Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch’

Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . And Hitters

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Charlie Watts: The Foundation

by Fred Gretsch

Virtually every serious music fan knows that great Gretsch drummer Charlie Watts has been the rhythmic foundation of the Rolling Stones for over fifty years. While not noted as a drumistic technician, Charlie is universally recognized as the rock that anchors “The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band”—and also as the subtle force that swings it. That’s why Charlie was inducted into Modern Drummer magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2006, and why he was named as one of the Top Ten World’s Best Drummers in Rolling Stone magazine’s Readers Poll in February of 2010.

Charlie’s status as a rock-drumming great is somewhat ironic, because he doesn’t play drums like a rock drummer. When he was ten years old he discovered jazz—Miles Davis and John Coltrane in particular. Soon after that he began to explore the idea of becoming a drummer. He had no formal lessons; instead he credits the great drummers he saw in London’s jazz clubs as the people who taught him how to play drums properly. He used the jazz chops he learned as a teenager to invent his own unique style of playing rock ’n’ roll. When he plays, his movements are elegant in their simplicity yet soaring in their impact. None of his gestures are wasted; all are necessary.

Bringing the sensibilities of a jazz drummer to rock music has always been at the heart of what makes Charlie one of the most respected musicians in the world. That respect has resulted in his being called on to contribute to projects by Jack Bruce, B.B. King, Alexis Korner, Leon Russell, Pete Townshend, Ronnie Lane, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, AC/DC, Ben Sidran, and many more.

Charlie’s love for jazz has led him to either lead or take part in a number of musical projects of his own. In 1985 he formed the Charlie Watts Orchestra, a 32-piece band that toured the U.S. and ultimately released an album called Live at Fulham Town Hall. In 1991 he formed The Charlie Watts Quintet to pay homage to the small-group jazz that first grabbed him while he was growing up in London. Over the next five years they released a series of stellar recordings, including From One Charlie, Tribute To Charlie Parker, Warm And Tender, and Long Ago And Far Away. Next came a heartfelt collaboration with friend (and studio drumming great) Jim Keltner. Titled simply The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, it was a tribute to their favorite drummers, with each track titled after a different hero.

Charlie’s most recent side project—The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie—takes its name from the first initials of the four members of the band: Axel Zwingenberger, Ben Waters, Charlie Watts, and Dave Green. After forming in 2009, they quickly established a reputation for themselves at the forefront of boogie woogie music. In July of 2012 the band released a CD called Live In Paris, which includes a mix of originals, improvisations, and blues and boogie woogie standards. With a format of two pianos, bass, and drums, it’s about as big a departure from The Rolling Stones as you can imagine.

Charlie has also recorded with Zwingenberger and Green on a trio-format album titled The Magic Of Boogie Woogie. The three talented musicians express the swinging magic of blues and boogie woogie in full glory. It’s the first time that Charlie’ drum artistry is featured in such an intimate setting. Facts about the album—as well as some great musical clips—are available at www.boogiewoogie.net.

My wife Dinah and I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Charlie on a number of occasions. In March of 2012 we had the opportunity to hear him play with The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie when the group was performing in Vienna, Austria. Later that same year we got to see and hear Charlie in his primary role, when the Rolling Stones played the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary.

The location of that meeting held a special poignancy for us and for Charlie, since the Barclays Center is only a short distance away from 60 Broadway—the site of the former Gretsch factory in Brooklyn. It was in that very factory that the drumkits Charlie used in his early career with the Stones were built. The program for the Stones’ Barclays Center show, titled 50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live, included thanks from Charlie to Gretsch Drums. On our part, we thank Charlie for representing Gretsch drums with such artistry and grace for more than fifty years.

You can find dozens of Rolling Stones performance clips on YouTube. But to hear Charlie in particular talking about his Gretsch touring drumkit, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PZug4854sI.

Charlie discusses his own history and his love for swing music at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1_6z9oqet8.

Charlie talks about the nature of the Rolling Stones and why he enjoys playing with the band at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZtZ3EDPls8.

