Posts Tagged ‘Gretsch’

A Very Special Gretsch Weekend

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

With 2013 marking The Gretsch Company’s 130th anniversary, we knew it would be an exceptionally busy year filled with an array of special events and celebrations involving some of our terrific Gretsch artists and including lots of great Gretsch fans!  The period from July 10 through 14, however, proved to be especially jam-packed.  And here’s what happened:

Postcards 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 their grandson Logan Thomas) attended both of these events this past July 10 through 14. Fred offers his thanks to those who visited with him, and offers the following photos as “postcards from Nashville.”

Fred & Osmond Patterson @ NAMM

Met lots of great folks in Nashville. Pictured here with Osmond Patterson of Artesian Music.

Fred Gretsch with Osmond Patterson

Fred, Joe C, & Jerry Ozee @ CAAS

Another great CAAS event. Pictured here with Jerry Ozee (at center) and the one and only Joe Carducci (Gretsch Guitars product manager).

Fred Gretsch with Joe Carducci and Jerry Ozee

Fred & Don Graham @ CAAS

Met some terrific Gretsch fans at CAAS, such as Don Graham, proud Gretsch owner since 1960. Thank you Don.

Fred Gretsch with Don Graham

Fred & Don Cerce @ CAAS

Here I am with Don Cerce and his beloved Gretsch 6120 Country Gentleman.

Fred Gretsch with Don Cerce

Fred & Carlton Jones @ CAAS

I had a chance to sign Carlton’s guitar. Enjoyed meeting so many great Gretsch enthusiasts & Chet fans.

Fred Gretsch with Carlton Jones

Fred & Bill Lord @ NAMM

Here I am with Bill Lord, Editor in Chief of The NashVegas Insider. Nice chap.

Fred Gretsch with Bill Lord

Fred & Eric Hartley @ NAMM

Another great day in Nashville. Enjoyed meeting Eric Hartley with The Gear Getter.

Fred Gretsch With Eric Hartley

Fred & Joey Joy @ CAAS

Terrific photo taken with Joey Joy of Joy Ride here in Nashville.

Fred Gretsch with Joey Joy

Fred & Harrison Woodlief @ NAMM

Really terrific to see the next generation of musicians during NAMM & CAAS. We hear Harrison’s next purchase may be a Gretsch guitar.

Fred Gretsch with Harrison Woodlief

A special thank-you to everyone for these great memories!

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Fred And Dinah Gretsch Attend Music Makes Us Luncheon

Event Celebrates Nashville’s Commitment To Music Education

Dinah & Fred Gretsch. Photo by Spark St. Jude-MagicOnFilm.

On July 11 a unique event happened in Nashville. Held in coordination with the Summer NAMM musical-instrument trade show, 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.

Music Makes Us is joint venture between Nashville’s Metro schools and music industry leaders, targeted at developing a curriculum that offers a variety of approaches to public-school music education. This includes traditional programs like concert band and choir, but also includes classes in rock music, songwriting, bluegrass, and even mariachi styles.  “We want to draw students to making music in other genres,” said Music Makes Us director Laurie Schell. “It’s an opportunity to open doors for students who might not otherwise choose music.”

Fred Gretsch comments, “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. We learned that of the 84,000 students in the Nashville system, fully 100% of them are exposed to music and arts at the elementary level, and 62% system-wide. The school system employs 200 music and arts teachers, with the goal of having the best program in the world. I believe that Nashville’s progressive approach to music and arts education should be a model for the rest of the country.”

Guests at the July 11 luncheon were greeted with a performance by the McGavock High School Saxophone Quartet, directed by Jacob Campos. Speakers included NAMM president Joe Lamond, Nashville mayor Karl Dean, director of schools Jesse Register, senior vice president of the Recording Academy Nancy Shapiro, Music Makes Us director Laurie Schell, coordinator of visual and performing arts Dr. Nola Jones, and NAMM Foundation executive director Mary Luehrsen. A performance by Gibson Artists Chris & Lolly ended the event.

