Miscellaneous Rumbles

NGD: Reviewing the G6122T-59GE Vintage Select Country Gentleman

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NGD: Reviewing the G6122T-59GE Vintage Select Country Gentleman – A player’s perspective.

Pulled the trigger on this holiest of grails sight unseen (a first for me) last week after much inner debate (I had also been considering the CClub). Obviously, I’m still in the honeymoon phase, a honeymoon may well turn out to be the longest on record…

Have you ever gotten exactly the thing you wanted only to discover it was exactly what you had imagined? Rarely, if ever does this actually happen. Invariably we lust after some treasure only to find upon its arrival one or more aspects of it that fall below, exceed, or in most cases, simply differ, from our expectations. Humanity, thy name is subjectivity. And it is this same subjectivity that colors every intellectual response and emotional reaction we enjoy in this journey we call living. That is why the journey itself is so compelling, because in spite of our excitement at what we may hope to discover at the end of a particular search, there is something in us that knows the grail object does not actually exist, whereas the journey itself is always (well usually always) bona fide. Hence our awe in the presence of the show stopper…the journey ender…the “it couldn’t possibly be real…could it?” jaw dropping game changer. I speak of course of - the masterpiece.

Okay, okay. I’ll remove tongue from cheek now…

This review will be more of a personal comment as opposed to a re-examination of specs. Those are all readily available elsewhere. Of course I’ll refer to specifics, but my approach will be more that of an amateur art critic examining a masterpiece than a mechanic looking under the hood – no offense to the redneck in us all. Anyway, I hope you get a larger sense of what the ’59 VS Gent has to offer than you might glean from simply reading a spec sheet.

  1. The visual aesthetic: I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face and the Vintage Select is easily one of the most stunning I’ve ever seen. The Walnut stain is deeper and darker than any I’ve ever come across on a Gent. In fact, in all but the brightest lighting, the f-holes all but disappear. The tiger striping is present but subdued - an effect that draws the eye in without screaming for attention as is usually the case in lighter colored instruments. The binding is “Aged White with B/I/B Purfling”. Also, the position markers are of a new Pearloid Neo-Classic™ Thumbnail design and the aging is perfectly matched to the binding. This new “aged” coloring is a most welcome departure from the previous stark white coloring previously sported by the 6122 line. If you are used to the stark white binding scheme, which provides a slightly more baroque (in the original sense of the word) effect in previous models, then you are in for a visual awakening of delightful proportion when you first see this newer scheme “in the flesh”. I immediately fell in love with the rich, classy effect of the warmer appointments. Like a woman of beauty and experience who knows how to properly apply just the right shades and amount of makeup, the overall visual presentation is indeed breathtaking. Add to this the crafted gold jewelry draped in royal fashion around the luxurious curves of the Gent’s 17” body and the picture is one that I doubt any of us would ever tire of admiring or studying. I for one, keep it on constant display so that I can look at it even when I’m not playing it.

Speaking of gold jewelry, special mention should be made of the wire arm Bigsby and the “butter bean” tuners. I had forgotten just how comfortable, ergonomic and musically useful such hardware could be. Anyone care to move from coach to first-class?

  1. Power train and Tone shaping: It seems as though there has been a lot of confusion as to the exact model of TV that rests in the bridge position of the ’59. Current opinions conflict widely and Gretsch’s own (mistaken) literature doesn’t help much. Who writes these things? My conclusion, based on research done mainly here on the GDP, is that they are Classic Plus units encased in a Hi-lo Tron housing. In any case, this is the first experience I’ve had with either the Supertron or the Classic Plus and I would have to say that TV has outdone himself with these units. How I made it this far in life without access to a Supertron is a question I will now ponder for the duration of my Gretsch playing days. This tonal integrity of this pickup HAS to be experienced to be even remotely believed. Even more acoustically surreal are the tones to be had while combining the well chosen duo of pups. The Gent is equipped with an unusual (for Gretsch) volume and tone pot combination. There is no separate volume control for the neck pup, which can only be controlled with the master volume pot. The bridge pup has its own attenuator and there is TA-DA! - a master tone control which brings the new Gretsch “Squeezebox” paper-in-oil capacitor into play. This combination of controls takes a bit of getting used to but to say its well worth the effort is my personal understatement of the day. In fact the entire power train of the ’59 VS is as sweet, smooth and rewarding a hardware combination as you will ever find. Endless tone. Endless variation. Endless love.

  2. The Gent at Work: Playing the ’59 VS is an experience no mere words will ever convey. The infinite palette of tones, textures, tactile sensation, internal resonances, grins, and sheer slap-me-upside-the-head joy, that can and will be attained, by those with even the humblest of technical skill on this instrument is, to coin an impossibly overused term, unbelievable. To use Chet’s own laconic, yet dead on, turn of phrase you simply “get more note” from every note you play. Articulation is infinite. Sustain is perfect. The harmonic “weight” of every note is balanced and pure. Jazz, rockabilly, classic rock, Bach Cantatas, Horton’s heat, it’s all here. And that’s just the beginning. Wait ‘til you hear your own sound evolve. And I mean evolve. Whichever direction the ’50 VS may lead you in, trust me, it’s the right direction. Just follow along as best you can. Work? What work?

Over the years I’ve owned many fine Gretsch guitars including Tennesseans, 62 Gents (my last one being an SP), and even a few “solid” types. The ’59 VS Gent trumps them all. With remarkable ease I might add. I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but I do know there is no turning back now. Nor would I ever want to. This incredible piece is just that good. Thanks to Paul Yandell. And many heartfelt thanks to Chet. To those amazing blokes in Terada and the Gretsch team in general – thanks simply don’t cover it. You guys are the real masters. I salute you.

