Author Archives: Jeff Owens

Six Great (Extinct) Gretsch Basses

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Today, Gretsch makes several highly acclaimed bass guitar models prized by players worldwide for their elegant style and seismic sound. When you see a Gretsch bass, it’s usually in the hands of a bassist who truly prizes a fine instrument and who truly appreciates the Gretsch name and tradition.

Well before its fine modern-era basses, however, Gretsch made some very, shall we say, interesting forays into the bass guitar world. From its first, shall we say, unusual model in the early 1960s to another, shall we say, distinctive model at the dawn of the 1980s, Gretsch indeed truly went its own, shall we say, unconventional way when it came to anchoring the low end.

Submitted for your approval here are six remarkable—and quite extinct—examples of Gretsch bass guitar history, starting at the very beginning. (more…)

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GretschTech: Fingerboard Inlays

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Gretsch guitars and basses are loaded with distinctively stylish features that all contribute greatly to their very “Gretsch-iness.” From pickups to bridges, trem arms to tailpieces, and control knobs to switching layouts, few instruments are the sums of their parts – and much more – quite like a Gretsch.

This is especially evident right at your fingertips, because Gretsch instruments have a fingerboard inlay tradition all their own. Several of the styles adopted in the 1950s are still in use today and have long since become distinct Gretsch traditions. Here’s a look at what you’ll find on Gretsch fingerboards today: (more…)

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Five Great Gretsch Rock Albums of the 1980s

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Gretsch electric guitars loomed large in the 1950s with original-era rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly; even larger in the 1960s with the British Invasion. They were certainly still around during the musically tumultuous 1970s, although you did have to look a little harder. And then the 1980s arrived.

The 1980s. That was the decade when Gretsch guitars came roaring back in ways both traditional and unexpected, as post-punk, new wave, the rockabilly revival and other fast-proliferating subgenres blasted their way to the forefront of popular music on both sides of the Atlantic. Below, in chronological order, are five fine albums you can thank for that happy development. And we’re not just talking about a Gretsch guitar appearing on a song or two—we’re talking about entire albums that are scorching, swinging, soaring and singing examples of Gretsch guitar artistry all the way through from first track to last …
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GretschTech: Switches Everywhere …

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How does the switching work on Gretsch guitars?

Of the approximately 100 Gretsch electric guitar and bass guitar models available today, about half of them have a single switch on the upper bout. The other half have two switches on the upper bout. A dozen or so models even have a switch on the lower bout.

Welcome to the wonderfully idiosyncratic world of Gretsch switch configurations, which can differ quite substantially from other guitars. Once you fully understand what’s going on under your Gretsch guitar’s hood, we think you’ll agree that the switching layouts are really quite sensible. Ingenious, even. Here’s the deal …

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Eight Great Gretsch Album Covers

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Gretsch guitars are fabulous-looking instruments. Always have been. So it’s no surprise that they often made their way onto the album covers of those who played them and put them to such great use. Here then, in no particular chronological order, are eight fine album covers notable for being graced with great Gretsch guitars:

1. A Session With Chet Atkins (Chet Atkins, 1961)

There are only about a bazillion Chet Atkins albums that feature a Gretsch guitar on the cover, usually in the hands of the master himself, and all of them look fabulous. So this one is kind of a tough call.

After much consideration, we’re going with the 1961 re-issue of 1954’s A Session With Chet Atkins because it must be the Gretsch-iest original-era album cover ever. The 1954 original cover somewhat somberly pictured Atkins himself, and while the ’61 re-issue cover doesn’t, what it does picture is three—count ’em, three—Gretsch guitars: a Tennessean, a Duo Jet and a 6120; the latter locked in the joyous embrace of a sultry brunette. Come to think of it, 1955’s Chet Atkins in Three Dimensions also has three Gretsch guitars on the cover, but since none of them are locked in the joyous embrace of a sultry brunette, A Session With Chet Atkins gets the nod here.

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