Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch Guitars’

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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Christmas 4 Kids Gretsch Guitar Auction 2012

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

The 11th annual Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Christmas 4 Kids Benefit Concert was held on November 19 at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Gretsch Foundation once again provided another classic guitar–the G6118T Anniversary.  This guitar had been in the Gretsch Foundation collection for 10 years and was often used for photographic assignments.  It was modeled after the 1958 75th Anniversary guitar, which had an ultra-cool, two-tone smoke green finish, straight from that era’s Cadillac and featured a “G”-cutout tailpiece.  The Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Concert is the cornerstone of Christmas 4 Kids’ fundraising efforts.

Warren Thinn with Dinah & Fred Gretsch

A big “congratulations” goes out to new owner of this guitar, Warren Thinn, who won the silent auction with a bid of $5,700.

For over twenty years, Christmas 4 Kids has given the joy of Christmas to thousands of Middle Tennessee children who might not otherwise experience it. Each December, local businesses, volunteers, celebrities, recording artists, and their bus drivers set aside two days from their busy schedules for these special children.  Learn more about this great organization at the Christmas 4 Kids website.

Visit the Gretsch Foundation website to learn more about “Enriching Lives Through Participation in Music”.

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Spotlight: Tim Armstrong Electromatic

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

From the Guitar Guitars Website:

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

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

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

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

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

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Gretsch Supports AROTR: America’s Largest Beatles Festival

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gretsch Electromatic G5422 TDC Guitar

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

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

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

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

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

More event photos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Great Gretsch Weekend in Nashville

Monday, July 30th, 2012

The weekend of this past July 13 and 14 saw a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of events in Nashville, Tennessee, otherwise known as “Music City USA.” And Gretsch was an important participant in all of them.

NAMM In Nashville

To begin with, there was the summer NAMM show, an annual trade show conducted by The National Association of Music Merchants. That organization is a not-for-profit association created to strengthen the global musical instruments industry, while promoting the pleasures and benefits of making music to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of more than 9,000 member companies in eighty-seven countries around the world.

Each summer’s NAMM show brings many of the world’s top musical instrument manufacturers to Nashville to display their wares. This year’s show, presented July 12 through July 14 at the city’s downtown convention center, featured 372 exhibitors from across the globe.

As you might expect from its Nashville setting, the summer NAMM show tends to be heavily populated by manufacturers of guitars and guitar accessories—and heavily attended by guitar aficionados. So it was the perfect place for The Gretsch Company to showcase its Bigsby brand of True Vibratos.

Paul Bigsby was a musician, a guitar-maker, and an inventor. In 1951 he presented the first Bigsby True Vibrato to guitar pioneer Merle Travis—immediately revolutionizing guitar design. From that day to this, Bigsby Vibratos have been making major contributions to guitar history.

They’ve been featured continuously on Gretsch guitars since 1955, and they’ve been heard on recordings in almost every musical genre from punk to folk and from country to rock. Versions are now available to fit almost every brand and model of guitar on the market.

Visitors to the Gretsch/Bigsby booth during the three days of the summer NAMM show had the opportunity to examine all of the Bigsby True Vibratos first-hand. But visitors on Friday, July 13 got a special treat: the opportunity to meet and speak with Fred W. Gretsch himself. Representing the fourth generation of Gretsch musical instrument makers, Fred greeted and signed autographs for Gretsch fans from across the country.

Also on hand at the booth was Gene Haugh, a long-time Gretsch guitar craftsman who was instrumental in the development of the famous Chet Atkins “Super Chet” signature guitar model.

Gretsch guitar craftsman Gene Haugh (left) and Gretsch Company representative Adam Seutter (center) were joined by Fred W. Gretsch at the Gretsch Company booth at the summer NAMM show in Nashville.

These Bigsby True Vibrato tailpieces were the focal point of the Gretsch Company booth.

Gretsch drums were at the show in spirit if not in fact, as represented by this T-shirt sporting the classic Gretsch drum logo.

The Gretsch Company also holds title on another classic American drum brand: Leedy. This custom-crafted Leedy snare drum is a faithful reproduction of a vintage Leedy model.

For more information about Bigsby True Vibratos visit www.bigsby.com. For more information about NAMM visit www.namm.org.

