Vintage Gretsch Guitars were manufactured by the Gretsch musical instrument company. Founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch. Although Friedrich died only 12 years later in 1895 his son Fred Gretsch continued running the company and by 1916 moved into a 10-story building in Brooklyn.
Gretsch was not big into guitars until the Big Band Era and in 1933 Gretsch began placing its name on guitars for the first time. This, for us, begins the Vintage Gretsch Guitars. In 1939 Gretsch introduced its first electric guitar and the Synchromatic line.
The Synchromatic Line of vintage Gertsch guitars were available from 1939 to 1955. They had a non-cutaway body with maple back and sides. The Synchromatic guitar line included the 100, 160, 200, 300, and 400 Acoustic Archtop. This line was debuted as Gretsch was building up to take on Gibson, the archtop juggernaut of the time.
Through much of the 1940s guitar production was put on hold so Gretsch could help in the war effort.
The Electromatic Spanish debuted in 1939 and was gone by 1955. One of the first Gertsch electric guitars, the body was made of maple and spruce with a rosewood fingerboard. It had 22 frets and 1 DeArmond pickup.
The Electro II debuted in 1951. Available as non-cutaway through 1955 and a cutaway through 1954, the Electro II was based on the 6030 Synchromatic archtop. The body is spruce and maple, has 22 frets, used small, clear plastic knobs, and has “Electromatic” engraved into the headstock.
The Jet Line of Guitars
Included the Duo-Jet (black), the FireBird (red), and the silverJet (silver) and except for the color were nearly identical. The Jet line series of vintage Gretsch guitars were manufactured in 1953 to 1962 and from 1967 to 1969. They were made from mahogany bodies that are extensively routed. Options included a Bigsby vibrato (T suffixed model name) and a “Dynasonic” (DS suffixed model names).
Chet Atkins Guitars
The 6120 Chet Atkins Hollowbody and the 6121 Chet Atkins Solidbody, as so named, were endorsed by the guitarist Chester Atkins (1924-2001). The Hollowbody was produced from 1954 to 1964 and the Solidbody was produced from 1954 to 1961. Although these guitars varied through the years and were favored by rock and rollers they were country style guitars having a longhorn steer and cows and cactus inlays. The most noted change was in 1958 when the DeArmond pickups were replaced with FilterTron Humbucking pickups.
Gretsch White Falcon
The White Falcon vintage Gretsch guitars were manufactured from 1955 to 1980. Originally intended as showpiece it was called “The Guitar of the Future” only the curiosity of the crowd brought Grestch to reconsider and the White falcon was released in 1955. Having a 17″ body, solid spruce archtop, laminated maple back and sides, and a fretboard with pearl inlay and gold sparkle-white-black-white layered binding; it’s the epitome of the 1960’s rock guitars.
Some notable guitarists who have played Gretsch guitars include Duane Eddie (6120 Chet Atkins), Eddie Cochran (6120 Chet Atkins), and George Harrison (Country Gentlemen and Tennessean).