Video clips of the luncheon performances as well as comments from Laurie Schell and Nancy Shapiro may be viewed HERE.

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Fred Gretsch Offers Insight at Summer NAMM

Participates In a Unique Panel of Industry Icons

Fred Gretsch greatly enjoyed his participation.

Fred Gretsch represents the fourth generation of The Gretsch Family and the company that bears its name. With nearly fifty years in the business himself, Fred 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. These included Chris Martin (Martin guitars), Sterling Ball (Ernie Ball strings and accessories), Jim D’Addario (D’Addario & Co.), Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars), and Hartley Peavey (Peavey amplifiers and guitars). 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 (founder of Two Old Hippies LLC).

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. Segments included manufacturing, business and leadership, and the future of retail. 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. Along that line, when we were asked what we would do if we were ‘king for a day,’ I responded with what I’d learned earlier that same day about the music education program in the Nashville school system. With 84,000 students in the system, 100% of them are exposed to music and art at the elementary level, and 62% system-wide. The district employs 200 music and arts teachers, with the goal of having the best program in the world. My ‘kingly decree’ would be to implement that same music program in all 164,000 school systems in America. I got a terrific round of applause from the 1,000-plus folks in attendance.”

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A Special Card For Bill

Drummers From Across The Country Help Gretsch Celebrate Bill Hagner’s 90th Birthday

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. He held that job during the heady days of the 1950s and early ’60s, when jazz greats like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams—as well as future rock superstars Charlie Watts and Phil Collins—all graced the Gretsch roster.

When Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967, Bill stayed on. He moved to Booneville, Arkansas when the drum factory was relocated there, and later transferred to Baldwin’s Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters as Sales Manager. Eventually he left Baldwin, and for a while he was out of the music business altogether. But when Fred Gretsch brought the Gretsch Company back to family ownership in 1985, who better to call on to help move drum-making operations out of Arkansas and into Ridgeland, South Carolina (where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today) than Bill Hagner? Bill’s help proved invaluable in getting the operation up and running in its new home.

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 soon-to-be-released Gretsch Drum Book.

Rob picks up the story saying, “Fred advised me early last spring that Bill had this milestone birthday approaching. Fred was spreading the word in hopes that at least ninety people would send birthday cards to Bill. 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—including well-known artists Bun E. Carlos and Tommy Wells.”

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

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

After collecting all the signatures, Rob forwarded the card to Fred Gretsch. Fred and his wife (and Gretsch Company CFO) Dinah added their own congratulatory message, and then arranged to have the card presented to Bill Hagner in person. Fred and Dinah were to be in Nashville at the summer NAMM show on Bill’s birthday weekend, so they called on Ken “K.C.” Kramer—who lives in Florida not far from Bill’s home in Fort Myers—to make the presentation on their behalf. Ken is the son of Duke Kramer, who was himself a key figure in Gretsch operations for almost seventy years.

“Bill was extremely appreciative of the card and all the well wishes that came with it,” says Ken. “He enjoyed trying to read the names and figure out who he might know. 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.

For more information on Bill Hagner’s contributions to Gretsch history, be sure to check out The Gretsch Book by Rob Cook with John Sheridan. The official release of this important new book will take place on August 3, 2013 in New York City as part of the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration. The event in Manhattan is being jointly hosted by Fred Gretsch, Joe Carducci, John Palmer, Steve Maxwell’s Vintage & Custom Drums, and Rudy’s Music. Additional information on the book and the release event is at the Rebeats website.

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There’s a lot more to come in 2013 so stay tuned for more updates from our 130th Anniversary events!!

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Ben Tucker In Memoriam

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Ben Tucker

I join with the musical community of Savannah, Georgia—and, in fact, of the world—in mourning the death of upright bass great Ben Tucker this past June 4. His loss leaves a void in the hearts of jazz fans everywhere.

