Posts Tagged ‘Paul Bigsby’

Remembering the 50th Anniversary of Ted McCarty Buying Bigsby Accessories

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

…and Leaving the Gibson Company

The Gretsch-McCarty-Bigsby family legacy still going strong today.

By Fred W. Gretsch

I was thinking recently about how three well-timed telephone calls forever linked three families and changed the history of Gibson Guitars, Bigsby Accessories, and the Gretsch Company.

Bill Gretsch

The first call was placed in 1948 from my father, Bill Gretsch, to Maurice Berlin, the Chairman of the Board of Chicago Musical Instruments, the company that purchased Gibson Guitars in 1944. My father called Mr. Berlin because his good friend, Ted McCarty, who was visiting in my father’s office, had shared that he was resigning from the Wurlitzer Company, getting out of the music business, and waiting on a job offer from the Brach Candy Company.

Ted McCarty

My father told Ted he was too well known and respected, and that the music business couldn’t afford to lose him. Before Ted could leave my father’s office, my father called Mr. Berlin and arranged a meeting between Ted and Mr. Berlin. As you know, that meeting lead to Ted being offered the position of President at Gibson Guitars. His leadership and keen business and engineering skills turned Gibson around and guided them through their golden years of innovation and production in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Paul Bigsby

The second call was placed a little over 50 years ago in 1965 (the year I started to work at the Gretsch Company) by Paul Bigsby from his small factory in Downey, California to his good friend, Ted McCarty, who was in his 17th year as President of Gibson Guitars. Paul had been manufacturing his innovative guitar vibratos since 1952, but he was 65, having health issues, and looking to retire and sell his business.

Ted had helped Bigsby grow in the 1950s by being the first company to put Bigsby vibratos on Gibson’s factory-built guitars. Ted even used his engineering skills to design the swing away handle to replace Bigsby’s original fixed-handle design. When Paul Bigsby called that day, he was calling to offer his business to Ted, not to the Gibson Company. Bigsby felt his business would be in better hands with his friend Ted McCarty and wasn’t interested in selling it to a company.

In 1965, Ted was 57 and very unhappy with recent management changes at Gibson’s parent company. He also probably sensed more changes coming to the guitar industry. Fender had been purchased by CBS Corporation for $13 million in January and Ted knew the guitar boom years couldn’t continue forever.

So, in November 1965, Ted flew out to California, met with Paul Bigsby and bought his company the same day. On New Year’s Day 1966, a truck loaded everything from Bigsby’s shop and drove back to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ted resigned from Gibson in March and became owner of Bigsby Accessories for more than 30 years.

I was more than happy to contact Ted in 1989 (he was a longtime friend of the family and even attended my baptism) after I bought the family business back from Baldwin and was ready to roll out the new lineup of Gretsch guitars. Even at 80 years old, Ted had a razor-sharp memory and was the world’s leading authority on Bigsby vibratos.

Fred Gretsch with Ted McCarty, NAMM 1995

I always felt Ted McCarty didn’t get the proper recognition for all the contributions he made to the guitar industry. With the Gretsch-Bigsby relationship reestablished, Dinah and I were pleased to host a gala dinner to honor Ted (as well as our friend, Duane Eddy) at the 1997 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville. Hundreds of Gretsch retailers, distributors, and guests attended this special tribute to an unsung giant of the guitar business. It was a night all who attended will never forget.

Ted McCarty and Fred Gretsch, 1999

The third call is special to me because it continued the McCarty-Gretsch family friendship started by my father more than 70 years ago in Chicago. In 1999, I was delighted to get Ted’s phone call offering to sell Bigsby Accessories to me. It was a great opportunity since Gretsch guitars and Bigsby vibratos had been inseparable since the 1950s. We were more than happy to purchase Ted’s company on May 10, 1999, and in October 1999, Ted retired at the age of 89 after a long, successful 63-year career in the music industry.

There have only been three keepers of the Bigsby brand the past 60 years and Dinah and I are proud to be the current keepers. Hopefully both Paul Bigsby and Ted McCarty are looking down and smiling at how the Gretsch family has grown the business and preserved the Bigsby heritage. We’re continuing to follow the successful formula established more than 60 years ago, using the same hand-made processes and as many of the original machines and suppliers as possible. There is no better way I can think of to honor friends of the family and keep their legacy alive. I think the previous three generations of Gretsch Company Presidents – my father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather – would agree.

