125 years ago, a German immigrant by the name of Friedrich Gretsch opened a small instruments shop in Brooklyn, NY. Young Gretsch built banjos and drums, and his little business was success. After his son Fred Jr. took over, the family business boomed. LIST PRICE: $10,000.00
125 years ago, a German immigrant by the name of Friedrich Gretsch opened a small instruments shop in Brooklyn, NY. Young Gretsch built banjos and drums, and his little business was success. After his son Fred Jr. took over, the family business boomed. The company began manufacturing electric guitars in the 1930s and by the ‘50s had the great Chet Atkins as an endorser. Twang rocker Duane Eddy took a liking to Gretsch’s Chet Atkins model and gave the product more visibility with his record sales and television appearances. Eddy Cochran and other rockers also flaunted the Gretsch instruments in their performances. Sales increased and business was good. A few years later a young George Harrison played a Gretsch Country Gentleman on the Ed Sullivan Show. Anyone from that era can tell you that if a Beatle played a particular guitar on Ed Sullivan, that guitar’s sales would go through the roof overnight. And they did.
In this 125th anniversary year, Gretsch offers several tribute models, one of the finest is the Chet Atkins G6120-DSW. This throwback to the early ‘50s is sharp to say the least. The finish is in a burnt orange that the company calls “Western Maple.” Western indeed! This beauty has steer head and cactus designs on its carved fingerboard inlays, and even a big “G” branded on the body. It appears almost as if some cowpoke left one of these guitars leaning on a fence post in the corral and the guy doing the branding got a wild hair. So rockabilly it makes you smile! The polished Bigsby vibrato handle and brass knobs add that extra sparkle that gets the women.
Unless you are the Monkees, who also “played” Gretsch, the two most important things about a guitar are tone and playability. In the tone department, the Chet 6120-DSW offers plenty. The 2 ¾” deep hollowbody really resonates with a deep bottom end and detailed treble. The Dynasonic single coil pickups are a perfect compliment to the body and really allow that woody sound to come through. Each pickup has its own volume knob, and there is a master volume at the head of the body so you can blend the two pickups however you like and then use the master for overall volume. This, coupled with a three position toggle switch, yields a wide range of sonic textures to explore. I have a buddy who is a great Chet Atkins/Jerry Reed type player so I let him have his way with the Chet G6120, and he immediately got a rich jazzy feel from it. My countrypolitan friend executed some intricate picking patterns, runs and chord voicings that took me to school and showed me what the Gretsch Chet Atkins is all about. I took the guitar home a little humbled, ran it through a little distortion and had me some fun playing quasi rockabilly licks and messing with the tremolo bar. Each of us fell in love with the burnt orange beast.
Whether you are a sophisticated jazzer or a greasy rocker, the Gretsch Chet Atkins G6120-DSW has the sound you are looking for. That being said, it is not a beginner’s instrument by any standard. There are plenty of whistles and bells on this guitar to experiment with and thousands of tonal decisions to make. A guitar like this one is like a luxury automobile; it is built to suit the most discriminating tastes. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”