Although the Gretsch Company is best known for drums and guitars, the Gretsch Family is keenly interested in all aspects of music—and in the great players, like Ben, who have blessed us by their creation of that music. In addition, my wife Dinah and I are residents of the Savannah suburb of Pooler, and we had the opportunity to get to know Ben as a personal friend. It is in that context that we will miss him the most.

Ben had a long and distinguished career, performing with stars including Quincy Jones, Buddy Rich, Dexter Gordon, and Peggy Lee. He also had success as a songwriter.  His “Comin’ Home Baby,” co-written with jazz vocalist Bob Dorough, was recorded by Mel Torme, Herbie Mann, and most recently Michael Buble.

After settling in Savannah in the 1970s Ben made his living playing his upright bass—which he dubbed “Bertha” and claimed was 240 years old—at jazz festivals, in nightclubs, and for wedding receptions  and  bar mitzvahs.  As one of Savannah’s best-known working musicians, he was a beloved mainstay of the city’s musical scene. On the day of his death he was eighty-two years old . . . and he had a gig that night.

In addition to being a stellar performer, Ben was one of the most likeable individuals you’d ever want to meet. And it always seemed as though everyone did want to meet him. Any performance taking place in Savannah was likely to be as much a love-fest for Ben as it was a musical event. Ben’s long-time bandmate Howard Paul—a great jazz guitarist and president/CEO of Benedetto Guitars—memorialized Ben by saying, “When we played with Ben we could count on being interrupted at least three times in a song because Savannahians would walk up and shake his hand while we were playing.”

Losing Ben is particularly tragic because, although he was advanced in years, his death did not come as the result of failing health, sudden illness, or even what could legitimately be called an “accident.” Instead, it was the senseless result of reckless and reprehensible behavior by someone else behind the wheel of a car. So it cannot be said that Ben “left us.” The truth is he was taken from us, which makes his absence all the more painful.

Dinah and I were honored to attend the musical memorial that was Ben’s funeral. We know that Ben would have been flattered—and perhaps a bit embarrassed—by the outpouring of feeling that was expressed by those in attendance. And he would definitely have enjoyed the raucous New Orleans-style second-line parade and jazz fest that followed. I’m sure that he was there in spirit, expertly plunking his beloved “Bertha” and grinning from ear to ear.

Fred W. Gretsch

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Spotlight: The New Renown

Friday, June 7th, 2013

FROM THE GRETSCH DRUMS WEBSITE:

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

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

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

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

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Tribute to Mulgrew Miller

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Like the rest of the music world, I’m saddened by the passing of jazz piano great Mulgrew Miller. Although the Gretsch brand is best known for drums and guitars, the Gretsch Family is keenly interested in all aspects of music—and in the great players, like Mulgrew, who have blessed us by their creation of that music.

Along with his personal accomplishments as a soloist and bandleader, Mulgrew lent his instrumental prowess to several groups as a sideman. Perhaps most notable of these was his tenure as pianist in the Tony Williams Quintet from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s. It was while he held this chair that he appeared with Tony at Gretsch’s 110th anniversary dinner and concert at the NAMM show in Anaheim in 1993. My wife Dinah and I met him there, and we came to appreciate him as a warm, gentlemanly individual as well as a prodigious talent. We visited with Mulgrew many times in the ensuing years, and we always enjoyed spending time with him.

For those who might not have seen or heard Mulgrew with Tony’s quintet, I recommend the links below, which showcase the group at a live show in New York in 1989. The clips also feature Tony’s great drumming on his legendary yellow Gretsch drumkit. Both gentlemen are gone now, but their musical legacy lives on for us to hear and enjoy.

Fred W. Gretsch

Video Clip 1

Video Clip 2

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Happy Birthday Bill!

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

by Fred W. Gretsch

This coming July 13th is an important date to me. It’s the 90th birthday of Bill Hagner—a gentleman who figures highly in the history of Gretsch musical-instrument manufacturing. In fact, for many years Bill was personally responsible for seeing that that manufacturing was conducted smoothly and efficiently.