Closing Ceremonies For The Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Exhibit At The Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum

Just three blocks away from the Nashville Convention Center is the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, which is home to a variety of unique historic exhibits.

On this particular weekend the Hall was holding a series of events to mark the closing of one such exhibit: a fond and fascinating look at the life and career of Chet Atkins. Titled Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, it paid tribute to the versatility and vision of the legendary guitar artist, with historic information, personal memorabilia, performance clips, and guitars of all descriptions on display.

After opening on August 12, 2011, the exhibit was originally scheduled to run through June 11, 2012 but was extended due to popular demand. Throughout its duration it was accompanied by an ongoing series of educational and performance programs. By the time of its closing on July 15, 2012 it had hosted more than 300,000 visitors.

The Gretsch Company was the title sponsor for the Chet Atkins exhibit. Gretsch enjoyed a long and fruitful association with Chet, during which he helped design and popularize several guitar models that are still best-sellers today.

At a reception held prior to the public opening of the Chet Atkins exhibit in August of 2011, Fred Gretsch, said, “As a guitar manufacturer Gretsch is proud of its long association with Chet. As a family, we cherish the special relationship that we had with such a fine individual. We’re honored to be the title sponsor for the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s tribute to Chet, and we share the Hall’s commitment to ensuring that his unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.”

A highlight of the exhibition’s opening weekend came on Saturday, August 13, 2011, when Steve Wariner and Chet Atkins’ daughter Merle read a proclamation bestowing the final “Certified Guitar Player” honor on Paul Yandell, who was Chet Atkins’ bandleader, friend, and confidant for more than thirty years. Chet coined the term “Certified Guitar Player” to describe an artist who personified the ultimate in performance skill and musical quality. Only four other guitarists—Wariner, Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel, and John Knowles—had received such recognition from Chet. It was a bittersweet tribute, as Yandell was ill and would pass away only a few months later.

A Quick Walk Through The Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Exhibit

The exhibit featured multiple screens showing clips of Chet from throughout his career.

By the mid-1950s Chet had established himself as one of the most successful guitar soloists of all time—earning him the name of “Mr. Guitar.” And in 1954 he began his long association with the Gretsch company.

Pictured below and on the left is a 1959 Gretsch Country Gentleman that was one of Chet’s primary guitars throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Chet modified it with a Super ’Tron neck pickup and an internal phase shifter. On the right is a 1954 Streamliner special-order model that became the basis for the legendary Gretsch Chet Atkins Signature (6120) hollow-body guitar.

In addition to his performing skills, Chet enjoyed success as an executive with RCA Records. Below is a letter written to Chet in 1968 by then-Gretsch Company president Fred Gretsch Jr., congratulating Chet on his appointment as vice president at RCA.

Chet was a skillful and talented producer. In addition to signing and producing many top country artists, he also branched out into the pop field. This photo below shows him in the studio with crooner Perry Como in 1973.

Of course, it was as a performer that Chet made his greatest impact…and earned his greatest rewards. Below are the Grammys he won in 1967 for his Chet Atkins Picks The Best album and in 1971 for his recording of “Snowbird.”

Chet was an inveterate “tinkerer” whose hobbies included photography and ham radio in addition to electronics and recording. The exhibit included a faithful display of Chet’s home workshop, just as it was left upon his passing in 2001.

Closing Luncheon

To commemorate the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibit at its closing, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum hosted two special events. The first was a private luncheon held on Friday, July 13, 2012 and attended by a select group of individuals who had been instrumental in the establishment of the exhibit.

Attendees included Hall board chairman Steve Turner and museum director Kyle Young, as well as exhibit sponsors Fred and Dinah Gretsch (and their grandson Logan Thomas), Merle Atkins Russell (Chet’s daughter), Marie Yandell (widow of Paul Yandell), and CGP guitarist John Knowles.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch and grandson Logan with Merle Atkins Russell, daughter of Chet Atkins.

As a gesture of thanks for the Gretsch Company’s support of the exhibit, Kyle Young presented Fred and Dinah Gretsch with a scrapbook containing photos and other material documenting every stage of the exhibit’s creation.

Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum director Kyle Young (left) and board chairman Steve Turner (rear) presented Fred and Dinah Gretsch with a scrapbook documenting every step of the creation of the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibit.


