Founded in Brooklyn in 1883, Gretsch started out making banjos, tambourines, and drums. It didn’t really get into guitars until the 1930s, when the guitar began to overtake the banjo in popularity. Evidence of that shift could be seen in the success of the L-5, Gibson’s fast-selling acoustic archtop, with its trapeze tailpiece and a pickguard that seemed to float above the f-holes carved into the instrument’s body.

Gretsch answered in the mid-1930s with the American Orchestra line of acoustic guitars, which started at $25 each. These guitars had spruce tops, maple backs and sides, and either rosewood or ebony fingerboards. By all accounts, they did little to slow down Gibson.

In 1939, Gretsch came out with a true competitor, the Art Deco-styled Synchromatics. These acoustic archtops included the top-of-the-line 400, which was designed to do battle in the marketplace with Gibson’s 1935 Super 400. The Synchromatics were unique in that they had a stairstep bridge, a harp-shaped tailpiece, an asymmetrical neck, and cat’s-eye sound holes instead of the more traditional-looking f-holes.

Like the American Orchestra guitars, the Synchromatics failed to make a significant dent in Gibson’s dominance, but today, a vintage Gretsch Synchromatic 400 is every bit as collectible as Gibson Super 400, so perhaps the guitar was simply ahead of its time.

The other Gretsch introduction of 1939 was its first line of electric guitars. Called the Electromatics, they were offered in Hawaiian and Spanish models. After World War II, Gretsch came out with three flat top acoustics, model numbers 6007, 6021, and 6042. Instead of cat’s eyes or even f-holes, these big-bottomed guitars had triangular sound holes in their centers.

The 1950s were an outstanding decade for American electric guitars: Gibson debuted the Les Paul in 1952 and Fender launched the Stratocaster in 1954. For Gretsch, the 1950s was the decade when its guitars really started to come into their own. The Duo-Jet, made popular in the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of George Harrison and Jeff Beck, went into production in 1953, and the Electro II was introduced in 1954. That guitar evolved into the Country Club line, which lasted 27 years.

1954 was also the year the Electromatic became the Streamliner (although the Electromatic logo remained on the guitar until 1958) and when the first Chet Atkins hollow-body debut...

The other Gretsch trend of the 1950s was to jazz up its Duo Jets. In addition to the original black model, Gretsch added a sparkly silver version, the Western-themed Round-Up (complete with leather-tooled strap and a big G branded into its knotty-pine top), and the Jet Fire Bird, whose bright red top caught the eye of Bo Diddley.

In the 1960s, the continued association of Gretsch with George Harrison and The Beatles kept the company in the limelight. Harrison played a Country Gentleman on the Ed Sullivan show, so it shouldn’t have been too surprising when Chet Atkins repaid the favor by recording an album of Beatles covers. The Monkees, a made-for-TV group, played Gretsch instruments exclusively, albeit under marketing contract. Naturally Gretsch produced a Monkees signature guitar.