Bill started working at Gretsch on December 1, 1941—six days prior to Pearl Harbor day. In a 2009 interview with Gretsch Family publicist Rick Van Horn, Bill recalls, “I had just finished high school, and I answered an ad in the paper for someone to work in the Gretsch factory in Brooklyn. I was essentially a clerk. One day I went in to the office of Phil Nash, who was a vice president, and he said to me, ‘I want to tell you something right from the start: Someday this is going to be big company. So I advise you, if you have any interest [in a career], learn what you’re doing and stay with it.” Bill took Mr. Nash’s advice to heart.

Because he was working for Gretsch in 1941, young Bill had the opportunity to interact with my grandfather Fred Gretsch Sr. during the last year that Grandpa was running the company. In that same 2009 interview Bill tells the following story about one such interaction: “Fred Gretsch Sr. came in one day and showed me a little piece of chrome-plated metal, about three inches long. He said, ‘I took this off of a can opener. Some day you’re going to need a piece just like this to use as a throw-off for a snare strainer.’ That’s the foresight this man had.”

One of Bill’s early jobs was to prepare the payroll for the factory workers. All jobs were done as “piece work” at the time, and Bill had to review and approve individual pay slips for each job. When he didn’t understand an operation that was being paid for, he’d go to the worker and say, “Explain what you’re doing to me.” In that way he eventually became knowledgeable about every operation taking place—preparing him to become plant manager down the road.

During World War II American industry turned much of its efforts toward war-related production, and Gretsch was no exception. Speaking of these days in Chet Falzerano’s Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of “That Great Gretsch Sound,” Bill recalls, “We manufactured musical instruments during the day, till 5:00 p.m. Then I set up a night shift to work till 1 a.m. making wooden parts for gas masks. We made one-inch-wide hoops, like for a bass drum, but only ten to twelve inches in diameter. They were used in the bottom and top sections of the gas mask. Those were the only war products that we made. We also manufactured musical instruments for the government.”

Bill remained with Gretsch after the war, eventually becoming plant manager at the Brooklyn factory at 60 Broadway. The 1950s and early 60s were heady days for Gretsch drums, with great endorsers like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams on the jazz side, and future superstars Charlie Watts and Phil Collins on the rock side. Those drummers would visit the factory, and Bill would give them the grand tour, showing them every detail of how their drums were made.

When my uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., sold the company to Baldwin in 1967, Bill stayed on. He eventually moved to Booneville, Arkansas when the drum factory was relocated there. But after operations were established by Baldwin, they brought in their own people to run things. Bill found himself transferred to Baldwin’s Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters as Sales Manager.

Bill Reading Gretsch Drums, The Legacy Of “That Great Gretsch Sound” by Chet Falzerano

In Chet Falzerano’s book Bill recalls, “[Baldwin] really didn’t have anybody familiar with the drum situation. From there on it went downhill. About a year later Baldwin’s vice president in charge of all their factories came to me in Cincinnati and said, ‘You know Bill, I have to apologize. I should have let you run [the Booneville factory] the way you ran it in Brooklyn.’ It was really a nice thing to say, but it was too late.”

Bill eventually left the Baldwin Company, and for a short time he manufactured his own line of drums. But marketing problems impeded his start-up efforts, and his venture was not successful. So for a while he took his talents out of the music business completely.

Meanwhile, under Baldwin’s management Gretsch’s fortunes continued to decline. By 1983 they were looking to sell the company altogether. Baldwin’s loss became my gain in January of 1985, when we formally closed a deal that returned the Gretsch Company to family ownership. This was the realization of a dream for me.

Shortly thereafter I wanted to move drum-making operations out of Arkansas and into Ridgeland, South Carolina—where the Gretsch USA drum factory is still located today. Who better to help me in that effort than Bill Hagner? I got in touch with Bill, who was living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the time. He offered his services to help in the move of both machinery and inventory. That help proved invaluable in getting the drum-making operation up and running in its new home.