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Gretsch Greatest Hits . . . and Hitters

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Tony Williams: The Innovator

by Fred W. Gretsch

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

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

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

Tony Williams - The Early Days

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

Tony and his Big Gretsch Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Tony's Famous Yellow Gretsch

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John Lennon’s Gretsch 6120 Being Auction by TracksAuction.com

Monday, October 6th, 2014

RELEASE BY TRACKSAUCTION.COM

TracksAuction.com are to auction John Lennon’s Gretsch 6120 guitar which John gave to his cousin David Birch MBE in 1967.  Expected to make around $1 million at auction. Online bidding begins at 4pm on 14th November 2014 at www.TracksAuction.com, concluding with a live auction at Le Meridien Hotel, Piccadilly, London at 2pm on 23rd November 2014.

John Lennon With The Gretsch 6120, EMI Studio 3 14th April 1966. Paperback Writer Session.

The Gretsch 6120 is a historically important instrument from the former Beatle’s personal collection, used and photographed during the Paperback Writer session held at EMI Studio 3, Abbey Road, London on the 14th April 1966. The Gretsch 6120 is, perhaps, the most significant of John’s guitars to come onto the market in the last 30 years.

Please check our website www.TracksAuction.com to view a promotional video for the Gretsch guitar. It includes commentary from owner David Birch and Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn.

David Birch was given the guitar when he visited John in Weybridge in November 1967.  David recalls that one day John and himself were chatting in the home studio located at the top of the house in Kenwood. David asked John if he had a guitar that he no longer wanted as he was trying to get a group together with some mates at the time. “I was just cheeky enough to ask John for one of his spare guitars”, he remembers, “I had my eye on a blue Fender Stratocaster that was lying in the studio but John suggested the Gretsch and gave it to me as we were talking”. The younger cousin was absolutely thrilled with his gift. The Gretsch 6120, serial number 53940, has been owned by David Birch ever since.

The guitar comes with indisputable proof of its authenticity. The Beatles Monthly Book photographer, Leslie Bryce, took a number of black & white and colour photos of John Lennon using the Gretsch during the Paperback Writer session of 14th April. There are close-up photos from the session clearly showing the wood grain on the front of the headstock of the instrument. When these images of the wood grain are compared to the wood grain on the headstock of the actual guitar the two can be seen to match up identically. Wood grain is exactly the same as a fingerprint in that no two examples are identical. This provides conclusive proof that the Gretsch 6120, serial number 53940, is the guitar that John played on the Paperback Writer session.

John Lennon owned and played guitars from the Beatles period are extremely rare in themselves but a Lennon owned guitar which has the history of a close family connection, unquestionable legal title and clear-cut picture identification is rare beyond belief. It is difficult to recall any of John’s guitars with all of these combined attributes being offered for sale previously. Not only is the sale of this Gretsch 6120 a rare chance to acquire a piece of John Lennon’s musical legacy but in terms of the guitar’s provenance, authenticity, desirability and scarcity the sale of this iconic instrument represents a prime music-related investment opportunity. The guitar is estimated at £400,000 to £600,000 ($650,000 – $1 million USD).

John Lennon far left With David Birch And Family Edinburgh 1952.

The auction contains over 100 lots of Beatles memorabilia including a copy of the Sgt. Pepper album signed by John, Paul, George and Ringo estimated at £100,000 to £150,000, various items from the collection of John Lennon’s life-long friend Pete Shotton and the banjo played by Rod Davis in John’s original group, the Quarrymen. The sale will also include numerous lots of quality rock ‘n roll memorabilia including signed items from the Rolling Stones and The Who, original Sex Pistols concert and promotional posters and a set of handwritten Kate Bush lyrics to the song Wuthering Heights.

TracksAuction.com is a division of Tracks Ltd. established in 1989, Tracks has developed into one of the world’s leading dealers of rare Beatles and pop memorabilia. It’s staff of specialists have over 20 years of experience of appraising, authenticating, evaluating and selling Beatles and rock ‘n roll collectables at the highest level.

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Chet Atkins Convention & 60th Anniversary Celebration

Monday, June 9th, 2014

In the city that “music calls home”, Nashville, Tennessee, the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) held its annual Convention from July 9 through 12. At the Sheraton Music City hotel, this year’s convention was an extra special affair for two very notable reasons.  First, this was the 30th anniversary of the CAAS Convention, and second, Gretsch celebrated the 60th anniversary of Chet Atkins and Gretsch endorsement agreement signed by Chet and past Gretsch company president, Fred Gretsch Jr., in July of 1954.

