Friday, July 4, 2008

Meeting Fred Gretsch IV

Last night I got to do something very cool. I got to meet Fred Gretsch IV, the man who single-handedly resurrected Gretsch Guitars and returned them to their full glory. I am very fortunate to live near Buffalo Brothers guitars, one of the finest guitar stores in the country. Last night they had a presentation by Gretsch to honor their 125th anniversary. Their marketing director and local sales crew were in town for the event and there was a very cool slide show of the history of Gretsch, which is an interesting history for sure.

I had no idea that in the late '60s Gretsch was sold by Fred's uncle to the Baldwin piano company and eventually just completely stopped making guitars. Fred Gretsch IV, who is the great grandson of the company's founder, hounded Baldwin until they finally sold him the company back, but really only because Baldwin was in foreclosure. Baldwin not only sold pianos but also had become a huge financial company due to the piano financing business. Their failure was basically the Enron of the '80s. Whole different interesting story, but the bright side is that Fred got the company back and, over the course of the next 4-5 years, was able to start manufacturing Gretsch guitars once again and do it in a high quality way.

Mr. Gretsch was an interesting fellow to be sure and was kind enough to meet with people afterwards and sign photos and posters. I just happen to own a Gretsch Way Out West cowboy guitar (these are very cool, and cheap too), so I asked Mr. Gretsch to sign my guitar. He was very gracious, though when I asked him not to personalize it to me, he wouldn't really go along with that. I guess he thinks it would end up on eBay or something. So, forced to have it personalized, I chose to have him sign it to my band, the Small Pox Mountain Boys.

In addition to the history lesson, they also had a performance by guitarist extrordinaire, Bob Gibson (ironic name, huh?) who plays in the Chet Atkins style. They also had some of their upcoming limited edition guitars on display, the coolest of which is a Billy Zoom relic Gretsch Silver Jet.

At about $7,000 street price, it's just a tad out of my reach, but MAN, I want one of THOSE!

All in all, what a great night! They gave out some collectible string pouches with limited edition picks and strings, as well as catalogs and a few T-shirts. If by any chance you have an opportunity in your area to see the Gretsch crew, by all means set the evening aside.

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