All in all, Bill Hagner spent fifty-eight years associated with Gretsch. His contributions over those years are a significant part of the Gretsch legacy. So, on behalf of the Gretsch Family and all Gretsch fans everywhere, I want to say, “Thanks, Bill…and Happy Birthday!”

Fred W. Gretsch

Bill Hagner

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Gretsch: 130 Years and Four Generations . . .

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

An Excerpt From The Savannah Morning News:

Gretsch: 130 years and four generations of strummin’ and drummin’

The small forest of guitars is tucked into what Fred W. Gretsch calls his “studio.”

To anybody who can play even a few chords, it’s more a Shangri-la.

Colorfully decorated Gretsch Super Axes flank richly wooded acoustic guitars and stylish Thunderbirds. Renowned Chet Atkins models dot the rows.

One instrument in particular garners Gretsch’s attention. The banjo is perhaps the most unassuming of the lot. The strings and head reflect its great age — it is a 1920s model — and the aluminum rim doesn’t shine like the metal parts of its peers in the collection.

But to Gretsch, the instrument signifies what has sustained his family’s business for 130 years.

Innovation and dedication.

“We started using aluminum for banjo rims in the 1920s, and the advances we made from there we drew on in building drums in the 1930s and 1940s,” Gretsch said. “What we learned from drums we put into practice at the dawn of the rock and roll era in the 1950s and on and on. We are a company that’s consistently built on its past.”

The company is celebrating that history this year. Gretsch is the fourth generation of his family to head the Pooler-based business since his great-grandfather, German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch, opened a small music shop in Brooklyn in 1883.

The original shop specialized in banjos, drums and tambourines. The company grew as the accordion and other band instruments gained popularity in the first half of the 1900s. Rock and roll guitars and drums made Gretsch a household name starting in the 1950s.

Fred Gretsch expects the company to thrive for several more generations and continue to be renowned for the “great Gretsch sound” made famous by music legends such as Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Charlie Watts, Davy Jones, Bono, Bo Diddley and Brian Setzer.

“Antonio Stradivarius also made amazing stringed instruments and led a prosperous life,” Gretsch said of the famed violin maker. “But his family did not benefit from his name and his designs. I want to ensure that the Gretsch family remains a key part of this company for the next 100 years of business.”

See Photos and Read the Entire Article at SavannahNow.com.


TIMELINE – 130 YEARS OF THAT GREAT GRETSCH SOUND!

1883 Friedrich Gretsch, 27, who emigrated from Germany at 16, opens a small music shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., making banjos, drums, and tambourines.

1883 - Friedrich Gretsch Opens Small Music Shop in Brooklyn.

1895 Friedrich Gretsch becomes ill while traveling in Germany and dies at age 39. Fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, Sr., takes over family business.

1916 Company moves to 10-story building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1916 - Gretsch Opens Ten-Story Building at 60 Broadway, Brooklyn (sketch).

1918 Fred Gretsch, Sr. develops revolutionary multi-ply drum lamination process resulting in the world’s first “warp free” drum hoop.

1920 Gretsch’s manufacturing facility expands to become the world’s largest music instrument manufacturing factory.

1927 Company introduces historic Gretsch-American drum series, featuring the industry’s first multi ply drum shell. Gretsch uses its own name on guitars for the first time, rather than just selling to wholesalers.

1935 Broadkaster drum line introduced. Duke Kramer begins his 70-year career at Gretsch. Known as “Mr. Guitar Man,” Kramer would become pivotal in making Gretsch® electric guitars what they are today.

"Mr. Guitar Man" Duke Kramer

1937 Historic partnership with master drummer and inventor Billy Gladstone begins. The Gretsch-Gladstone drum line is introduced.

1939 Gretsch introduces its first electric guitar – the Electromatic – and the Synchromatic archtop guitar series. Jimmie Webster, guitar innovator and player, joins Gretsch. Distinctive triangle sound hole appears on Gretsch acoustic guitars.

