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.
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"I Won't Quit": Neil Young's Remarkable, Rocking Portland ShowThe Portland Mercury (blog), October 9th
his old man as Young took Trigger's part on acoustic guitar. Young then strapped on his Gretsch White Falcon, turning up the juice for a rambling “Words,” a slightly-too-slow rendition of “Walk On,” and an absolutely gorgeous “Winterlong,” which...Read more
Six string stocksMoneyweb.co.za, October 8th
Stuart Goodwin, Marshall Music's resident guitar expert, says a guitar makes a good investment because it's more than just a tool – it's a work of art. “The best ones have history and a story to tell.” Those owned or played by the masters also have a...Read more
Private Blues Lesson from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons — VideoGuitar World Magazine, October 8th
About seven years ago, ZZ Top guitarist extraordinaire Billy F. Gibbons sat down with Gretsch Billy-Bo in hand to give us a lesson in playing the blues tunes that inspired him to play guitar. We not only got the lesson, we got it on video! Below, we've...Read more
David Gogo's scattered guitars are not for showTimes Colonist, October 8th
“I feel like a guitar is meant to be played.” Play them he does. When it came to recording his 14th album, Vicksburg Call, he moved the roomful of guitars he keeps at his home in Nanaimo — from his 1959 Gibson 355 and 1972 Les Paul Deluxe to his...Read more
2015 Savannah Folk Festival to bid farewell to a long-standing music traditionSavannah Morning News, October 7th
One new playable Gretsch guitar, signed by all the performers at the Sunday concert, will also be auctioned. The guitars and violins can be seen in Ellis Square on Friday and will be auctioned Sunday in Grayson Stadium. The final concert has always...Read more
Moberly Area Council on the Arts Oct. Presentation - Young Elvis and the Blue ...Moberly Monitor Index, October 7th
From the 1956 Gibson Hollow Body Electric Guitar, to the Stand Up Double Bass, to the 1958 Gretsch Pearl White Drums, you'll think you're a teeny-bopper again. Their sound is genuine and unique as they share the story of Elvis' beginnings and the ...Read more
2016 She Rocks Awards Honorees AnnouncedGuitar World Magazine, October 5th
by Martin Guitar, Seymour Duncan, Roland, Boss, Gretsch, Guitar Center, Fishman, 108 Rock Star Guitars, with additional support from these media partners Tom Tom Magazine, Guitar Girl Magazine, Music-News.com, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Keyboard ...Read more
The Women's International Music Network Announces the 2016 She Rocks Award ...Premier Guitar, October 1st
The 2016 She Rocks Awards is sponsored by Martin Guitar, Seymour Duncan, Roland, Boss, Gretsch, Guitar Center, Fishman, 108 Rock Star Guitars, with additional support from these media partners Premier Guitar, Tom Tom Magazine, Guitar Girl Magazine, ...Read more