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Five Great Televised Gretsch Moments of the British Invasion

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On both sides of the Atlantic during the 1960s, the British Invasion created a golden age of rock and pop music on prime time TV that really hasn’t been equaled since. In addition to the big, long-running U.S. and U.K. variety shows of the era—The Ed Sullivan Show and Sunday Night at the London Palladium, respectively—it saw a proliferation of pop/rock programs that televised the invasion as it happened, such as Top of the Pops and Ready Steady Go! in the United Kingdom, and Shindig! and Hullabaloo in the United States.

One particularly happy result of all that great live and lip-synched programming was that, as never before, millions of viewers got a good up-close look at Gretsch guitars and basses in action. Here then are five great televised Gretsch moments from the British Invasion, beginning with the phenomenal landmark performance that started it all.

P.S. – If anybody knows where we can find a Yardbirds TV clip that shows Eric Clapton playing his double-cutaway Gretsch 6120, let us know, would you? We searched all over and can’t find it, but we’re convinced that it exists and would love to see it …

1. The Beatles. The Beatles made their U.S. television debut on Feb. 9, 1964, with the first of several appearances on the The Ed Sullivan Show. A historic moment in pop culture and the opening salvo of the invasion in the United States, it drew a record-setting 73 million viewers, all of whom saw George Harrison playing an elegant Gretsch Country Gentleman as the Beatles opened the show with “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You,” and later closed it with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Nothing would ever be the same after this …

2. The Rolling Stones. In the midst of their first U.S. tour, the Stones hit Cleveland for a Thursday, June 18, 1964, appearance on daytime TV’s The Mike Douglas Show. It was only their second U.S. television appearance—the group made its televised U.S. debut a couple weeks earlier with an infamous appearance on Hollywood Palace in which smug host Dean Martin seemed to take greater delight in making fun of them than presenting them. Douglas was far more polite, and the Stones turned in three songs, with Brian Jones slinging a Gretsch Anniversary model on the first two—Chuck Berry’s “Carol” and their own “Tell Me.” Notice that “Carol” was played live, whereas “Tell Me” and Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” (with Jones trading guitar for harp) were lip-synched …

3. The Who. So popular were the Who as an oft-seen Ready Steady Go! favorite that an entire 1966 episode of the popular British Friday-evening show was simply re-titled Ready Steady Who! On the July 2, 1965, RSG! telecast, the group turned in a lip-synched rendition of their electrifying “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and a raucous (and apparently live) rendition of James Brown’s “Shout and Shimmy” (the U.K. B-side of the Who’s “My Generation” single). The astute observer will note that the ever-stoical but always fleet-fingered John Entwistle is calmly anchoring the proceedings with a Gretsch 6070 bass guitar …

4. The Animals. Eric Burdon and the Animals made several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show from fall 1964 to summer 1966. In the first of these, on Oct. 18, 1964, the group played “I’m Crying” and its biggest hit of the decade, an organ-drenched interpretation of traditional folk song “The House of the Rising Sun” (a song about a brothel, mind you, on a program that only would only show Elvis Presley doing “Ready Teddy” from the waist up). Though famed for Alan Price’s swirling organ work and Burdon’s bellowing vocals, the song is just as well known for Hilton Valentine’s spine-tingling arpeggiated guitar part, as rendered on the Gretsch Tennessean he plays here …

5. Gerry and the Pacemakers. Brian Epstein had other bands, you know. Have a look at Gerry and the Pacemakers performing on U.K. music show Big Night Out on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 8, 1964 (the night just before fellow Liverpool/Epstein act the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show debut across the pond in New York). In this appearance, the boys—well, the other boys, we should say—make pretty swingin’ work of 1953 Nat King Cole hit “Pretend,” playing it much faster and generally giving it the charming scouser treatment so popular at the time. And see how Gerry Marsden is earnestly rockin’ that handsome Gretsch Tennessean worn way up high? That’s how those Brits used to do what they do, mate …

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