1942 Fred Gretsch, Sr. retires from the company, leaving the day-to-day operations to his sons, Fred Gretsch, Jr. and William “Bill” Gretsch, both of whom had been active in the business since 1927. Gretsch stops instrument production to assist in war efforts. After a brief term at the company’s helm, Fred Gretsch, Jr. leaves the company to serve as a commander in the U.S. Navy. Bill Gretsch becomes president.

William "Bill" Gretsch and Fred Gretsch, Jr. pictured with Brother Richard Gretsch.

1946 Gretsch resumes instrument production. Phil Grant, master percussionist and innovator, joins Gretsch. Gretsch and Louis Bellson team up to introduce first production double bass drum kit.

Louie Bellson with his 1946 double bass kit.

1947 Gretsch forges relationship with legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York, N.Y.

1948 Bill Gretsch dies from illness. Fred Gretsch, Jr. assumes control of the business, kicking off a new age of prosperity for the company–the age of rock ‘n’ roll.

1951 First cutaway bodies appear on Electromatic and new Electro II guitar models.

1953 Duo-Jet production starts, sparking the entire Jet line of Gretsch solid-body guitars.

1954 Jimmie Webster strikes a deal with guitarist Chet Atkins to develop a Chet Atkins-designed Gretsch guitar. Gretsch begins its eye-catching “color revolution” by introducing sparkling Silver Jet and famous Western Orange, Cadillac Green and Jaguar Tan finishes. First Bigsby® vibratos offered on Gretsch electrics.

1955 Gretsch introduces White Falcon and 6120 Chet Atkins models.

Gretsch White Falcon

1957 Gretsch begins production of Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar model. The model would soon rise to popularity with other legendary guitarists.  Twang is born: Duane Eddy purchases new 6120 at Ziggie’s Accordion & Guitar Studio in Phoenix, AZ.

The King of Twang Duane Eddy

1959 Project-O-Sonic stereo guitar system introduced. Gretsch builds Bo Diddley his futuristic Jupiter Thunderbird guitar. Gretsch drum endorsee Jimmy Cobb records “Kind of Blue” with Miles Davis.

1960 George Harrison buys a used ‘57 Gretsch Duo Jet, the guitar featured during The Beatles’ earliest recordings and tours. “Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland” is recorded by four legendary Gretsch drum endorsees: Art Blakey, Charlie Persip, Elvin Jones and “Philly” Joe Jones.

Harrison Tribute Duo Jet

1962 Double-cutaway Electrotone thinline series introduced.

1964 “Beatlemania” is born on The Ed Sullivan Show. George Harrison’s use of a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar ignites frenzy among aspiring guitarists.

1965 George Harrison adds a Gretsch Tennessean to his guitar collection.

1967 Fred Gretsch, Jr. retires and sells The Gretsch Company to Baldwin Music Company. His nephew, Fred W. Gretsch, vows to buy the company back.

1969 The Rolling Stones tour the U.S. with Charlie Watts playing Gretsch drums.

1970 Baldwin moves Gretsch drum & guitar production to Booneville, Ark.

1972 Baldwin moves Gretsch’s New York business offices to Chicago. Chet Atkins’ “Super Chet” guitar introduced.

1973 Baldwin signs over production duties to Bill Hagner and his newly formed Hagner Musical Instrument Corp. Two major fires damage Arkansas guitar & drum plant.

1977 Chet Atkins’ “Super Axe” guitars introduced.

1978 Gretsch drum & guitar production reverts from Bill Hagner back to Baldwin.

1979 Baldwin moves Gretsch sales and administration offices to Chanute, Kansas.

1980 An attempt by Baldwin to re-launch guitar production in Juarez, Mexico fails after only a handful of guitars are built. Baldwin shuts down Gretsch guitar production.

