Gretsch Events

NAMM 2020 — Gretsch Custom Shop Event

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The music industry has once again converged upon Anaheim, California to meet to demonstrate the latest wares and to book business for the upcoming year. Whether it be manufacturer’s representatives, wholesalers, or retailers, they are all here looking to establish connections, order product for the coming year, and ultimately to escape the doldrums of winter and spend a few days in the warm environs of Southern California.

On Wednesday nights at the NAMM Show, Fender Musical Instruments has typically sponsored an evening of hors d'oeuvres and hosted bar for their dealers to give them an opportunity to take a look at the offerings produced by the various Custom Shops in the FMIC family, whether it be Fender’s own Custom Shop, Charvel’s, Jackson’s, or Gretsch’s.

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Bonedaddy and I ran into one of the FMIC luminaries, none other than Mike Lewis. For the uninitiated, Mike was the first person who was handed the keys to the Gretsch product line once FMIC had a deal with Fred Gretsch. Mike told us how he went onto the GDP and began reading the vintage section threads and thinking that it was really cool to have so many people who were into Gretsch vintage instruments. However, when he went into the Modern Guitars, and began to read the threads there, he realized that he had his work cut out for him.

He immediately purchased six of the current models from the pre-FMIC era and found another six vintage models on eBay or elsewhere. Then, he would take one modern and one vintage of the same model to a gig and trade off between them from set to set. He quickly learned that the recipe had been lost somewhere along the way and that set him off on his mission to get back to that recipe that made the Golden Era Gretsches so desirable.

Mike is now involved in marketing for the Fender Custom Shop, but obviously still has a lot of affection for the Gretsch lineup.

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Stephen Stern’s crew is busy many months before the NAMM Show designing the guitars that will be displayed and sold to dealers. As has been the case in past years, dealers who have an interest in a specific guitar place their business cards on the guitar and eventually one of those cards is selected at random from a hopper and that dealer than is allowed to buy that particular guitar.

The Gretsch Custom Shop guitars that were displayed this year tended to be less over-the-top in their design, and instead typically relied more on a classy and classic combination of materials or other design features.

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This first guitar, a G6120TG Nashville Jr. in a purple stain, was perhaps the most impressive to me. The quilted maple body was something that we don’t often see used by the Gretsch Custom Shop, not to mention the standard production offerings. Roasted flame neck, ebony fingerboard, mother of pearl inlay, and cream binding with vintage frets. The guitar sports TV Jones Classic PAF pickups, with a rocking bar bridge, and a Bigsby B3G vibrato tailpiece.

Built by Gonzalo Madrigal.

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This guitar is a Custom Shop G6128 Duo Jet nicknamed “Roadrunner.” It comes in gold sparkle sunburst over serape. So, being a heavily reliced guitar, when the top lacquer finish is peeled back, the serape finish below is exposed. I am not sure how that serape finish is done, but it is unusual and eye-catching.

The Roadrunner has a mahogany body with laminated maple top and copper sparkle binding. The mahogany neck has a ebony fretboard with mother of pearl rocker inlays and vintage style frets. Kluson close-backed tuners, TV Jones T-Armond Supertron pickups, rocking bar bridge, and a Bigsby tailpiece complete the design.

Designed by Kyle Kessler, and built by Stephen Stern.

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Here’s a Custom Shop Billy Bo bass guitar in shell pink built from roasted ash. The neck is bound in black. The ebony fretboard has pink cloud inlays and vintage style frets. Hipshot tuners (how often have we seen those on a Gretsch product of any kind?), Curtis Novak Foil-Top pickups, an AOM bridge with a Cadillac “G” Tailpiece.

Designed by Kyle Kessler and built by Stephen Stern.

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This is a Custom Shop G6134 1959 Penguin with a custom flame maple and rosewood top, and mahogany back and sides with a cocobolo binding that looked terrific. The guitar has a mahogany neck, with ebony fretboard that has engraved humpblock inlays with vintage style frets. Grover Imperial tuners. For electronics, the guitar has TV Jones Classic pickkups with tone pot wiring. It has an AOM bridge and a Bigsby B3G tailpiece.

Another masterbuild by Gonzalo Madrigal.

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Hey Bob,

What does the "Roasted flame neck" in that first one look like?

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And now to a Custom Shop G6134 1962 Penguin with a mahogany body, laminated maple top, with white moto binding. The green on this one was really hard to photograph – it pops in real life, but doesn’t look as impressive in photos. It has a maple neck with ebony fretboard, double thumbnail inlays, with Grover Imperial locking tuners (is this something new for Imperials?). The electronics are TV Jones T-Armonds with tone switch wiring. It is finished with an AOM bridge and Cadillac “G” tailpiece.

Designed by Chelsea Clark and built by Stephen Stern.


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