To celebrate this important milestone in Gretsch history, Gretsch Guitars premiered a Chet tribute video hosted by Steve Wariner, C.G.P., recently filmed in historic RCA Studio B at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.  Several of Chet’s close friends and colleagues got together to share their memories of Chet as well as how this musician, producer, and executive influenced not only music in general but also country, rock, and jazz guitarists with his unique playing style.  And during his long association with Gretsch, Chet was instrumental in the creation of the popular Nashville, Country Gentleman, and Tennessean signature guitars.

The Chet Atkins Appreciation Society is a group of people who have a sincere interest in the music and career of Chet Atkins.  Learn more about them and become a member.  And make sure you attend the CAAS Convention in 2016.  Hope to see you in Nashville!

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Canadian Music Week A “Must Attend” Event

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

By Fred Gretsch

After attending our first Canadian Music Week (CMW) festival last month, it was made real clear to Dinah and me why so many great musicians and artists come from Canada.

For five days and nights in the first week of May, the city of Toronto was transformed into an energetic music, media, and entertainment mecca. More than 850 Canadian and international artists performed in 58 live venues throughout the city–ranging from small nightclubs to Massey Hall to the Air Canada Centre. That’s not a typo. Over 850 bands from 33 countries performed during the course of five days! Some of the must-see shows included Brody Dalle, Neko Case, City and Colour, Television, The 1975, and Ellie Goulding.

In addition to all that great live music, the CMW also included a film festival, comedy festival, four award programs (including best indie band awards), music summits, and conferences where legendary producer Quincy Jones, Chic guitarist and Daft Punk collaborator Nile Rodgers, and Joel Zimmerman of Deadmau5 fame spoke and were interviewed.

This year CMW featured a “Spotlight on Germany” and Gretsch was proud to be a major sponsor of this event. In addition to being the birthplace of my great-grandfather and company founder, Friedrich Gretsch, Germany has always been an important market for the Gretsch Company. In fact, Germany is Europe’s #1 music market and ranks #4 worldwide for recorded music just behind the United States.

Dinah and I were invited to be guests of honor at a special May 7th “Spotlight on Germany” reception at the Marriott Eaton Centre and had a delightful time meeting various artists and industry representatives from many countries. All of the attendees were also treated to a special live performance by “The Booze Bombs,” Germany’s hottest rockabilly band. They were invited to perform at CMW by Joe Carducci, Senior Product Manager for Gretsch Guitars, who spotted them at a rockabilly festival in Arizona and made them a Gretsch-endorsed band. Guitarist Lucky Steve McBread was ripping it up on his Duo Jet and Rockin’ Bende kept a steady backbeat on his Gretsch drum set. It was a fun, high-energy show from this rockabilly band from the Black Forest of Germany and definitely an evening to remember.

Fred and Dinah Gretsch posing with “The Booze Bombs,” a German rockabilly band after they performed at the May 7th Gretsch-sponsored CMW “Spotlight on Germany” event in Toronto. From left to right: Frank Martinez, Rockin’ Bende, Fred Gretsch, Dinah Gretsch, Annie Leopardo, Lucky Steve McBread.

The rest of the week was spent seeing as many bands as possible, talking with Gretsch fans and dealers, spotting Gretsch guitars and drums being played onstage (like the left-handed green Anniversary guitar played by Joel Gibb of “The Hidden Cameras”), and soaking up the diversity and beauty of a world-class city like Toronto. It is really a cool (and clean) city.

Dinah and I have attended hundreds of music festivals, but nothing quite compares to the depth and diversity of the Canadian Music Week. This was the 32nd year of the festival and I can’t believe it wasn’t on our radar screen before now. Gretsch was proud to sponsor and participate in this year’s festival and Dinah and I plan to be back. I also encourage you to add it to your “must attend” list. The 33rd CMW festival will return to Toronto next year for another week of music, film, comedy, awards, and conferences from May 5 to 9, 2015. Try to be there if you can. It’s quite an experience.

To learn more about the Booze Bombs, visit their Facebook page.

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Gretsch Foundation Underwrites Much-Needed Sound System For Historic South Carolina School

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

The Gretsch Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family, recently underwrote the purchase and installation of a new, state-of-the-art sound system in the auditorium of the 108-year-old Brunson Elementary School in Brunson, S.C.

