1 Ric12string 9 months ago There were suggestions that I create a separate thread for the Gretsch concert event at the NAMM Show. So, here it is. Gretsch Guitars Creates An Epic Concert Event For The AgesSometimes the stars just align in a particular manner, it just makes everything wonderfully splendid. Where fate takes control of the circumstances and individuals involved and turns it into something better than even they could have hoped for. The individuals just don’t have any power to lessen the event because they are not in control of it; rather, it is being played out by the stars, or by kismet or fate guiding them through their paces. And so it was last night. We know that each of these players on the bill is individually spectacular. But, to have them all on the same bill, sometimes sharing the stage, was probably greater than any of them or us dared think it could be.Last night was the kind of night that adds to the lore of this neo-Golden Era of Gretsch Guitars. Players that not only demonstrated their own prowess on their guitar of choice, but players whose playing defined the sound of Gretsch last night. The tones in that room last night were what make each of us love this six-string aural recipe. If Joe Carducci and his FMIC-Gretsch team, along with Fred Gretsch, were able to bottle up a little bit of the magic in the room last night and sell it with each new guitar, Gretsch would be the guitar coveted by every teenage boy or girl wishing to become the next guitar hero. A fairly modest looking club The Ticket WindowsThe epic concert event was held in Santa Ana, California at a club called The Observatory; specifically, it was held in a room called The Constellation Room, a venue that was perhaps 70' x 70' in dimension, including the area occupied by the stage. The concert was an invitation-only event which was not generally promoted through the press, although Gretsch did have a ticket giveaway on its website. But, you couldn’t get into the event unless you had a special concert lanyard and badge. No substitutes were allowed. And, it was a good thing that the show wasn’t promoted because the perhaps two hundred persons (maximum) in attendance comfortably filled The Constellation Room as it was. The room was full, yet you didn’t have the elbows of the guy standing next to you constantly bumping you throughout the show. You had some small space around you where you could comfortably enjoy the show.And the crowd, presumably most of them guitar players themselves, just knew that they were in for something historic about to occur. How many times would anyone see a lineup like this one in this intimate of a venue? They knew that magic was going to occur and that the stars were somehow aligning.Joe C., the mastermind behind the evening’s event, alternatively fretted over whether the details of the show were just right, and in the next moment could be seen inhaling the intoxicating realization that not only were the details right, but that he was about to create an epic moment in the history of this iconic brand. Joe stepped into the spotlights on the darkened stage, welcomed the crowd, and set the theme for the night by telling us that the evening’s event was all about family. He said that, if you were lucky enough to have been in that room last night, then you were a part of the greater Grestch family, something that each of us in the audience was proud to be a part of. Later, when Fred and Dinah Gretsch took the stage, accompanied by their grandson, Logan, they reiterated that Fred was a fourth generation Gretsch, Logan was a sixth-generation Gretsch, that Gretsch was a family-owned business, and that, for them, it was all about the global Gretsch family. Finally, between the second and third sets, Fred and Dinah Gretsch returned to the stage to present a Gretsch proclamation to Bonnie Creef, Cliff Gallup’s daughter, expressing the Gretsch family’s appreciation for the contributions made by Cliff Gallup to music, but also to helping to forge an identity for the Gretsch guitar brand during the early rockabilly days. Bonnie talked fondly about her father, calling him “the greatest dad” that one could have had, and once again echoing the sentiment about his role in her family. Yep, it was all about family. Joe C. first brought to the stage our own GDP pal, Paul Pigat, and Cousin Harley out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Wow. Wow. Wow. How can this guy be such a well-kept secret outside of Gretsch circles? Why is this Paul not headlining stadiums? He’s that good, ya know. With a slightly overdriven tone through a Gretsch Executive amp, Paul led Cousin Harley through a blistering set of approximately eight or nine songs. He started off with “Jukin’”, the title track from his first CD release and alternated between a couple of vocal songs and then an instrumental; then rinse and repeat. It was a good formula that worked quite well for us.This crowd knew full well just who Paul is and what an amazing talent he is and they let him know it, warmly applauding every song. Keith Picot, on bass, drove every song with his chest-pounding upright bass – mixed much louder than I think that I have ever heard an upright bass before. If you have ever seen Cousin Harley live, then you know what an entertaining element Keith can be in his own right as he plays his bass, mimes the words, looks to the sky, carries on conversations with invisible beings about him, and generally enjoys himself to the fullest as he works through every song. Paul is truly lucky to have located Keith. On drums was Jesse Cahill, also well known to those who have followed Paul’s career with Cousin Harley. With the driving bass, Jesse locked into an unshakeable groove on every song much like the proverbial