Gretsch was sold to Baldwin in 1967—for many Gretsch fans, this sale had the same negative effect as the 1965 sale of Fender to CBS. But Gretsch heir Fred W. Gretsch vowed to one day get the company back, which he did in 1985, coincidentally, the same year CBS let go of Fender.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1957 Gibson Es-175d Vintage Player Archtop Jazz Guitar Es175d Bigsby W Hsc E64Gretsch Electromatic Hollow Body Electric Guitar Bigsby G5420t Black FiltertronsGretsch 6120 Acoustic Ellectric Guitar !!1961 Gretsch Tennessean 6119 Vintage Player Electric Guitar W Bigsby Ohsc E64Gretsch Electromatic G5120 Electric Guitar~lightly Strummed~fresh Shape!Vintage 1950s Gretsch (valco) Electromatic Standard Lap Steel And Amp Set1967 Gretsch Double Anniversary Left Handed Vintage 60's 1960'sGretsch Streamliner Guitar Vintage 2011 Gretsch G-6120 Japan Brian Setzer Hot Rod Electric Guitar W/ohsc & Coa1957 Gretsch Es-175d Vintage Player Archtop Jazz Guitar Es175d Bigsby W Hsc E64Vintage 1950's-60's Gretsch Hard Case For Single Cut Deep Hollow Body Electric Gretsch Electromatic 6-string Electric Guitar- Black E/2568Gretsch G5122 Hollow Body Guitar Orange 125th Anniversary 6 String Right-handedGold Gretsch Filtertron Pickup SetGretsch G5420t Electric GuitarGretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Guitar1980 Gretsch Guitar Bst-1500 "the Beast" Model #8217Gretsch Corvette G5135 Electromatic Cvt With Hardshell Case. Free Shipping!!!Gretsch 5420t Electromatic Hollowbody With Gretsch Hardshell Case IncludedFender Cabronita Fidelitron Pickup Gretsch Filtertron Vintage Pickup Neck Sale!Gretsch G5135 Electromatic Cvt Electric Guitar BurgundyHagstrom Swede Dark Red Gretsch/lp Style Electric Guitar W/hscGretsch Electromatic Junior Jet Bass Neck Tuners Pickup Knobs Parts Or RepairFender Cabronita Fidelitron Pickup Gretsch Filtertron Vintage Pickup Bridge SaleGretsch Guitar Model Bst 1500 "the Beast"Fender Make History Guitar Picks Usa Music Shop Display Embossed Metal Sign Gretsch Professional 6118 Anniversary Electric GuitarGretsch 6120shbtv Brian Setzer Hot Rod Electric Guitar Dead Mint!Gretsch 6120 Golden Anniversary 6120-ga Gold W/ BigsbyBlack Gretsch Electromatic Guitar Vintage Gold Knobs For Gretsch Electric Guitar ProjectGretsch White Penguin 6-string Guitar - 2011Gretsch Grand Concert 6003 50's Acoustic Good ConditionOriginal Grover Tuners From A 60's Gretsch 6120One Pair Gretsch 130th Anniversary Party Lanyards & Badge Holder With Logo CardGretsch Electromatic Hollow Body Guitar, Custom Painted By Von Dago!!!~ Vintage 1959 Gretsch Guitar G Tailpiece Bridge ~Bigsby Vibrato B6g Gold Tremolo For Gretsch Hollow Body Electric Guitar LargeGretsch Guitars Leather/pewter Bolo TieGretsch Electric Guitar White Falcon Model 6136 - 6" Model With Stand - Japan~ Vintage 1959 Gretsch Guitar Single Pickup Wiring Harness ~Gretsch G5438t Electromatic Pro Jet 2013 GoldGretsch Guitar Model Bst 1500 "the Beast"Gretsch 099-6408-000 G6298 Case For 16-inch Electromatic 12-string Models

Recent News: Gretsch Guitars

Source: Google News

Gretsch Announces 2015 Lineup
Premier Guitar, January 24th

The classic 1950s Gretsch New Yorker archtop guitar returns. From casual playing to pro performance, this grand auditorium size archtop will be your new favorite for its excellent tone, effortless playing action and handsome good looks. Features...Read more

Gretsch Releases Updated Professional Collection Brian Setzer Guitars
Premier Guitar, January 24th

Scottsdale, AZ (January 24, 2015) -- Gretsch is proud to release the entirely new and updated Professional Collection Hollow Body Brian Setzer guitars, each built to Brian's exacting specs. Gretsch Brian Setzer Nashville models are modeled on the...Read more

NAMM 2015: Gretsch announces new models, updates on classics
MusicRadar.com, January 22nd

NAMM 2015: Gretsch Guitar fans will find a lot to like in the company's offerings at Winter NAMM, as there are a number of updates and new models being unveiled. Of particular interest are three Chet Atkins models, including a splashy Cadillac Green...Read more

NAMM2015: Gretsch Releases Updated Professional Collection Brian Setzer ...
Guitar World Magazine, January 21st

Gretsch Brian Setzer Hot Rod Models are stripped down and now feature a striking assortment of new colors over a flame maple body. The single-cutaway bound hollow body has an arched top, 1959-style trestle bracing and f-holes; the maple neck has a ...Read more

2015 She Rocks Awards Full Event Lineup Announced
Guitar World Magazine, January 10th

The She Rocks Awards is sponsored by The Gretsch Company, Guitar Center, Seymour Duncan, The Avedis Zildjian Company, C.F. Martin & Co, Weber Mandolins, Fishman, 108 Rock Star Guitars, Casio, PRS Guitars, Yamaha, Berklee Online, Roland, Kind, ...Read more

Les Paul 'Black Beauty' guitar goes to auction
UPI.com, January 7th

In 1976, Paul gave the guitar to Tom Doyle, his friend and luthier. The guitar joins Chet Atkins' prototype Gretsch guitar on the auction block, one of two the guitar maker made for the musician. The auction is scheduled to take place at Arader...Read more

Bono: I may never play guitar again
Telegraph.co.uk, January 2nd

As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor western civilisation are depending on this. "I personally would very much miss fingering the frets of my green Irish falcon or my (red...Read more

Bono Creates Signature (RED) Guitar with Gretsch
WFJA Classic Hits and Oldies 105.5 FM, December 26th

Bono has teamed up with guitar makers Gretsch to create the GRETSCH (RED) guitar. The signature guitar takes its name from the U2 frontman's charity (RED), which raises money for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. “The GRETSCH ...Read more