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Ok, based on that review I think I want one.

Thanks General, that was a proper review. Very glad to hear you’re so happy with the Gent.

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It’s good to be happy!

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It's also happy to be good!

Thanks guys. BTW Deke, trust me - you DO want one.

NOTE TO ALL. Just to let you know I do NOT have steady access to the net. I'm using a Wi-Fi connection currently available in the area. Please don't take offense if I'm slow getting back to you on any questions or comments you might care to make. I'll try to sneak in for a hour every other day or so. Meanwhile, thanks and salutations to all.

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Great review! This new Gent aside, regarding the concept of "grail" guitars, which a lot of folks might tend to mean vintage, I think you have to get a guitar that's close to having/being what you want and then change what you want and can to achieve your goal. I did exactly that with my Super Chet and ended up with my grail guitar.

Rarely I believe you'll get everything you want in a new guitar today unless it's custom built to your personal specs. This model seems to be the exception.

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The exception that proves the rule my friend...the exception that proves the rule.

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Best guitar I've ever played. Best sustain ever! I did ditch the FilterTrons though. Life is hard enough already.

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Bought mine in 2013. I agree with you review General Lee. Had everything that appealed to me. However, the Honeymoon period was on the rocks a little bit. I bought the guitar because I was getting into Travis style picking and thought that the wider neck would be a plus. Being a thumb over player, I found it difficult to handle some chords due to the the width. A year later, I was thinking of selling it to get a 58, despite a shorter neck, but a friend of mine told me to play it and work at it. I did and I still have it. One thing though, I don't have a specific genre that I play. I'm all over the map. But one thing for sure, you can dial up any tone to get you through a set. For me so far that Gypsy Jazz tone is challenging , but I'm still working on it.

You won't regret your purchase for a long time. Congrats.

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Great review, it sounds like an incredible instrument. I can definitely tell that you like it! It's going to be the apple of your eye for sure. You've really made an impression on me, that I want one too!

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Hey General Lee -- congratulations on your " '59"! Your review is truly excellent and helpful to those who have never experienced this magnificent guitar.

I bought my 6122-1959 in Feb., 2008 -- my reactions were the same as yours. The guitar was a total WOW then and it still is 12+ years later. It remains my all time favorite (I started playing in the early/mid 1950's). Two other GDP people posted reviews that "made me do it" -- TomfromPa (deceased) and Proteus who referred to it as "the luxury liner of the Gretsch fleet" (or something like that).

I agree with all of your comments and observations. It was my first experience with a "Chet/wire arm" Bigsby. I now have them on ALL of my electric guitars and often think I'd like to figure out how to install one on my Martin D-42.....

All of your other thoughts on the details are "spot on" in my opinion.

I don't have to wish you "good luck" with your " '59". No luck it required. You now own the guitar which (IMO) is simply The Best. Enjoy!!

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There are, it turns out, more than one Best Guitar in the Worlds. Every one is the singular unique and truly best.

I don't know how this can be, but mathematicians and cosmologists assure me that that some infinities are more infinite than others, and that every black hole has its singularity, not a one has a multilarity, and there's no hierarchy.

I just accept these logically impossible truths.

In that spirit, I fully concur that the '59 is The Best Guitar in the World, and find it hard to believe anyone who's spent a few minutes with one could find reason to disagree. (Likewise, I completely understand that anyone who has yet to play one might think we're all resorting to hyperbole. We aren't, though.)

While it's true that some guitars are stereotypically associated with one genre/style/approach or another - and therefore one's chosen style might enter into a judgment of BestGuitarInTheWorldness - I believe Billy Z's endorsement of this model ought to go a very long way to disprove the spurious notion that the '59 is only intended for Chetpickers, and somehow doesn't rock.

ANYway...there may be other guitars that are "as good," whatever that means. I've just never found a guitar that's better.

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Best guitar I've ever played. Best sustain ever! I did ditch the FilterTrons though. Life is hard enough already.

– Billy Zoom

haha...funny bz...beautiful guitar..tv jones pups? t90 and t-armond?

cheers

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Congrats on this most excellent guitar. Mine is a 2005 model that was sitting ignored in my local brick and mortar store. I bought it in 2011 after reading about it and then meeting Proteus and discussing it at an NJ Roundup. How could I not after such a glowing review? Your assessment is spot on. The only mod I made was to add a copper Tru-Arc and can’t imagine a better pickup combination although if I was to ever get an additional one, Billy’s selection would be highly tempting. Congrats. It’s a keeper!

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Like Baba Joe, I swapped out the stock bar bridge for a copper TruArc Serpentune.

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I love your review! I have limited experiences with 17" Gretsch guitars but the ones I have had the good fortune to play have been as exceptional as your review. It sounds like you have found the best of the best here. I wish you a lifetime of joy!

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Thanks for all your comments guys. Good to hear from all of you.

Just as a point of reference, I've already tried a couple of different sets of strings including the NYXL 11s, which are very well balanced and make a good all round set. I decided to try a pure nickel round set however, and installed a pack of Gibson Vintage Reissue 11s. I further tweaked by replacing the first two strings with a 12 & 15. This seems a match made in heaven for this instrument.

I must say I love the feel of the neck, which to my mind is not a chunky as you might expect a U shape to be. Even the vintage frets feel quite substantial to me. I'm usually a medium jumbo guy but my left hand is taking to the overall feel of the neck/string/fret combo with alacrity and comfort. The exploration continues...

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Boy that sells it. I've thought I've wanted at '59 for some time. Now I know I do.


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