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 for 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    

Gretsch G5442bdc Bass 2012 Model! Electromatic Hollow Body! No Reserve!!!!!!!!!!1952 Gretsch Syncrhomatic 100 Archtop Acoustic Guitar CaseVintage 1960 Gretsch 6186 Clipper Electric GuitarVintage 1951 Gretsch Electromatic Standard 5w 1x8 Tube Combo Amp AmplifierOne Of A Kind Vintage Gretsch White Penguin Electric Guitar Made From A Duo JetGretsch Pro G6128t Duo Jet Electric Guitar With Upgrades!Airline Reverb Unit Valco/ Supro/airline/gretschGretsch Country Gentleman 1970 Usa Ez Project George Harrison Beatles Gretsch Guitar 5122dc 125th Anniversary EditionGretsch 6164 Early 60's "accordian" Tube Amp VintageVintage Gretsch Clipper Semi-hollow Early 1960's Project GuitarGretsch "monkee's" Bass 1968 No ReserveGretsch Historic Series G3410 Electric Acoustic Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet Silver Sparkle, Bigsby, Sperzel Locking TunersGretsch Guitars G5120 Electromatic Hollowbody Electric Guitar With Case L@@k!!!!Gretsch Brian Setzer Hot Rod - Regal Blue!Aria 6 String Model Fa-75 'gretsch Eater' Red Hollow Body W/ Bigsby S040410180 Gretsch Hawaiian Acoustic Parlor Guitar (deluxe Pearloid Neck & Headstock)Gretsch 7625 Tk300 Natural Clear Maple 1979 Electric Guitar W/ Hard Shell CaseGretsch Electromatic Pro Jet With Tv Jones PickupsLot Of Vintage Fender, Guild, Gretsch & Gibson Guitar Accessories, Strings, Tube1999 Gretsch RoundupGretsch Electromatic G100ce Synchromatic Cutaway Electric GuitarGretsch Guitars G6128t George Harrison Duo Jet Electric Guitar BlackGretsch 7593 White Falcon Electric Guitar W/ Bigsby Rear End No Reserve !Gretsch G2202 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar 30" Short Scale W/ Hardshell CaseArchtop Jazz Guitar Gretsch Binding Falcon Luthier 6120 Project 25" Prs ScaleGretsch G2202 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar W/ Gig Bag. 30" Short Scale.Gretsch Jim Dandy Parlor Guitar Planet Waves Humidifier, Capo, Ernie Ball ClothGretsch 6120 DswGretsch Electromatic G5122 Guitar With Pickup/bridge ModsRare Waverly Tuners 1963 (6) For Gretsch Tennessean Silvertone Chris IsaakUpgraded Gretsch 5120 Tv JonesGretsch G5436t Electromatic Pro Jet Guitar W/ Bigsby Orange (like G5435t)Gretsch Electromatic G5120 Electric GuitarGretsch Viking "floating Sound Unit". 1960's. No Tuning Fork1998 Pick + Gretsch Guitar 6120 Electromatic Renown Duojet Country Gentleman AdGuitar World Magazine June 1989 Zakk Wylde White Lion Winger 57 Jet Gretsch OzzyGretsch Jim Dandy Parlor Guitar W/ Case, Humidifier, Capo, Cloth Planet Waves1951 Gretsch 6185 Hollowbody Guitar Spanish Electromatic Dearmond Dynasonic Hard Rock Cafe Cleveland Eddie Cochran Dead Rocker Red Gretsch Guitar Pin

Recent News: Gretsch Guitars

Source: Google News

1955 Gretsch Duo Jet 6128 Guitar — Demo Video by Chicago Music Exchange
Guitar World Magazine, October 21st

The gang over at Chicago Music Exchange (where I recently bought a Line 6 expression pedal for my M9) posted a demo video for a very rare (and very beautiful) 1955 Gretsch Duo Jet 6128 that was originally bought by Ben Harper. To see and hear what ...Read more

Brian Setzer Donates Gretsch Guitar to Smithsonian
Grateful Web, October 21st

Grammy Award-winning musician Brian Setzer donated his signature orange Gretsch guitar to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History during a ceremony Oct. 17. The replica guitar is evocative of Setzer's original 1959 Gretsch 6120 “Stray ...Read more

Brian Setzer's guitar added to Smithsonian museum
Hollywood.com, October 20th

Former Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer has donated a replica of the Gretsch guitar he used while writing and performing break-out hit Rock This Town to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The Grammy ...Read more

Smithsonian receives Brian Setzer's Gretsch guitar
eTurboNews, October 20th

WASHINGTON, DC - Grammy Award-winning musician Brian Setzer donated his signature orange Gretsch guitar to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History during a ceremony Oct. 17. The replica guitar is evocative of Setzer's original 1959 ...Read more

Fred and Dinah Gretsch receive Georgia Governor's Award
Savannah Morning News, October 17th

On Oct. 7, Fred and Dinah Gretsch (president and CFO, respectively, of the Savannah-based Gretsch Company) were honored as recipients of the third annual Governor's Awards for the Arts and Humanities. Presented by the Office Of The Governor in ...Read more

Fred & Dinah Gretsch receive GA Governor's Award
Connect Savannah.com, October 10th

Fred Gretsch adds, “It was a special pleasure to meet with first lady Sandra Deal. She has visited schools in every county in Georgia promoting education—and Georgia has the most counties of any state in the union. In keeping with our personal goal of ...Read more

John Lennon's “Paperback Writer” Guitar Goes Up For Auction
Pursuitist, October 8th

While John Lennon was most often photographed playing an Epiphone Casino or Rickenbacker 325, he used this Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville model hollow body to record the the iconic Beatles' tune, Paperback Writer on 14 April 1966. A year later ...Read more

The Beatles memorabilia: John Lennon's Gretsch guitar may fetch $1m at auction
The Independent, October 5th

Lennon gave his Gretsch 6120 guitar to his cousin, David Birch, in November 1967 – a year after the hit was recorded in April 1966 at London's Abbey Road studios. Mr Birch said he had fancied forming his own band. “I was just cheeky enough to ask John...Read more