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Gretsch Guitars

Gretsch Guitars

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Gretsch Guitars

Friedrich Gretsch began in 1883 in a small workshop in Brooklyn with the production of banjos, tambourines and drums. In 1895 he died at the age of 39 and his son Fred took over the business.

Their greatest successes were celebrated from the mid-1950s, led by Fred's sons Fred Jr. and Bill. At that time, the company introduced innovative new electric guitars, including the 6120 and White Falcon models. The most important contribution to the success of Gretsch was made by Chet Atkins, one of the most important guitarists of the time. Thanks to his endorsement, Gretsch was given a realistic chance of competing against the more well-known manufacturers Fender and Gibson.

Many rockabilly guitarists like Eddie Cochran chose Gretsch models, as well as Gene Vincent's guitarist Cliff Gallup and last but not least Elvis Presley. Gretsch soon became a serious rival to Gibson and their main rivals, Fender and Rickenbacker. Another contribution to Gretsch's success came from George Harrison, who appeared in the mid-1960s on the Ed Sullivan Show with a Country Gentleman. In the twelve months following this broadcast annual sales of the model increased from around 50 to more than 2,000. From 1966, the company's products were on television every week as Gretsch provided the guitars and drums for The Monkees. The advertising effect was as successful as that of Jimi Hendrix for the Fender Stratocaster or Eric Clapton for the Gibson Les Paul. Soon Gretsch could no longer satisfy the demand for the instruments.

Fred and Bill Gretsch failed to find a suitable successor to the management. Therefore, Gretsch was sold as a subsidiary to Baldwin Pianos. As a result, the quality of the instruments and thus the reputation of the brand name suffered increasingly under quality control. Fires in the factory in the early 1970s caused additional serious problems, so that Baldwin finally ceased production in 1981.
In 1984, the Gretsch family bought back the company and resumed production. In the 1990s, Gretsch guitars were characterised by a high product quality and were correspondingly expensive. The product range comprised mainly of new editions of earlier models. In the 1980s, Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats revived interest in Gretsch instruments; today Gretsch produces a corresponding special model. Chris Isaak's move to mainstream rock also contributed to the new success. Already Billy Zoom of the US-Punk-Band X played a Silver Jet, while Malcolm Young used a duo jet with two cutaways and occasionally a White Falcon. Bono from U2 also has his own special model, the green "Irish Falcon", on whose pickguard the slogan "The Goal Is Soul" is printed.

In 2003, Gretsch and Fender entered into an agreement whereby Fender was given the most extensive control over the manufacture and distribution of guitars. Most recently, new and improved old models appeared in rapid succession, which seems to usher in a new golden era for Gretsch.