Just in from Gretsch - a new press release:
The year is 1964 and a music revolution begins in America. George Harrison strums his Gretsch® Chet Atkins Country Gentleman® guitar on The Ed Sullivan Show, beginning a new period for That Great Gretsch Sound!™
Fifty years ago, Fred W. Gretsch, experienced a revolution of his own. Sitting in front of his family's black-and-white television, he watched the Beatles' first live television performance in the U.S., fixated on George Harrison, who was playing a guitar with his family's name on it.
"At that point in time, rock 'n' roll was less than 10-years-old and it was a very exciting time for young people," Gretsch said. "I felt a lot of pride on behalf of my family's company, and because I was working at the factory during the summer and holidays, I was experiencing it on the inside [of the company] too."
Overnight, the demand for the Chet Atkins guitars increased, making a significant impact on Gretsch.
"Music stores had to immediately increase their orders to the factory after the show, because the teenage customers were demanding Harrison's guitar," Gretsch said. "Orders probably doubled in the next year after the appearance of the Beatles."
What was once known as a small family musical instrument company founded by German immigrant, Friedrich Gretsch, was now a part of an iconic music movement.
George Harrison was the first of many musicians to have an influence on Fred W. Gretsch over the first 50 years of his career...Chet Atkins, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Brian Setzer (Stray Cats), Bono (U2), Bruno Mars; the list is endless.
"We can look back and recognize the artists who used our instruments and the impact they had on the industry," Gretsch said. "Here we are 61 years later, still making those Chet Atkins guitar models."
The road to fame and success wasn't always easy for Gretsch, however. After his family's business was sold to the Baldwin Piano Company in 1967, Gretsch was in no position financially to take control of the company. So instead, he promised that one day he would buy the company back.
"I spent so much time thinking I would take over the company, so I was very surprised when it was sold to Baldwin," Gretsch said. "But I still had the intention to own the business again at one time."
Gretsch had been working at his family's company as an industrial engineer at the time of change in ownership, however six years after the sale he decided he was meant to go on his own venture.
"One thing I inherited, was an entrepreneurial spirit, so I decided to start my own business."
Gretsch followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps and started, Fred Gretsch Enterprises, which sold guitars, drums and band instruments.
"We supplied our products to the 'Sears' type of companies of the world," Gretsch said. "And I was truly doing what I enjoyed again; working in the musical instrument industry."
Gretsch says he opened his own business originally with the intention of making enough money to buy his family's business back. And 17 years later, Gretsch brought the family name back into ownership.
In 1985, when Gretsch regained control of the company - for the exception of his family's name and the production of drums - there was not much left to the business.
"It took a good many years to build the guitar business back up, and when we reintroduced the guitars again, there were only 12 models, including the Tennessean, White Falcon™, Jet™, and a few bass guitars," Gretsch said.
Starting from scratch with only 20 employees, Gretsch moved the business offices to Savannah, Ga., where it began to create the vintage-styled Gretsch guitars.
He continued to grow the business with the purchase of Bigsby Accessories and in 2002, Gretsch made a deal with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. the agreement was for Fender® to develop, produce and distribute Gretsch guitars worldwide.
"Our goal was, and still is, to partner with the best in everything we do," Gretsch said. "And since our deal with Fender, the business has grown tremendously."
In his 50-year career Gretsch has seen musical genres come and go, been inducted to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, been featured on the cover of Georgia Magazine, climbed to the top of Japan's Mount Fuji and congratulated in Congress.
When asked what he thinks his greatest accomplishment has been during his career, Gretsch said, "After a 50-plus-year career, you would be amazed to see how things change over the years and how much happens, but being able to enrich lives through the participation in music has been the highlight."
Gretsch went from the boy who just watched Harrison on television to having a treasured relationship with the musician, all while continuing to build the legacy of That Great Gretsch Sound!
Family, friends, artists and industry veterans celebrated Fred W. Gretsch's 50 years in the music business with an in-store event on May 30 at StreetSounds NYC in Brooklyn, N.Y. To help continue the celebration, the company is giving away a one-of-a-kind Gretsch G6118T-FG50 Anniversary guitar. The exclusive guitar will have a commemorative headstock and pickguard.
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