1982 Rockabilly returns with Gretsch guitar slinger Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats releasing their first U.S. single, “Rock This Town.” The group also features Slim Jim Phantom on Gretsch drums.

1985 Eighteen years after the company was sold to Baldwin, Fred W. Gretsch, great-grandson of the company founder, fulfills his promise to buy the company back and return it to the family fold. Gretsch establishes drum manufacturing center in Ridgeland, S.C.

1988 George Harrison collaborates with Gretsch to produce the unique Traveling Wilburys collector guitar.

1989 Modern Gretsch guitar production begins in earnest. Gretsch introduces professional line of Gretsch electric and acoustic guitars.

1993 Gretsch begins production of Brian Setzer signature guitar model.

Setzer Signature Guitars

1998 Gretsch announces budget-priced “Electromatic,” “Synchromatic,” and “Historic” guitar lines.

1999 Gretsch purchases Bigsby Accessories from owner and former Gibson CEO Ted McCarty. Bo Diddley signature rectangular guitar re-introduced.

1999 - Gretsch Acquires Bigsby

2000 Kaman Music (KMCMusicorp) becomes exclusive Gretsch Drums worldwide distributor.

2002 Gretsch grants Fender Musical Instruments Corporation exclusive rights to develop, produce, market, and distribute Gretsch Guitars worldwide.

2006 Gretsch teams up with legendary Bo Diddley and Billy F. Gibbons to design the “Billy-Bo” Jupiter Thunderbird guitar. Stephen Ferrone signature series drums introduced.

2007 Chet Atkins’ name once again adorns extensive line of Gretsch electric guitars.

2008 Gretsch celebrates 125th anniversary.  Endows scholarship at Berklee College of Music in honor of Jimmie Webster.

For Gretsch's 125th Anniversary in 2008, a Portrait of Four Past Presidents was Commissioned. Artist: Amy Hahn-Lind.

2011 Gretsch introduces George Harrison Duo Jet tribute guitar. Chet Atkins Exhibit opens at The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.

Chet Atkins Exhibition

2012 New Brooklyn drum series, Rancher Acoustics, and Roots Collection introduced.

2013 Gretsch celebrates 130th Anniversary.  Iconic Round Badge returns to Gretsch Drums.

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Thank You to GP Mag for Hall of Fame Award

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

To the Editor, Guitar Player Magazine:

On behalf of the Gretsch Family past and present, I’d like to thank the editors of Guitar Player for including us among the Manufacturing Legends named to your inaugural Hall 0f Fame in the November 2012 issue. To be selected for this singular honor is quite an achievement, especially considering the stellar individuals with whom we share it.

I’d like to add how pleased I am to see that Paul Bigsby is also among the inaugural honorees. Gretsch Guitars and Bigsby Vibratos have shared a long and musically rewarding partnership, and I’m proud to say that the Bigsby brand is today a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gretsch Company.

As the Gretsch Family enters its 130th anniversary year of musical instrument manufacturing in 2013, guitarists around the world can rest assured that the legacy of innovation and quality that began in 1883 still guides our efforts today—and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Fred W. Gretsch

4th Generation

President

The Gretsch Company

Cover: Guitar Player Magazine November 2012

Manufacturing Legends: Paul Bigsby & The Gretsch Family

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The Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Elmhurst College’s Unique Musical Endeavor

Elmhurst College Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

Ensembles of various descriptions are a staple of music education programs at colleges and universities across the country. Most tend to be based on stylistic or ethnic themes, such as big band ensembles, classical string ensembles, Latin jazz ensembles, etc. But the music program at Elmhurst College in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois boasts an ensemble based on a rather unusual instrumental grouping. This is the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble.

While virtually all other ensemble opportunities for electric guitarists have only one guitar chair, the GEGE features five electric guitarists, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. This provides a unique opportunity for guitarists to learn to play with each other, emphasizing blend, balance, phrasing, dynamics, and articulation.