junkyard dog and would not let go.Suffice it to say that Gretsch could not have found a better opening act last night than they had in Paul Pigat. Fiery, moody, and take-no-hostages guitar playing at its absolute best. Had the show have been over when Paul finished playing, we all would have gone home feeling fully content with having seen a tremendous show. But, the show wasn’t anywhere close to being over; rather, it was only just getting started. Paul Pigat, Part 1 Paul Pigat, Part 2 Joe C. called Fred and Dinah Gretsch to the stage and recalled how they were first introduced to Duane Eddy who showed up at a music industry show in London with George Harrison and Jeff Lynne and asked for Fred to vouch for them so they could gain entry. The Gretsches presented a Gretsch proclamation to Duane Eddy. Again, the theme was “family” as Fred and Dinah consider Duane and Deed to be among their closest friends and they are just like family to each other. Duane graciously accepted the presentation from the Gretsches and seemed genuinely touched. Joe Carducci Teasing Duane Eddy's Performance Fred and Dinah Gretsch Recalling Meeting Duane EddyThen, it was time to be schooled by Duane on how to create a legendary sound. With recent and well-deserved hoopla over Gretsch’s release of a Cliff Gallup signature model Duo Jet, it is easy to forget that the other huge event at this winter NAMM for Gretsch was the long, long-anticipated release of the follow-up signature model Duane Eddy guitars. We know that Duane’s return to the Gretsch fold from his years of wandering in the Gibson and Guild deserts was celebrated by the release several years ago of a Desert Sunrise 6120, a guitar which has earned countless accolades in recent years for its functional improvements (longer Bigsby pins to make string changes easier, a Tru-Arc™ rocking bar bridge, and a neck thought by many to be among the most comfortable ever built by Gretsch). When Duane took to the stage last night, three gorgeous Gretsch guitars were on display: In his hands was his new signature model pearl white 6120 with its striking white faceplate, and gold tuners, gold knobs and switch, and gold pickup surrounds. And on stands behind him were his new companion model 6120 in black and gold, and the new Stephen Stern-made six-string bass, again in black and gleaming gold with its split humpblock inlays (these are some pretty special inlays). Even Duane’s signature model Desert Sunrise 6120 was brought up on stage for one song, a performance of Peter Gunn.After introducing the members of the band, Duane launched into Movin’ and Groovin’, which featured that thundering twanging sound that has made him a living guitar legend. And, much as Steve Douglass had done on so many of Duane’s famous recordings, last night, Ron Dzuibla alternated extraordinary solo phrases on sax with Duane’s own guitar solo parts. Also, joining Duane on stage was a young woman named Cynthia Maloof whom Duane and Deed had found on YouTube playing Shazam! on a video. They sent a friendly and encouraging note of admiration for her skills and she responded with a thank you note of her own. Before long, they had struck up a friendship. If I understood it correctly, she had traveled from her home in Lebanon to share the stage with Duane on this occasion. Here is Cynthia’s video. Duane went through all of the big hits and no one left feeling deprived. From Movin’ and Groovin’, to Cannonball, Three-30 Blues, The Lonely One, Peter Gunn, among many others, and closing his show with Rebel Rouser, Duane left no one in doubt about who had created that low, single note, solo guitar sound. Between songs, he was his ever-humble, self-effacing, and genuine self telling humorous anecdotes about the life of a rock musician in the late Fifties, creating a new song, finding a song title while on the road with Lee Hazlewood, and many, many more. I use the word “genuine” by design because it truly reflects the kind of man that Duane is. He seems to genuinely love and appreciate his audience. On the one hand, he basks in their adulation and applause, smiling as they shouted, “Duane, we love you!” Yet, at other times, he seems to be slightly embarrassed by it, almost as if what he does on his guitar is really nothing special. He is a gentleman’s gentleman, speaking softly to his audience with his hat pulled down low enough that his face remains in the spotlight’s shade for most of the night, adding an element of mystery to the man.Duane is truly a national rock and roll musical treasure and someone whose rare performances we have to savor whenever and wherever they occur. He has forged a sound like no other. And he was there on the tour buses with so many singers and players whose music created the soundtrack of our youths. He has so very many memories of those days that someone needs to write them down so that they can be shared with so many others. Proteus, are you listening? Duane Eddy, Part 1 Duane Eddy, Part 2 Duane Eddy, Part 3 Duane Eddy, Part 4 Duane Eddy, Part 5 Duane Eddy, Part 6 Another short break occurred after Duane’s set as the stage was readied for Jeff Beck. One legend leaves the stage as another one was about to enter it. Stagehands worked with the sound crew to check the monitors, making sure that the drums were set up properly, and that Jeff’s guitar rig was set to go. Then, wearing a Blue Cap himself, Joe C. returned to the microphone and told the story about Cliff Gallup’s legend and how Joe had been on a national search for the elusive Gallup Duo Jet. He related the story about how Cliff had sold the guitar to a fellow who treasured the guitar, knowing that so many wonderful lead parts had been recorded with it on Gene Vincent’s recordings, only to have his son pull the guitar