Posts Tagged ‘Mrs. G’s Music Foundation’

Great Gretsch Guitarists: Joe Robinson

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Multi-talented Wonder From Down Under

By Fred W. Gretsch

In 2001, the Gretsch family lost a dear friend with the passing of Chet Atkins, one of the most talented guitarists and influential musicians of a generation. That same year, a 10-year-old boy named Joe Robinson, living half a world away in Australia, was jumping on a trampoline one day, heard Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” on his Dad’s stereo, and decided it was time to stop the piano lessons and start playing a much cooler instrument: the guitar.

A young Joe at home in Australia doing what else? Playing guitar!

I’d like to thank Joe’s parents (and Eric Clapton) for their roles in that pivotal moment. As many of you know, Joe was a quick learner for his age. The 10-year-old soon outgrew his guitar teacher, and because he lived in a small, remote town in Australia, taught himself primarily through online lessons and YouTube videos. A year later, an 11-year-old Joe was being mentored  – and playing onstage – with fellow Australian (and Chet Atkins CGP Award winner) Tommy Emmanuel, one of the world’s pre-eminent fingerpicker guitarists.

The prodigy picker’s teenage years were just as eventful. There are too many highlights, awards, and accolades to list, but here are a few: Joe won the Australian National Songwriting Competition at 13, recorded his first album at 15, won Australia’s Got Talent grand finale (playing a blistering Tommy Emmanuel-inspired version of “Classical Gas”), and recorded his second critically-acclaimed album “Time Jumpin’” at 17. He was also named “Best New Talent” in Guitar Player magazine’s reader poll, and toured extensively across Europe, Japan, Australia, and America, impressing audiences and winning over new fans with his jaw-dropping guitar chops and intense, energetic live shows.

And Joe hasn’t stopped evolving or showing any signs of slowing down in his 20s. He released a breakthrough album, “Let Me Introduce You” in 2012 that featured one of Joe’s best-kept secrets: his smooth, soulful voice.  The five-star album was an impressive mix of mature, melodic songwriting, superb acoustic and electric guitar playing, and a voice that complimented his own style of blues, rock, jazz and R&B.

The Guitar Army Tour featuring Robben Ford (left), Joe Robinson, and Lee Roy Parnell.

The Guitar Army Tour featuring Robben Ford (left), Joe Robinson, and Lee Roy Parnell.

Now a resident of Nashville, Joe has continued his growth and evolution as an artist by honing his singing, songwriting, and composing skills. He recently released three highly-rated EPs and is a current member of the Guitar Army Tour, sharing the stage with legendary guitarists and musicians Robben Ford and Lee Roy Parnell. Dinah and I had the pleasure of visiting with Joe recently and attending a show in Virginia. It was an amazing performance by this trio of superb musicians. What a show!

Dinah and I are so proud to have Joe in the Gretsch family of artists, and were happy to learn that one of Joe’s heroes and early influences was Chet Atkins. Joe’s parents were amateur musicians and had a lot of musician friends at their home, especially on weekends, jamming into the wee hours of the morning. According to Joe, one group of friends lived and breathed Chet Atkins. They played Chet’s songs on a Gretsch Country Gentleman and even showed young Joe how to play with a thumbpick. Through Chet’s music, Joe learned a wide range of styles, the importance of a good melody, and how to fingerpick. It also exposed him to fellow Australian and Chet disciple, Tommy Emmanuel, and Joe said he continued to “absorb Chet Atkins” through playing and mentoring with Tommy.

Joe with a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman.

It’s appropriate that one of Joe’s main guitars onstage and in the studio is a Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman. He plays both a full-sized 6122 and a Country Gentleman Junior. And, it’s even more appropriate that Joe first fell in love with his Country Gent at the Gretsch display at a Chet Atkins Appreciation Society event in Nashville. Although he thinks of himself as an acoustic player first, Joe was drawn to his Gretsch because of its fingerpicking-friendly feel and its versatility when plugged in. He also loves his Country Gentleman for what Joe calls its “big, fat sound.”

Dinah and I also appreciate Joe’s willingness to share his love of music with students. Joe has made three visits to Thomas Heyward Academy in Ridgeland, S.C. as part of Dinah’s Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, which supports music education in rural schools. Joe said he remembers musicians visiting his rural high school in Australia and encouraging and inspiring him, so he jumps at any chance to get in front of children and teenagers to do the same. Joe’s friendly, down-to-earth personality and his own inspiring story of hard work and determination really help him connect with the students. Plus, Joe uses the opportunity to try out new songs, because he says kids will give you honest feedback and tell you exactly what they think, which he finds refreshing.