Friends & Flamekeepers Concert

The second special closing event took place on Saturday, July 14 in the Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater. A concert “Chet Atkins: Friends And Flame Keepers,” featured a stellar group of performers. Some were veteran artists who had enjoyed personal relationships with Chet; others were rising stars who were influenced by Chet and are carrying on and expanding his unique fingerstyle guitar technique. The lineup included John Knowles, Muriel Anderson, Meagan Taylor (great-niece of Chet Atkins), Ben Hall, Thom Bresh, Brooks Robertson, and Gretsch guitar artists Guy Van Duser and Joe Robinson.

Anecdotes and stories about Chet Atkins were plentiful, and the musical performances were heartfelt and beautiful. It was an amazing—and entirely appropriate—tribute to the memory of a man who had such an important impact on guitarists everywhere.

A full-length performance video of the Friends & Flamekeepers concert may be viewed HERE.

For additional information on the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum visit Countrymusichalloffame.org. For more information on Gretsch and its association with Chet Atkins, visit gretsch.com.

Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention

While the Summer NAMM show and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum events were taking place in downtown Nashville, the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society was holding its 28th annual convention at the Music City Sheraton Hotel & Convention Center just outside of town. From July 11 through 14 attendees enjoyed fully-packed days and nights of the music of the legendary guitarist.

Through 2000, Chet Atkins himself participated in the CAAS conventions, and his presence was warmly appreciated by the members. Since his passing in 2001, the Society has continued to preserve his legacy and to encourage young and old alike to keep his music alive and appreciate the many contributions he made to the guitar and the music of America.

Current CAAS president Dr. Mark Pritcher, his wife Carol, and an able staff of dedicated volunteers keep the organization running and growing. Although membership is around 1,000, this year’s CAAS convention welcomed over 1,500 avid Chet Atkins fans.

The convention hosted a variety of guest artists who performed concerts, played at intimate close-up sessions, and conducted top-notch workshops for attendees. Performances ran concurrently on two stages and in nearby meeting rooms. The main stage hosted concerts each night until late evening. In between all of these activities, retailers, collectors, and guitar makers displayed instruments, recordings, and memorabilia for sale. Personal interaction between established artists, professional and hobbyist musicians, and just plain fans was a great part of the fun for everyone in attendance.

A particularly popular feature at the convention was the Gretsch guitar display (presented in cooperation with Broadway Music of Nashville.) Not only did the display showcase a bevy of beautiful instruments, it also presented ongoing performances by great Gretsch guitar artists including Pat Corn, Bobby Gibson, and Richard Kiser. And, to the delight of convention goers, Fred W. Gretsch dropped by the display on Friday, July 13 to introduce some of the performers. Fred then stayed to chat with fans and sign autographs—which he did on programs, T-shirts . . . and one brand-new Gretsch guitar!

From left: Pat Corn, Bobby Gibson, and Richard Kiser performed at the Gretsch Guitars display.

Fred Gretsch was on hand to autograph programs, T-shirts...and this Gretsch guitar.

Veteran Gretsch guitar craftsman Gene Haugh (who helped develop the “Super Chet” model) admired the display of beautiful new Gretsch guitars.

The Gretsch Family and Gretsch Guitars have been major supporters of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society for many years. As a result, coming to the CAAS convention has become a regular family event for Fred and Dinah Gretsch—as well as for their grandson Logan, who was at the show this year.

Logan Thomas, grandson of Fred and Dinah Gretsch

When asked how he was enjoying the convention, the articulate twelve-year-old replied, “This is the fourth or fifth year that I’ve come here, and it’s always great. But it’s especially great for me this year, because I’ve been studying the guitar myself for the past year. One of my favorite players is Joe Robinson, and he’s playing at the convention, which is really cool.”

In addition to pursuing his musical goals, Logan is also an athlete, playing quarterback for his team at Thomas Heyward Academy in his home town of Ridgeland, South Carolina. Ridgeland is also home to the Gretsch USA drum manufacturing operation. As a sixth-generation member of the Gretsch family, Logan occasionally helps out at the factory. As he proudly explained, “I’ve been helping move things around to make more space for The Vineyard.” Logan’s reference is to Gretsch’s unique collection of vintage drum shells from the 1980s and earlier, which are used to create historically authentic custom drumkits.

