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Q&A with Jimmy Johnson

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Best known as the guitarist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as the Swampers), Jimmy Johnson has played on numerous classic R&B and pop hits with his trusty Gretsch 6120 guitar during the mid-1960s through the ‘70s.

Just one of Johnson’s many credits is that funky riff heard on Aretha Franklin smash single “Respect.” The Alabama-born axeman also operated as a guitarist, producer, or engineer on projects with the likes of Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon, among countless other luminaries.

While taking a break during sessions at his studio in Sheffield, Ala., Johnson spoke to Gretsch about his guitar, amps and influences.

GRETSCH GUITARS: To see those photos of you in the studio back in the day with your Gretsch 6120, we were anxious to find out as much as possible about your guitar. Obviously not only which recordings that guitar was played on, but also when did you first become aware of the Gretsch brand?

JIMMY JOHNSON: You know some of that is a little foggy. It’s been so long, so many years. But the way I knew about Gretsch was from Chet Atkins. In the South, Chet is like the almighty guitar player. And to my dad, who was also a guitar player, Chet was his favorite guitarist in the whole world. So you know, he ranks up there as mine too. And then when you find out what kind of guitars he played, which also included the Country Gentleman. So I started checking them out at the stores and with folks who had them.

Country music was big in my area. But one thing about it, I never liked country and my dad tried everything in the world to get me to play it in the early years. Country music bored me. It was just, I don’t know, too country. Too whatever it was.

My inspiration came when I heard Chuck Berry play. Chuck provided me with a little song called “Johnny B. Good.” When I heard that tune on our local AM radio, I absolutely had to learn how to do that.

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Twin Atlantic’s Sam McTrusty on his Favorite Guitar

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Twin Atlantic frontman Sam McTrusty recently hooked up with Total Guitar to discuss his favorite guitar— a Gretsch Panther Center-Block.  The Scotland songwriter says his new go-to guitar was a key tool during his writing process for latest album The Great Divide.

Watch the clip below.

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Brian Setzer Donates Gretsch Guitar to the Smithsonian

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Brian Setzer

Grammy Award-winning musician Brian Setzer donated his signature orange Gretsch guitar to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History during a ceremony on Oct. 17.

The replica guitar is evocative of Setzer’s original 1959 Gretsch 6120 “Stray Cat” guitar, for which he raided his Monopoly game for two dice, drilled holes in them and attached them to take the place of the missing tone knobs. To help resemble a 1950s-era “hot rod,” Setzer added three decals that, in the replica, were duplicated by Gretsch.

The Gretsch signature artist  is known for continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten genres of music, first with 1980s rockabilly band the Stray Cats and then again in the late 1990s with his 18-piece “Rockin’ Big Band,” The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Setzer also appeared on the big screen in the 1987 Ritchie Valens biographical film La Bamba, portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran.

“Brian Setzer is a prolific and distinctive contributor to American music,” said John Edward Hasse, the museum’s curator of American music. “Proof of his legacy exists not only in the longevity of his career and in his lengthy discography, but also in his ability to cross musical boundaries.”

In 1982, Setzer released “Rock This Town,” his first single with the Stray Cats and a track on which he played a 1959 Gretsch 6120 model guitar. As the guitar aged, it began to fall apart. Gretsch Custom Shop Master Builder Stephen Stern replicated every detail of the original guitar, and when he presented it to Setzer, the rockabilly star found it to be virtually indistinguishable from his original. It is the 2006 replica that is now in the museum’s collection.

“What an honor it is to be in the Smithsonian just for playing the music that I love,” said Setzer. “Maybe in a hundred years people will look at my guitar and be inspired to play it and enjoy it the way I do.”

Setzer’s guitar joins a large and diverse collection of musical instruments at the museum that includes Joh

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Watch Temples Perform for KUTX Live

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During this year’s ACL Fest in Austin, UK psych quartet Temples also participated in KUTX Live event at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Watch the band perform “Sun Structures” below.

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Bring Home the Midnight Special

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In the period between American Bandstand and MTV, several shows tried to bring rock ’n’ roll to television. In the wake of Elvis Presley and the Beatles’ debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, ’60s series like Hullabaloo, Shindig and The Music Scene featured rock and pop performers. But it wasn’t until The Midnight Special premiered on August 19, 1972, that rock ’n’ roll found its own home on the air.

Fans can again enjoy this seminal, groundbreaking live music TV show with the release of The Midnight Special Collector’s Edition, a beautifully-packaged 11-disc set that includes nearly five hours of specially-produced bonus features and a 32-page collector’s book. Amazon is also offering a 6-DVD set and a single DVD version.

The Midnight Special’s eclectic lineup reflected the show’s commitment not only to rock, but also to mirroring the Top 40 melting pot of the 70s, including genres such as folk, blues, R&B, soul, country and pop. For much of the run, the show was presided over by the legendary, gravelly-voiced DJ Wolfman Jack (Brooklyn-born Bob Smith), who was recruited as a permanent announcer and made his debut in episode 2; he would go on to become the living symbol of the show and a powerful draw for performers who were more than happy to share the stage with him.

A variety of guest hosts appeared along with Wolfman Jack over the years including such ‘70s music icons as the Bee Gees, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Loggins and Messina, Richard Pryor, The O’Jays, Electric Light Orchestra, KC & the Sunshine Band, plus frequent host Helen Reddy. Viewers and members of the studio audience were treated to one-of-a-kind concert events direct from The Midnight Special stages such as Aerosmith, Earth, Wind & Fire Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Jim Croce or John Denver. Additionally, the show featured the day’s top comedic talents, such as Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin and Freddie Prinze, among many others.

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