out of the closet during a low financial moment and trade it in on a set of drums. Joe, however, is on a mission to locate the guitar and he frequently likes to share the serial number (S/N 15654) in hopes that someone will find an old 1954 Duo Jet in the attic of their father’s home that bears that serial number. Joe Carducci on Cliff Gallup's Duo JetAnd then, Jeff Beck took to the stage, striding in front of the band who had already taken their places there as they prepared to honor the legendary Cliff Gallup. Jeff picked up a Cliff Gallup signature model Duo Jet and strummed a few chords on it to make sure that he liked the tone and volume and then they were off, Race-ing With The Devil. The notes just tumbled from his fingertips as Jeff recreated the sound that had seared Cliff Gallup’s guitar playing into the consciousness of the American public. Jeff’s guitar had that clear tone that one can only achieve with a Dyna Jet and a Fender amplifier. The songs were short, as were all songs in the Fifties, clocking in at around two minutes or a little more each, but each song was chock-full of musicianship and melody.While most were there to see Jeff Beck honor Cliff Gallup, some of us were also eager to see our GDP pal, Darrel Higham, working the microphone and acoustic guitar with Jeff. And, I must say, Darrel absolutely killed last night. First, our man of sartorial elegance himself, Shuie, would have been so proud of Darrel as he hit the stage with a shirt filled with silver threads that glistened in the spotlights, and rather high-waisted pleated trousers that made you feel as if you were right in the Fifties again. Absolutely smashing. Darrel played an orange Rancher acoustic guitar, one that looked like it might have been older than the current Rancher models being offered by Gretsch. His rhythm playing was supportive, refined, and never in your face; rather, he was always there to be a part of the musical fabric that the band was weaving. And, my oh my, can that boy sing. Darrel was channeling Gene Vincent, a little Elvis, and all of the other famous male vocalists of the “rock ‘n’ roll” era. Sure, it was great fun to hear Jeff Beck play; but, it was only possible because of the opportunity to accompany the extraordinary vocal talents of Darrel. Well done, Darrel. You made us GDPers proud.Cliff Gallup only played on 35 tracks of Gene Vincent’s recordings before he retired from the life of the touring musician. Thirty-five! Yet, those recordings mark the high tide mark of rockabilly guitar playing. Jeff and the band played a good dozen or more of Vincent’s most famous recordings. GDPer Tavo and his family were at the edge of the stage and I am sure that he had a birds-eye view of what Jeff’s rig looked like, but it didn’t look to me like he was doing much pedal stomping or boosting of his leads. It was all in his fingers and the judicious use of the volume knob. And a Gretsch Dyna Duo Jet guitar with a clean amp and reverb sound.One interesting thing for guitarists that GDPer giffenf and I noticed was that, during a break between songs, Jeff turned around and covered his hands – particularly his left hand – with talcum powder. The club was hot, he was obviously perspiring quite a bit and undoubtedly the talcum powder kept his hands drier and allowed his fingers to glide more smoothly over the strings. Yet, I can’t imagine what a mess that must cause to the fretboard of a guitar with repeated use. Jeff Beck, Part 1 Jeff Beck, Part 2 Jeff Beck, Part 3 Jeff Beck, Part 4 Jeff and Darrel’s set ended after having served up a sumptuous feast of rockabilly goodness and they left the stage. The audience cheered for more, thinking that they could bring them back with more applause and yells for more. But, suddenly, who took to the microphone? It was Rocky Schiano, of Street Sounds NYC, who stepped to the microphone and told everyone that Gretsch thanked them for coming out and wished them a safe journey home. No one moved. Not a soul. Rocky had fooled absolutely no one. The amps’ jewel lights were still glowing, the stage lights were low, nothing had been taken off stage. We knew that there was still some excitement in store. And then, who stepped to the microphone? It was Big Sandy, of Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, exhorting everyone to bring Duane Eddy back to the stage, reminding us of what an incredible role Duane had played in creating so many memorable hit records, and that we needed to appreciate the magic of the moment in having him and Jeff Beck in the same club, on the same stage at this one moment in time. Duane emerged from the wings and climbed up onto the stage. Shortly after him, however, was Jeff Beck who joined Duane in a rousing version of Hard Times to close the show. This time, while Duane had returned to his new signature white 6120, Beck had his Strat in hand and the two guitar legends traded solos. And what a delightful contrast it was: Duane’s clean, Dyna-induced notes on the one hand, with Jeff’s overdriven Strat tones on the other. But, before you knew it, the song had ended and Jeff exited the stage with Duane not long behind him. Duane Eddy and Jeff Beck, EncoreIt was a magical moment in Gretsch history and one of which Joe C. and Fred Gretsch can be rightfully proud of having created. And for those of us in the audience who had the good fortune to have experienced it, we knew that we had witnessed lightning being caught in a bottle, something that would almost certainly never happen again. Two guitar legends leading us through so many of Duane’s hits and so many songs that Cliff Gallup helped add to the rock ‘n’ roll songbook of the Fifties.Yep. It’s all about family, and you and I can be justifiably honored to be a part of that family.