Chet Atkins Tribute Concert

The CAAS convention came to a rousing conclusion on Saturday, July 14 with a gala Chet Atkins tribute concert. This show featured special guests from the Nashville pantheon of performers, as well as international guest artists. Most of these had taken part in earlier convention activities, and many had also appeared at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s “Friends & Flamekeepers” tribute concert. Like that earlier event, this concert showcased fingerstyle guitar playing by newcomers and established stars alike.

The evening’s many fond recollections of Chet Atkins were joined by remembrances of Paul Yandell, whose long association with Chet—as well as his own noteworthy musical accomplishments—had made him an important figure on the Nashville scene for decades. The verbal and musical tributes offered to these two guitar giants gave a very personal quality to each performance.

Family and friends at the CAAS closing concert, from left: Judy Edwards, Nokie Edwards, Deed Eddy, Gretsch guitar great Duane Eddy, Dinah and Fred Gretsch, and Logan Thomas.

Special moments abounded during the concert. Just a few of those included:

The introduction of Fred Gretsch by CAAS president Mark Pritcher, and Fred’s comments regarding Paul Yandell and Chet Atkins, both of whom had long associations with Gretsch guitars.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch and grandson Logan presenting a 1959 Gretsch 6119 guitar to lucky raffle winner Jimmy Lapham, who came to the CAAS convention from Camilla, Georgia.

Fifteen-year-old Australian phenom Josh Needs playing an original composition on a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar that had been given to the CAAS by guitar great Scotty Moore—who had himself been given the guitar by Chet Atkins.

Gretsch artist and guitar icon Duane Eddy presenting a custom replica of Buddy Holly’s guitar to long-time Ventures lead guitarist Nokie Edwards. Nokie was being honored with the Buddy Holly Legacy Award, presented by the Buddy Holly Education Foundation in recognition of outstanding artistry.

Rising Gretsch guitar star Joe Robinson wowing the crowd with his unique combination of blazing technique and musical creativity on an original tune appropriately titled “It’s Not Easy.”

After relating how they each had learned Chet Atkins’ “Happy Again,” a moving trio performance of the tune by John Knowles, Thom Bresh, and Brooks Robertson.

Gretsch artist Guy Van Duser—and the entire concert audience—performing “We Love You Chet,” an original tune composed in tribute to the guitar great.

In addition to the artists named above, the roster of performers at the CAAS closing concert included Shane Adkins, Rick Allred, Craig Dobbins, Phil Hunt & Eddie Estes, Pat Kirtley, Jimmy, John, and Morning Nichols, Ben Owings, Eddie Pennington & Paul Moseley, and Sean Weaver.

For more information on the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society, go to ChetSociety.com.

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June 30 is Gretsch Day at Cream City Music

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Gretsch guitars and Cream City Music are excited to announce the “Gretsch Day” Event, featuring “The Fred & Joe Show,” taking place on Saturday, June 30, 2012, from 11 am to 4 pm CDT at the Cream City Music store on 12505 West Bluemound Road in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

The event, which is free of cost to all guests and open to the public, will feature continuous musical performances beginning at 2:00 p.m. by Bluegrass guitar pickers Nik & Sam, fingerstyle guitarist Bobby Gibson, and acoustic guitar sensation Jake Allen. Guests making very special appearances include Fred Gretsch, the fourth-generation owner of the iconic Gretsch Guitar Company, and Gretsch Guitars Product Specialist, Joe Carducci.

In addition, guitar artist Sarah Gallenberger will unveil her newest masterpiece painted on a Gretsch G6120 guitar. This one-of-a-kind Gretsch will be up for grabs in an online auction benefitting the Milwaukee-based charity Guitars for Vets.

Special offers on Gretsch products and guitars will be available to attendees throughout the day along with a special Gretsch gift bag for the first twenty guests through the door.

For more information, call Cream City Music or visit their website.

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About Cream City Music
Cream City Music is on a constant search for great deals to pass on to its customers. Whether it is new, used or vintage items you are looking for, Cream City Music probably has a better price. Its staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and they also like to share their expertise. With a broad assortment of new, used, discontinued, and scratch and dent deals, there is a lot to choose from. Cream City Music takes pride in giving detailed, accurate descriptions of everything they sell, and is trying to provide the best one-on-one customer service available on the planet. For more information, visit their website.

About Guitars for Vets
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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.