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How the Gretsch Bi-Plane Was Built

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A longtime woodworking enthusiast, Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern does not just make some of the most beautiful and painstakingly-crafted guitars.

Recently, Stern built a biplane to live in the Gretsch Custom Shop in Corona, Calif., complete with the iconic Gretsch logo and a striking orange color.

The plane is made of balsa wood and is covered with tissue paper, and Stern himself estimates that it took between 75-100 hours to build.

Just how did this beauty come to fruition?  Luckily, Stern documented the entire process, which you can watch below.

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Parade Interviews Fred Gretsch About Beatlemania

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Fred GretschFifty years ago, on Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. television debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. With George Harrison rocking a Gretsch Duo Jet that night, business skyrocketed for Gretsch guitars.

President and CEO Fred Gretsch recently spoke with Parade about how Beatlemania transformed his family-owned company.

“Overnight, thousands of garage bands were created that wanted to emulate the Beatles…[Demand] went up 25 percent,” said Gretsch. “You know, the baby boom generation was teenagers at that point in time. Rock and roll had begun mid-’50s [and] was gaining steam, [so] everybody was prepped and focused on the Beatles when they arrived…everybody was ready for them.”

Read the full interview here.

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50 Years Ago: The Beatles—and Gretsch—on The Ed Sullivan Show

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The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show three times in February 1964. George Harrison (center) is seen here with the Gretsch Country Gentleman model he played during the historic television performances. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Has it really been 50 years?

Seemingly incredibly, it has. And you could make a compelling case that the 1960s actually started on the evening of Feb. 9, 1964. That’s when the Beatles made their historic U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, drawing the largest viewing audience in the history of the medium at the time (73 million people—nearly half the nation—tuned in to the telecast).

President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated only 10 weeks earlier, and the still-stunned country was in a grim and uncertain mood. Who would’ve expected that a much-needed lift in spirits was imminent, winging its way across the pond on Pan Am flight 101 from London?

Two days before that first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 7, 3,000 screaming teenagers who were supposed to be at school that day mobbed Kennedy International Airport in New York. They were there to greet the Beatles on their first U.S. visit, a whirlwind two weeks that saw the group make two live appearances on Sullivan’s show; one in New York and one in Miami (the Beatles also taped a third appearance to be aired later that month). The group was topping the U.S. charts, general pandemonium surrounded them wherever they went, and the Beatlemania that had already swept across the U.K. now morphed into a potent new U.S. strain.

For their debut appearance on his show, Sullivan cannily had the Beatles perform twice—three songs at the beginning (“All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You”) and two at the end (“I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand”), presumably to ensure that his audience watched the entire hour-long show. The cameras seemed to spend as much time on the surging throng of screaming teenagers in the audience of CBS TV Studio 50, where the show took place, as they did on the group.

Nobody had ever seen (or heard) anything like it. By the time the broadcast ended an hour later, something fundamental had changed not just there in New York, but across the nation. The rest is well-documented history, but you very well might be able to say that with that one raucous event, the 1960s started in earnest between 8 and 9 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1964. (more…)

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2013: A Year of Celebrations for Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary

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Courtesy of Gretsch.com

2013 marked Gretsch’s 130th Anniversary – a milestone that has been celebrated with a wide variety of activities and events throughout the year. Below is a look at some of the celebrations that have made this anniversary so spectacular!

Announcing The Celebration
To ignite the celebration, Fred Gretsch sent out a message to the music world, inviting everyone to join the entire Gretsch family in celebrating their 130th year in the business.

“When my great-grandfather, Friedrich Gretsch, opened his instrument-making shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., back in 1883, he couldn’t know that he was establishing a musical dynasty that has continued over four generations,” said Fred Gretsch.

In January at the 2013 NAMM show in Anaheim, Calif., the Gretsch Custom Shop launched the beautiful G6118T 130th Anniversary model guitar. It turned out to be a gorgeous instrument, with a high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in Metallic Gold on the top and Black on the back and sides. The guitar also boasted multiple silver-sparkle bindings.

The anniversary guitars were made even more special by the addition of a badge that boldly announced the company’s 130th year as a manufacturer.

“It’s a striking design and I’m proud to see it on our instruments,” Gretsch said at the time.

(more…)

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Custom Shop Stories: Sara Ray Paints a Killer Duo-Jet

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Credit Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern and renowned SoCal hot rod artist Sara Ray for teaming up to create another gem of a guitar from the Gretsch Custom Shop.

The ’59 Duo-Jet that is headed to U.K. resident Steve Isaacs features a 130th Anniversary logo on a larger headstock and an amazing graphic from Ray.  It was the second time Isaacs asked Ray to paint a guitar, the previous one depicting a tattooed pinup.

“I got to know Sara Ray quite well over the past few years,” Isaacs said from his home in Poole, Dorsett.  “She painted another guitar for me a while ago.  When it’s time for her to work on a guitar, she sends over couple of sketches, but I really don’t like to give her too much direction.  She came up with a couple of ideas, and I loved this one the most.”

Isaacs had also worked with Stern before, as the enthusiast owns a couple of masterbuilt Telecasters from Stern.

“I didn’t know much about Steve Stern, but he had such a fantastic resume.  He’s worked with some of the world’s greatest luthiers,” said Isaacs, who noted that he has been playing guitar for at least 30 years.

“He mentioned that I should check out Gretsch. I have to say, he totally converted me.  They’re great guitars.”

The image on Issacs’ newest piece is of Anne Bonny, the infamous Irishwoman who became a feared pirate.  With a sword slung at her side, Bonny is also holding a boarding pistol.

“I think it really came out amazing,” Isaacs said.  “It is truly one-of-a-kind, and I can’t wait to play it.”

View more of Ray’s work on her official website.

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