The Gretsch guitar is now distributed by Fender, but originally came from a company that was founded back in 1883 by a German immigrant named Friedrich Gretsch. His store in Brooklyn, New York, made drums, tambourines and banjos. He didn’t even start out making guitars.
He was a young man then, and only 12 years later he died at the age of 39. His son took over the company and moved it into a large building about 10 years later. He helped make it one of the most well-known manufacturers of American musical instruments.
Gretsch’s guitars hit their stride in the 1950s and 1960s. Well known country and western singer Chet Atkins played a Gretsch instrument. The company released several well-known and popular guitar models during this time.
Nothing helped promote the company more than Chet Atkins using a Gretsch-made guitar, however. The company even manufacturer guitars with Chet Atkin’s names right on the pick guard. When one of these was purchased by a musician who made instrumental records who became quite popular, the guitars gained even more worldwide fame.
The Gretsch-model guitar became a favorite of many rock-a-billy singers, including Elvis Presley who owned one of their “Country Gentlemen” line. The other main guitar manufacturers of the day were Fender, Rickenbacker and Gibson. Thanks to Atkins and other celebrities of the time, Gretsch guitars were able to compete and maintain a share of the market.
George Harrison, one of the Beatles, played a Gretsch on the Ed Sullivan show, helping make the guitars even more popular. He even plays one in the Beatles movie “Help!” And one of his Gretsch guitars is on the cover of his “Cloud Nine” solo album from the 1980s. John Lennon used a Gretsch as did Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and many other popular musicians.
Gretsch guitars are still popular today. Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame famously uses a vintage Gretsch. And like Chet Atkins, now has a line of guitars made with his name on them. The company also makes drums and guitar, bass, amp and drum accessories.
The website is helpful with blogs, downloadable owner’s guide and an easy way to find a dealer in your area who sells Gretsch guitars and accessories. Fender now distributes the instruments, but the quality is still the same as it was 50 years ago.
You can find featured guitarists on their site that use modern Gretsch brand guitars, as well as various events throughout the country featuring Gretsch merchandise, as well as music news. You can even order custom pinstripes on a guitar, buy artist, custom straps, and even buy Chet Atkins brand guitar strings.
A Gretsch guitar will cost you several hundred dollars new. And if you find a vintage model in good to great shape, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars more. Collectors love these vintage guitars like Gretsch and Fender. And guitars in top playable condition generally cost much more than those that can only really be displayed.