Modern Gretsch Guitars

pre stern custom shop?

1

so i was on reverb, looking at falcons and stuff and weeping softly, as one does. and i saw a custom shop 2006 falcon (that has been there forever). upon closer inspection, i noticed it didn't have any signature or little plaque thing on it. then i realized that steven stern hasn't existed forever, and maybe, there was a time where things happened where he wasn't involved.

so it got me thinking. what was the custom shop like before it came into focus as the custom shop we know and love today? who made them? how does the quality compare to today's custom shop, and the mij instruments of the time (and now)? when did the stern era begin?

edit- upon closer inspection it appears that maybe that's his signature on the interior label. hard to read, but it was signed by someone. but that wasn't the point and most of my questions still stand.

3

well yeah, sort of. in the sense that you prompted me to go the gretsch website and look up what you posted because it didn't work

but what happened before 2005? could have sworn there were sporadic us made gretsch attempts between baldwin and then, right? all that comes to mind were the heritage built ones, but i know there were more.

4

When the Custom Shop Gretsches first came out, probably pretty close to that 2006 timeframe, maybe a little earlier, Cream City in Milwaukee had both the '55 White Falcon and the '55 6120 that I got to try out. Those were the only two models, and they were both catalog items, not really custom. I don't know if Stern was involved or not, but it was before the Custom Shop was marketed as "Stephen Stern's Custom Shop." The characteristics that appealed to me were in place from the beginning - vintage spec, vintage look, vintage feel (lighter build, more delicate feel, lively and resonant), and just an all-around impression of superb quality. Some of the vintage details have improved over the years on the replica models, and of course the Custom Shop has evolved into building truly custom guitars. But in terms of quality and feel, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one of the early ones.

5

I took to long to reply. I guess Stern was there from the start. But he wasn't marketed in the beginning the way he is now.

but what happened before 2005? could have sworn there were sporadic us made gretsch attempts between baldwin and then, right? all that comes to mind were the heritage built ones, but i know there were more.

The only two things that come to mind are the clearly Heritage built carved archtop jazz guitars and the mid/late '90s archtop electrics. IIRC the models were 6120, Falcon, and I believe Club. They may have been made by Heritage or maybe somebody else.

8

There was an attempt at Custom Shop models in 1996 or so with a "6120-55" as well as a Country Club version. These were not period correct. I don't know if these were the Heritage guitars.

9

I recall a few years ago that Rocky brought a guitar to a Balto-DC Roundup which he thought was an early custom shop model. It was very similar to the 6120-55 lx posted above and may have been this particular guitar. I don’t know but it at least provided a time frame.

10

That was the year I made it to Balto, as I recall. Those things are interesting historical curiosities, but they sure didn't scratch many itches among buyers.

11

There was an attempt at Custom Shop models in 1996 or so with a "6120-55" as well as a Country Club version. These were not period correct. I don't know if these were the Heritage guitars.

– lx

Carved top Nashville. Anyone know what the ser# Tells me?

12

Dunno about the serial number, but that is definitely not a regular Terada/FujiGen label. Whats the rest of the guitar look like?

13

I agree with LX, that is a very non-standard body label with a very cryptic serial number. In fact, the serial number looks suspiciously like an MIRC refurbish s/n, since there appears to be writing underneath it.

14

That was the year I made it to Balto, as I recall. Those things are interesting historical curiosities, but they sure didn't scratch many itches among buyers.

– Baxter

Curiosity sums it up. I don’t know if it moved quickly but don’t recall any Roundup attendee seizing the moment.

15

Chris Flemming was building Gretsch custom shop guitars before Stern. There was no custom shop signature decal on back of headstock but a Gretsch USA custom shop label was inside.

16

Dunno about the serial number, but that is definitely not a regular Terada/FujiGen label. Whats the rest of the guitar look like?

– lx

1

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– SLICKFASTER

The top thickness and post connecting the top to the back all indicate an early Terada build - as does that luscious flame. The earliest Terada 6120s were all ceramic Filtertrons. This looks like one of their earliest takes on a more period correct Dyna equipped '55-ish 6120. Could you take some close-up pics of the hole where we might see if that is a laminate or a carved top? Gretsch was doing a lot of different things in the '90's -- and there were a few not-well documented items. A solid carved top 6120 would be such a thing.

22

Congrats -- that's a rare bird. The 5-ply laminate tops in the early Teradas had that thickness, but yours is clearly solid. My experience with my '89 6120 was that the acoustic sound opened up beautifully with time.

23

Odd construction fact is that it does not have the inner blocks that support top and bottom to the sides?? Just a glued seam..

24

Right you are, but odd it ain't. This was the construction of the early Teradas as well as the Electrotone (closed f-hole) bodies of the '60's and all the Gretsch hollowbodies of the post-'73 era. I've also come across a few early '60's Annies built like this. What is missing with yours is the unkerfed lining that was typical from '55-'60s where the bodies were all thin 3-ply. If you have thick 7-ply sides, you don't need the lining. There is a bit of dynamic acoustic loss but manufacturing is a lot cheaper. This also reduces feedback; Duane Eddy famously stuffed his '57 6120 with foam or sponge.

The FMIC era hollowbodies are closer to the '50's Gretsches with their all 3-ply bodies but the lining is kerfed (slots). And to bring it full circle back to the Custom Shop, the Custom Shop 6120-55 had the original style un-kerfed lining and it had the most authentic acoustic sound of a vintage Gretsch IMHO. Darrell Higham thought so highly of the CS 6120-55 that he got one and put in a P90 to get the closest sound to Eddie Cochran's 6120 -- and Darrell got to play Eddie's 6120.

Is that a cleat under the round part of the f-hole? If so, that may be why yours is a MIRC/second. I'd get a humidifier for that solid top to make sure there is no damage done to it.

25

Thank you for all the information ..the friend that sold it to me said it was a custom run that Fullers guitars of Texas had built.. The bridge pick up is very weak. I've been trying to sell it on off for years but @2k I have not had many offers.. Maybe I should get some TVJones dynas and play it.. Its neck is very comfortable and plays nicely.. Thanks again lx


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