“We were made aware of this need and wanted to give back to a community near our Ridgeland, South Carolina factory where we’ve been making Gretsch drums for over 30 years,” said Fred Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Foundation. “The goal of the Gretsch Foundation is to enrich lives through participation in music. This small school, known for its fine arts as well as its academics, now has a world-class sound system in their auditorium for the students, parents, and community to enjoy.”

Gretsch said he was able to use industry contacts and had Sweetwater Sounds, Inc. provide the equipment and installation advice. The school received new speakers, an audio mixer, amplifiers, monitors, plus hanging and wireless microphones.

The new system was used for the first time for the school’s recent production of the play, The Ransom of Red Chief. The show also included performances by the school’s Girls Chorus and Blue Steel, the school’s Steel Drum Band.

“Our first show with the new sound system was a big success. The parents were absolutely thrilled,” said Principal Greg Ackerman. “I really do think the sound system added to the students’ confidence. They took a lot of pride in their performance.” Ackerman also shared how important music and arts are for students and said, “People don’t realize the discipline that’s required to learn music and plays. It just makes for a better student.”

The Gretsch Foundation has a long history of helping schools and promoting music participation. In addition to providing music scholarships at Berklee College of Music, Elmhurst College, Georgia Southern University, and the University of West Georgia, the Foundation’s unique GuitarArt program donates used guitars to schools for students and major artists to paint, decorate and auction off for fundraising efforts. It has also donated professional-level Gretsch guitars signed by musicians from bands such as R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, Sugarland, and The B-52’s that have also been auctioned to raise funds for various music and arts education programs.

“The Gretsch family has been making drums and guitars for more than 130 years,” added Gretsch. “My wife Dinah and I represent the fourth generation of that family and believe the research that shows how participating in music helps children excel in all areas of learning. When we heard about this school’s specific need, and with all the budget cuts, we decided to step up and make a difference.”

Gretsch also said that the gift of the new sound system has perhaps sparked the generosity of others in the Brunson community. He was recently told that a parent wanted to donate 200 chairs to the school. “Maybe a seed has been planted in the community,” said Gretsch. “I couldn’t be happier for these students. They deserve it.”

Students from Brunson Elementary School's Steel Drum Band

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Christmas 4 Kids Concert & Gretsch Guitar Auction

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The 13th Annual Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Concert to benefit Christmas 4 Kids was held on Monday, November 25 at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. This concert is the cornerstone of Christmas 4 Kids’ fundraising efforts. The Gretsch Foundation once again provided another classic guitar – a Gretsch Country Classic model built in 2002 and a part of the private Gretsch Foundation collection. During that time it has been loaned to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia and was on display there and also at the Hartsfield Atlanta airport. It was used only sparingly over the years. The guitar is in the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman tradition. It is a double cutaway model with specs to closely match guitars built by Gretsch in 1962.

Event MC, Charlie Chase, Presents Eric Blankenship of All Access Coach with guitar.

Congratulations to Eric Blankenship, owner of All Access Coach, the new owner of this wonderful guitar, who won the silent auction with a bid of $5,500.

For over 20 years Christmas 4 Kids has provided the joy of Christmas for thousands of Middle Tennessee elementary school children who might not otherwise experience it. Each December, local businesses, volunteers, celebrities, recording artists, and bus drivers set aside two days from their busy schedule for these special children. Learn more about this great organization by visiting the web site at www.christmas4kids.org.

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Fred and Dinah Gretsch On The Cover of Georgia Magazine

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Feature Story Celebrates Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary

Fred and Dinah Gretsch, president and CFO (respectively) of The Gretsch Company, are the cover subjects of the December 2013 issue of Georgia magazine. The two music-industry icons were interviewed as part of the magazine’s feature on the company’s 130th anniversary year.

The five-page story includes historic background on the Gretsch family, and how four generations of that family have been involved with the manufacture of drums, guitars, and other high-quality musical instruments. Also noted are the many philanthropic activities that Fred and Dinah Gretsch support and participate in on behalf of music education. The article is illustrated by full-color photos of Gretsch instruments, along with photos from recent anniversary events that illustrate the family’s on-going commitment to the Gretsch legacy.

Georgia magazine is published by Georgia Electric Membership Corporation and is read by more than 1.5 million Georgians each month. For more information on the magazine visit georgiamagazine.org. For more information on the The Gretsch Company and the Gretsch family, visit gretsch.com.

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