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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Vintage Guitars Info
Vintage Guitar and Bass
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Gretsch Guitars
Source: Google News
Six reasons to visit CarltonSydney Morning Herald, April 24th
Today it's a guitar and musical instrument consignment store. On sale today is a $16,000 1960s Gretsch guitar and a sitar that once belonged to John Farnham. It's cramped and dark with a sense of backstage cool; the carpet is held down by gaffer tape...Read more
Cabaret Americana makes its debut at village pubWells Journal, April 24th
JESSIE Pie and The Thorn is a guitar and vocals duo that specialises in original material and corrupted covers, tantalising musical taste-buds with their curious blend of "saucy jazz, meaty rock and hot-potato blues". Pooling influences from diverse...Read more
Bridge unburnedWinnipeg Sun, April 23rd
But that's just what he needs to keep his interest up and avoid mailing it in, and also part of the reason why the slight Doucet "wrestles" with a Gretsch White Falcon guitar. "I get bored easily and I don't want to be bored when I play music. I want...Read more
Levon Helm's legacy rambles onThe Daily Freeman, April 23rd
Tania Barricklo — Daily Freeman archiveLevon Helm performs at his 'Gramble Ramble' at The Barn in Woodstock in February 2008 after winning his first Grammy and a lifetime achievement award Grammy for his time withe the Band. Helm won two other ...Read more
Book Review: The Gretsch Electric Guitar BookGuitar Girl Mag, April 22nd
The Gretsch Electric Guitar Book: 60 Years of White Falcons, 6120s, Jets, Gents, and More is yet another book on an iconic American guitar maker in what seems to be a growing line of these literary tributes to American made electric guitars. Some of...Read more
Traveling Wilburys guitar to be auctioned for THASavannah Morning News, April 14th
“George always played Gretsch so he called and told me about the idea and then Gretsch made that guitar for five years only, from 1990 until 1995,” Gretsch said. “And every graphic is different.” Harrison designed a large graphic himself that measures...Read more
Guitar John Lennon played on Beatles' classic Paperback Writer sells for £358kIrish Mirror, April 1st
A guitar played by John Lennon on the 1966 Beatles classic Paperback Writer has been sold for £358,000. The Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Nashville model hollow body guitar was bought by American collector, Jim Irsay. Mr Irsay paid Lennon's cousin David ...Read more
John Lennon's Paperback Writer guitar sold for £360000Liverpool Echo, March 31st
David had previously loaned the Gretsch guitar to The Beatles Story in 2010, and later to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2012. The Beatles used the guitar while they were recording Paperback Writer, which was the fourth track ...Read more