There are actually two electric guitar ensembles at Elmhurst, and they date back to 1992. Through an audition process at the start of each academic year, the top five guitarists are placed in the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble—so named in 1993 to honor the support and contributions of Gretsch Company president (and Elmhurst College alum) Fred W. Gretsch. Since the early 1990s the Gretsch Family has generously funded student scholarships in music and music business, as well as the development of the Gretsch Recording Studio at the college.

The GEGE has had four directors since its founding. Current director Mike Pinto has led the group since 2007. The Ensemble is part of the jazz department, and while the repertoire certainly includes jazz, it also includes fusion, rock, blues, and pop. Says Pinto, “I feel that electric guitar students studying jazz here at the college need to be versatile and learn to apply jazz skills to other electric guitar-oriented styles. We play only arrangements written specifically for five guitars, bass, and drums. Charts of this type are available for sale, but there aren’t a ton of them. So I write many arrangements for the group, and students are encouraged to write arrangements as well. We’ve performed many student charts over the years that I’ve directed the group.”

Students register for the Ensemble as a class, and it is an educational experience for them. But with an eye to “the real world,” Mike Pinto teaches and directs the group within the context of preparing for professional performances. To support this approach the Ensemble performs three to five times per semester, both on- and off-campus.

After the Ensemble was named in his honor, Fred Gretsch donated a Gretsch Country Gentleman Junior guitar to the group. Mike Pinto is now entrusted with that guitar, and he uses it to teach with. It’s also occasionally played by students in the Ensemble.

Speaking of students, the current roster of the GEGE includes five very talented young guitarists, along with equally talented gentlemen on bass and drums. Most are seniors who are concluding their tenure in the group…and at the college. Individually, they are:

Andrew Ecklund (guitar). A senior music business and jazz studies major at Elmhurst, Andrew has been a member of the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, the Elmhurst College Jazz Band, and jazz combo. His talent and dedication earned him the Gretsch music scholarship for the 2011/2012 school year. Andrew is also active in the Chicago music scene, playing with numerous rock bands and big bands. He appreciates the opportunities that music gives him to share and teach, and he does so as a member of the GRAMMY Foundation team.

Peter Jump (guitar). Peter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree and a Performance Certificate from Elmhurst College. He’s a composer and arranger of a number of works for solo guitar, guitar quartet, and various types of ensembles. He has composed music for several student films and video games, which is his primary career interest. Some significant influences to his guitar playing are David Gilmour, Buckethead, and Greg Howe.

Matt Richter (guitar) Matt is a senior who’ll be graduating with a degree in Music Business. His involvement in music includes playing classical and jazz guitar, as well teaching students of various skill levels at a local music store. Matt plans to go on to graduate school to obtain his masters degree in classical guitar performance.

Owen Szorc (guitar). Owen is a senior in his third year with the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble. He’ll be graduating from Elmhurst College with joint degrees in Music Business and Jazz Studies.

Dan Weiss (guitar). Dan is an exercise science major (with minors in music and business administration) who played his first two years at Elmhurst in another one of Mike Pinto’s electric guitar ensembles, and the most recent two in the Gretsch Ensemble. Dan is also passionate about drums and percussion, as well as tinkering with any kind of instrument he can get his hands on.

Richard Stancato (bass). Richard is a senior Music Business major. He’s been playing bass with the Gretsch Guitar Ensemble for one semester. He cites his main influences on the bass as including Jaco Pastorius, Les Claypool, and Stanley Clarke.

Joel Baer
(drums). A senior and a jazz studies major, Joel began playing and learning drums from his father Jeff. He alater became interested in jazz while studying with Jack Brand. Joel works regularly around Chicago, playing with bluesman Pistol Pete, progressive rock guitarist Clark Colborn, and several jazz groups.

To document the talents of the current edition of the Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble, the group has produced a professional recording of one of their unique arrangements.

Click below to check out the video and enjoy the sounds of this exceptional musical group.

Elmhurst College Gretsch Electric Guitar Ensemble

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