.

.

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

.

.

.

Star In Your Own Bigsby Ad!

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

In a world where advertisements are often ho-hum, Bigsby has upped the excitement level by inviting guitarists around the world to star in their very own Bigsby ad!

The idea is simple:  Bigsby wants to create a series of “personalized” ads using shots of working guitarists playing their favorite Bigsby-equipped axe. Response to this innovative idea has already been tremendous, generating dozens of great photos for the contest.

The first winning entry featured two shots from Steve “Twang Is The Thang” Litvak, guitarist for Rochester, New York’s The Tombstone Hands. Other entries submitted can be seen HERE. While there, be sure to check out the rest of recently renovated Bigsby website.

For a chance to win a spot in a future Bigsby ad, guitarists should send their photos (of YOU with your Bigsby-equipped guitar) to everythingyouneed@bigsby.com. Photos can also be mailed to Bigsby, P.O. Box 2468, Savannah, GA 31402.

Please note that submitted photos will not be returned, and that submission constitutes permission to use any photo in its entirety or in edited form in print, on the web, or in promotional materials.

For everything Bigsby, please visit the Bigsby website.

Paul Bigsby Remembered

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Paul Bigsby

On December 12, 1899, Paul Adelbert Bigsby was born in Elgin, Illinois.  Paul was many things:  a successful motorcycle racer, expert pattern-maker, machinist, inventor, poet, guitar-maker, and musician. Most widely known for inventing the Bigsby True Vibrato tailpiece, Paul also made the first modern solidbody electric guitar for musician Merle Travis in 1948.  Paul Bigsby was the “man who could build anything”.

Following are a couple of excerpts from The Story of Paul Bigsby:  Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar by Andy Babiuk.  This well-researched book tells the fascinating story of Paul’s life and work and is loaded with hundreds of photos and illustrations.

“The musicians who played their custom-made Bigsby guitars helped shape the core of modern electric-guitar playing.  Merle Travis’s inspiration gave rise to the Chet Atkins style, and both men were the fathers of the Scotty Moore and early rockabilly style.  These players in turn heavily influenced the guitarists of the British Invasion and almost every rock player who has ever picked up a guitar since then.”

“P.A. Bigsby achieved nothing less than changing the world of American music. He was a man of vision and extraordinary imagination who possessed the abilities and sense of craft to turn that vision and imagination into a reality.”

To learn more about Paul Bigsby, get a copy of The Story of Paul Bigsby today and visit Bigsby.com.

You can also check out the article in the December issue of Premier Guitar magazine featuring Paul Bigsby. In a series of articles entitled “Forgotten Heroes”, light is shed on legendary figures who have contributed great things to the world of music though their stories may not be widely known.  This article details contributions made by Paul Bigsby to the world of modern music by focusing in on some of his most enduring designs.  Included are details of how he modified the pedal steel guitar into the configuration we know today, used an aluminum case for the shielding of pickups, placed all 6 tuning machines on a single side to promote tuning stability, and, of course, designed the now-famous Bigsby True Vibrato.  The article also discusses the sometimes-strained relationship with Leo Fender and the similarities of a few design components found of most modern electric guitars.  A nicely crafted article to whet your appetite for more history of Paul Bigsby and how he contributed to the world of electric guitars. Available at your local newsstand and online HERE.

Forgotten Hero: Paul Bigsby

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

A new article in the December issue of Premier Guitar magazine features Paul Bigsby. In this series of articles entitled “Forgotten Heroes”, light shall be shed on those legendary figures who have contributed great things to the world of music though their stories may not be widely known.  This article details contributions made by Paul Bigsby to the world of modern music by focusing in on some of his most enduring designs.  Included are details of how he modified the pedal steel guitar into the configuration we know today, used an aluminum case for the shielding of pickups, placed all 6 tuning machines on a single side to promote tuning stability, and, of course, designed the now-famous Bigsby True Vibrato.  The article also discusses the sometimes-strained relationship with Leo Fender and the similarities of a few design components found of most modern electric guitars.  A nicely crafted article to whet your appetite for more history of Paul Bigsby and how he contributed to the world of electric guitars. Available at your local newsstand and online here.  When finished with the article, you can pick up a hard copy of the entire book The Story of Paul Bigsby: Father of the Modern Electric Solid Body Guitar paired with a classy Bigsby T-shirt in time for the holiday season here.

Paul Bigsby