Gretsch

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Gretsch
Private
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1883; 137 years ago (1883) in Brooklyn, New York City
FounderFriedrich Gretsch
Headquarters,
Key people
Products
Divisions
Websitegretsch.com

Gretsch is an American company that manufactures musical instruments. The company was founded in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York by Friedrich Gretsch, a 27-year-old German immigrant, shortly after his arrival to the United States. Friedrich Gretsch manufactured banjos, tambourines, and drums until his death in 1895. In 1916, his son, Fred Gretsch Sr. moved operations to a larger facility where Gretsch went on to become a prominent manufacturer of American musical instruments.

Most modern-era Gretsch guitars are manufactured in the Far East, though American-made "Custom Shop" models are available. In 2002, Gretsch entered a business agreement with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). Under the terms of that agreement Fred W. Gretsch would retain ownership while FMIC would handle most of the development, distribution and sales.[2]

Through the years, Gretsch has manufactured a wide range of instruments, though they currently focus on electric, acoustic and resonator guitars, basses, ukuleles,[3] and drums.[4]

History[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

A G6122-1962 Chet Atkins Country Gentleman model.

Gretsch was founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch, a young German immigrant who opened his own musical instrument shop on 128 Middleton Street in Brooklyn, New York that year.[5] His shop was designed for the manufacture of tambourines and drums.[6] The operation moved to South 4th Street in 1894. In 1895, Gretsch died at the age of 39 and the company was taken over by his wife and fifteen-year-old son Fred.

Fred Gretsch expanded the business, adding Gretsch Building #1 at 109 South 5th Street in 1903, Gretsch Building #2 at 104-114 South 4th Street in 1910, and a new ten-story Gretsch Building #4 at 60 Broadway in 1916.[7] The company ultimately owned or operated six properties in the immediate area, including a warehouse on Dunham Place. Gretsch Building #4 was owned by the Gretsch family until 1999. Guitar production by the Gretsch Company began in the early 1930s, and Gretsch guitars became highly sought after, most notably in the 1950s and 1960s.

1950s, 1960s, 1970s[edit]

1955 Chet Atkins 6120.
Bono playing a Gretsch Irish Falcon.
Former Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith plays his signature model Gretsch Model 6076

Fred Gretsch Sr. handed over the family business to his son, Fred Gretsch Jr., after retiring in 1942. Soon after taking over, Fred Jr. left to serve in WWII as a Navy commander, leaving the business in the hands of his younger brother, William Walter "Bill" Gretsch. Bill Gretsch died in 1948 and the company was again run by Fred Jr.

By the mid-1950s the company introduced several models, including the 6120 "Nashville," and the Duo Jet chambered "solid body", which was played by Bo Diddley.[8] Two other models were introduced - the Country Club, and the White Falcon.

During this time, Chet Atkins became an endorser of Gretsch and they sold guitars with Atkins' name on the pickguard.[9]

Sale to Baldwin, Gretsch family regains interest[edit]

Fred Gretsch never found a suitable successor, and in 1967 Gretsch was sold to Baldwin Pianos,[10] becoming a subsidiary of that firm. Mid-1969, Baldwin moved Gretsch instrument manufacturing operations from Brooklyn to a plant in DeQueen, Arkansas.[5]

In 1983, Baldwin's holding company and several of its subsidiaries were forced into bankruptcy. At the time it was the largest bankruptcy ever, with a total debt of over $9 billion.[11] In 1984, former Baldwin CEO, Richard Harrison, bought the Baldwin music divisions and brought back former Gretsch employee, Duke Kramer, to run the Gretsch division.[12][13]

In 1985, the Gretsch company once again came under the leadership of the Gretsch family when Fred W. Gretsch, great grandson of Friedrich and nephew of Fred Gretsch Jr, assumed presidency of the company.[13][14] The first Gretsch guitars after Fred W Gretsch became president were released in 1988. They were a series of Traveling Wilburys commemorative guitars, which bore little resemblance to prior Gretsch models. In 1989, Gretsch restarted large-scale production of new guitars based on classic Gretsch models.[15][12]

FMIC control[edit]

In late 2002, Gretsch and the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation reached an agreement giving Fender control over marketing, production, and distribution of guitars, with the Gretsch family retaining ownership of the company.[16]

Guitars[edit]

Drums[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bacon, T. (2005). (Ed.). 50 Years of Gretsch Electrics. Backbeat Books. San Francisco. ISBN 0-87930-822-2.
  • Bacon, T. (2000). (Ed.). Fuzz & Feedback: Classic Guitar Music of the 60's. Miller Freeman Books. San Francisco. ISBN 0-87930-612-2.
  • Howe, Z. (2014). (Ed.). Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus and Mary Chain Story. Polygon. Edinburgh. ISBN 978-1-84697-331-4.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Remembering Bill and Sylvia Gretsch by Fred W. Gretsch
  2. ^ Guitars of the Fred Gretsch Company - Jay Scott
  3. ^ Folk & bluegrass instruments on Gretsch website, 9 Nov 2019
  4. ^ Gretsch Guitars 2019 updates
  5. ^ a b "Brooklyn Walking Tour: Traveling Through Gretsch History Today" by Fred Gretsch. Gretsch.com [1]/
  6. ^ "Gretsch History: Best performances start with Gretsch guitars & drums, on stage since 1883. A music-industry leader since 1883. Learn about our many music industry firsts!". Gretsch.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  7. ^ "These Luxury Lofts Are Home to Rock History and a Rocket-Related Mystery" by Natalie Lampert Bedford + Bowery, December 30, 2014.[2]
  8. ^ Hilmar, Jim (2013-12-31). "Gretsch Jet Firebird". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  9. ^ "Gretsch 6120 models: Gretsch-GEAR: The Gretsch Pages". gretschpages.com. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
  10. ^ Gjörde, Per (2001). Pearls and Crazy Diamonds. Göteborg, Sweden: Addit Information AB. pp. 35–37.
  11. ^ Baldwin, A Casualty Of Fast Expansion, Files For Bankruptcy New York Times September 27, 1983
  12. ^ a b "Gretsch". acousticmusic.org. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  13. ^ a b "Remembering Duke Kramer". gretsch.com. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  14. ^ "About Fred Gretsch, Jr., Music Pioneer". The Richmond Hill Historical Society. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  15. ^ "Gretsch History: The Gretsch Pages". gretschpages.com. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  16. ^ Tim Baxter/APTgroup. "Gretsch History". The Gretsch Pages. Retrieved 2012-12-20.

External links[edit]