Gretsch

Gretsch was founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch, a young German immigrant. His Brooklyn shop was made for the manufacture of banjos, tambourines, and drums. In 1895, at the age of 39, Gretsch died, and the successful company was taken over by his son Fred. By 1916, Fred had moved the company into a larger 10-story building in the Williamsburg district, becoming one of the most prominent American musical instrument makers.

The single biggest contribution to Gretsch’s success was the addition of Chet Atkins as an endorser. Atkins was one of the pre-eminent guitarists of his day, and his endorsement gave Gretsch greater visibility in competition with Gibson and Fender. Gretsch ultimately sold thousands of guitars with Chet’s name on the pickguard, most notably the 6120 Chet Atkins model. In the 1980s, rockabilly revival player Brian Setzer rekindled interest in the brand with his band The Stray Cats. His influence continued through the 1990s with The Brian Setzer Orchestra and its fusion of “hyperbilly” guitar and powerful big band arrangements. In 1990, he became the first player since Chet Atkins to be honored with a signature-model Gretsch, the Brian Setzer 6120.

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