If Chet Atkins were here today, he would undoubtedly like Joe Robinson and enjoy trading licks, playing, and recording with this young Australian virtuoso. He would approve of his work ethic (Joe woke up at 4 a.m. and practiced four hours before school, then practiced four hours after school), the level head on his shoulders, his drive to grow and explore new musical directions, and his total love for the guitar (like Chet, Joe often falls asleep with his guitar).  I also think Mr. Guitar would approve of Joe representing Gretsch and playing one of his signature guitars onstage and in the studio, because like Chet, Joe is also a gentleman. He just happens to be from another country.

Joe Robinson and Pat Bergeson performing their Salute to Chet Atkins at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2011.

YouTube Clips:

This clip of 16-year-old “Smokin’Joe” Robinson performing his “Day Tripper/Lady Madonna” instrumental on Australia’s Got Talent TV Show has had over 3 million views.

Joe performing “Lethal Injection” with Bernard Harris on bass and Marcus Hill on drums.

Joe obliges Fred Gretsch’s request from the audience to play “Adelaide” at the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration in 2013.

Joe and Richard Smith (right) honoring Merle Travis and Chet Atkins by performing an impromptu fingerpicking classic, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” at the Gretsch 130th Anniversary Celebration in 2013.

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Dinah Gretsch Featured In Pooler Magazine

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Dinah Gretsch's Pooler Magazine Cover

Already one of the best-known women in the musical instrument industry, Dinah Gretsch can now add “cover girl” to her list of credits. The Gretsch Company CFO (and wife of company president Fred W. Gretsch) was recently the subject of the cover story in Pooler magazine. The publication is a regional title that focuses on key personalities and events in the Savannah, Georgia suburb for which it’s named. Fred and Dinah Gretsch live in Pooler, and the community is just a short drive from the Gretsch drum factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

In addition to outlining the 127-year history of the Gretsch Company, the Pooler Magazine cover story also spotlights Dinah Gretsch’s current personal efforts as an activist for music education, including the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation. Dinah founded that organization in 2010 to help local schools keep music instruction in their curriculum. The article quotes Dinah as saying, “I love kids, and kids love music. There are some rural schools in our area that never had music education. So the foundation is helping to start those programs from scratch.” So far the Mrs. G’s Foundation has brought the World Drumming Program to Savannah’s Notre Dame Academy and to Ridgeland’s Thomas Heyward Academy, in addition to funding music teachers and a visiting-artist program that’s already presented drummers Mark Schulman (Pink) and Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and guitarists Bob Sabellico, Richard Kiser, and Joe Robinson. In addition, a collaboration with the Lexington, Kentucky-based Foundation For Music Learning, has resulted in music instruction being placed in eight Headstart programs in Savannah.

For more information on Dinah Gretsch’s Pooler Magazine cover story, go to Pooler Magazine’s website.

Dinah Gretsch Sponsors THA’s Got Talent Event

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Mrs. G’s Music Foundation Supports Celebrity Judges at Local Contest

The Mrs. G’s Music Foundation, created by Gretsch Company CFO Dinah Gretsch to support music education in rural schools, recently sponsored the THA’s Got Talent contest at Thomas Heyward Academy in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Held this past March 15, the competition presented performances in vocal, dance, and variety by kindergarten through twelfth grade THA students.

THA's Got Talent Judges

On hand to serve as a celebrity judges for the evening were Stephen Ferrone and Joe Robinson. Currently a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Ferrone’s touring and recording credits include The Average White Band, Chaka Khan, Paul Simon, George Benson, and Eric Clapton. Robinson is a guitar prodigy who won the 2008 edition of Australia’s Got Talent at the age of sixteen and has since headlined shows around the world. Completing the panel of judges was Felicia Lem, a local dance instructor and THA alumnus.

Stephen & Joe Perform

In addition to the talent contest, the event featured a performance by Ferrone and Robinson. They were later joined by a battery of THA fifth and sixth graders playing percussion instruments. Ferrone then congratulated all the contestants and saluted the parents for supporting their children’s musical endeavors.

The Mrs. G’s Music Foundation was established in 2010. Since then, the organization has funded a variety of instructional music programs, as well as seminars, workshops, and concerts by visiting artists. The artist visits serve double-duty as teaching programs and motivational sessions.

THA's Got Talent Winners

“I believe that music has the power to change children’s lives for the better,” said Dinah Gretsch. “If we can reach young children with that power, we can set them on a positive path for the rest of their lives.”