping to make Gretsch an ongoing success. Fred pointed out that between his forty-seven years in the music business and Dinah’s thirty-three, it added up to eighty years of experience…during which time, he said, “We’ve partnered with the best.”

Fred with Alvino Bennett, Mark Schulman, and John Palmer

Gretsch artists in attendance at the dinner included drummers Mark Schulman, Stephen Ferrone, and Alvino Bennett, “roots” musicians Nik & Sam, and guitarists Duane Eddy, Paul Pigat, and Joe Robinson. At Dinah Gretsch’s request Joe pulled out an acoustic guitar and entertained the guests with one of his recent compositions.

When Joe had concluded, Dinah Gretsch expressed her pride in the youth associated with Gretsch. “We need youth and passion to continue the business for the next hundred years,” she concluded. “It’s all about passion for what we do.”

For all highlights-related photos, please visit the photo gallery here.