‘That Great Gretsch Sound’ has been filling music venues around the world for well over 130 years now. Founded in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York by German immigrant, Friedrich Gretsch, the Gretsch Musical Instrument Company is one of the oldest instrument manufacturers around – very few instrument brands can boast such a long history. Not only that, Gretsch were the largest musical instrument manufacturer at the beginning of the 20th century although mainly focusing on drums and banjos. Gretsch guitars wouldn’t be introduced until the 1930s.
Gretsch’s sustainability and success can be attributed to a number of factors over the years…
With the untimely death of founder Friedrich Gretsch in 1895 at the age of only 39, the family continued trading with Friedrich’s son, Fred Gretsch taking over the company aged just 15 years old! Fred Sr. retired in 1942 passing responsibility down to his son, William “Bill” Gretsch with Fred Gretsch Jr. taking over in 1948. The “Golden Age” of Gretsch guitars was from the mid-1950s to the mid-‘60s which saw the development of their classic models; Gretsch Country Club, Gretsch Country Gentleman, Gretsch 6120, Gretsch Chet Atkins, Gretsch White Falcon archtops and the Gretsch Duo Jet and Gretsch Pro Jet solidbodies. With the support of popular artists such as Chet Atkins, Eddie Cochran, George Harrison and Duane Eddy, Gretsch guitars found a loyal following among country and rock guitarists.
In 1967, Fred Jr. was forced to sell the company and the brand fell out of favour.
The rockabilly revival in the late ‘70s and ‘80s led by Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats saw renewed interest in the instruments of their peers. In 1985 the Gretsch brand returned to the family under Fred W. Gretsch, the founder’s great grandson. Since then the brand has become a major player with numerous artist endorsements and models catering to a wide range of players from beginners to professionals.
The characteristic Gretsch sound is like no other – managing to bridge the gap between bright twang and deep throaty growl. Imagine if you could take two tonally opposite guitars, a Fender Tele and Gibson hollow-body, extract the best qualities of both and put them in one instrument – that’s the kind of magic that make Gretsch guitars so distinct.
The “godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly”, The Reverend Horton Heat, is one artist who loves the versatility of Grestch guitars and has commented on fans who think he’s used guitars like Teles and ES-175’s on his recordings when in fact he very rarely strays from Gretsch.
The unique sound comes from a combination of wood (typically maple), the design and electronics. Gretsch’s standard pickup since the 1940s is the single-coil DynaSonic (originally the Gretsch-DeArmond Fidelatone). Gretsch led the way in the development of the humbucker with the Filter’Tron, a pickup designed in 1954 for Chet Atkins, a few years before Seth Lover and Gibson designed and patented theirs.
Gretsch offer a huge selection of models from budget to high-end so whether you are a home/studio player, semi professional or professional player there is a Gretsch for you.
Gretsch Custom Shop: Hand-built in the USA by a small team of dedicated craftsmen. The very top quality including relics, custom artwork and finishes, and imaginative re-workings of Gretsch classics.
Gretsch Professional Series: Hand crafted in Japan to the highest standard possible the professional series has four main catergories.
Gretsch Electromatic Series: Made in Korea. Aimed at the mid-range market these guitars get their name from the first electric guitars Gretsch introduced in 1939. The Gretsch Electromatic series offers more affordable versions of many of the professional series featuring many of the key characteristics such as thumbnail or hump-block inlays, large bound f-holes, late ’50s bound headstock. The most popular model in this range is the Gretsch G5420T.
Gretsch Streamliner Series: Made in Indonesia. Named after Gretsch’s budget series of guitars released in the mid-fifties. The Gretsch Streamliner series is a remarkable looking and sounding series of guitars that are very affordable.
Guitar Village are proud to be a Gretsch UK dealer with a huge range across the board to suit all budgets.
Find out more about Gretsch’s rise to prominence – A HISTORY OF GRETSCH GUITARS