Vintage Gretsch Guitars

1959 original 6122 chet atkins country gentleman string gauge


Hi all I'm new to this site...looks great! I own an original '59 6122 country gentleman. My parents went in hock in '59 when I broke my arm in half to buy me this guitar ( $625 in '59 ). I played it every day till "66 when I had to get a real job and have played it maybe 50 hrs since '66. I'm back to playing now and have no clue what strings I used on it. Sometime ago I put on 11-50's with a plain 3rd. I have a good guitar tech now and I am going to put the guitar back to original playing condition. Sooo, my problem is, what strings to use. Any help you can give would be great. Thanks Clay


They were Chet Atkins roundwound "country style" strings, probably nickel. The catalog describes them as being light and with a wound G. No gauges are given. My guess would be 11's, but that's just a guess. What I would suspect might be a comparable modern string would be either Thomastik Infeld Jazz Bebop 11's, but get a single wound G. can do that.


They were definitely the "Chet Atkins" strings with a pure nickel wrap. No gauge was quoted but 12, 15, 20w. 30. 40, 50 would be really close especially if you choose a pure nickel string with a fine core. You will get very, very close with a Snake Oil Brand Original Nickel set.


I don't know what gauge strings came on the CG, but the man for whom the guitar was made normally used .010, 012 on the first and second string. The remainder would vary at times. Sometimes the third would be .016 plain all the way up to .020 wound. The 6th string would be anywhere from .046 to .050. From what I have heard and read, Chet didn't buy strings in sets. He bought individual strings.

My ear is not as critical as Chet's was, so the .010 - .046 nickel wound with a wound third works great for me. The bigger bass strings seem to get a little muddy, to my ears anyway. The smaller bass strings have a crisper, clearer sound, again, to my ears.

It would seem to me that smaller gauges are crisper, clearer and the larger gauges are fatter in sound. I think afire and Mojave are both correct in that they were "Chet Atkins Strings w/Nickel wrap." And unless someone remembers the gauges, we may have to leave it at that. Norm is an old music store guy from that era. Maybe he remembers.

EDIT: to say that you are one lucky son of a gun to have such a guitar.


From my Paul Yandell archive...

"...Chet, in an interview with Guitar Player in Oct '79, said at one time he was using Gretsch "Chet Atkins Country Style Strings". (#672) He gave the gauges as .010, .012, .020 wound, .028, .038, .048 or .050. . Chet also remarked that he especially liked the Country Style strings because they had good magnetic qualities. "They have a lot of steel" he said. I used those Chet Atkins strings back in the 50's I bought my first Gretsch a 6120 in 1955 and that's the only string I ever used for a long time..." _Paul Yandell


Those may be what Chet used, but I believe the original poster wants to know what kind of strings will sound the best. The answer: strings are cheap, and it's a personal preference. Try round wounds, try flats, try different gauges, until you find what you like the best!


I thought he was asking what to use to "put the guitar back to original playing condition," i.e. the strings it originally had. Given what The Norm posted, I would take that as near Gospel as to what Chet used, considering that Paul Yandell is the source. I'm not sure anyone can say for certain whether that's what the stock Chet Atkins strings sold by Gretsch and installed as stock strings on his models were, but it seems as good a guess as any. Considering that neither Chet's own Country Gent nor his favorite 6120 were standard spec for the models, it would seem like folly to assume that "Chet Atkins strings" were the same thing as the strings actually used by Chet Atkins. By the way, GunnSlinger, is that the guitar in question in your avatar? If so, it's a 6120, not a 6122.


Richard Hudson wrote:

EDIT: to say that you are one lucky son of a gun to have such a guitar.

Agreed. I am assuming that it is in nice shape. This one-owner guitar would have been a great find. To be the original owner is outstanding. 8-) Pictures please.


Hi afire Why would you think its not a 6122? It's a 1959 chet atkins country gentleman. The model and serial # are on a gold plate on the head stock. Serial # 31441 puts it 3 guitars before the country gentleman that chet used in most of his recordings was made and delivered to him ( serial # 31444 now in the country music hall of fame ). I have owned it since my parents bought it for me in summer of 1959. As far as why I am looking for the original string gauge, I want to start playing again and I am going to put it back to it's original playing feel that I loved in '59.I have dr 11-50's on it now which I dint like. So far , with all the good info here I will try the gretsch 11-48 with wound 3rd. Thanks all Clay


"Why would you think its not a 6122?" Because it's orange, first of all. It also has real, bound f-holes. These are both characteristics of a 6120, not a 6122.


The guitar in that photo is definitely a 6120, and everyone here knows it. You can even tell that it has trestle bracing. The question is, is that your guitar? If so, what is it doing with a Country Gentleman plate on the headstock?

A quick consultation of Ed Ball's definitive book on 6120's indicates that the guitar has characteristics of a 1960, not a 1959, and that the pickguard is not correct for that model year. It is, however, consistent with Gretsch 1959 re-issues prior to 2007, when Chet Atkins's name reappeared on the pickguard.

Even a re-issue should have gold knobs, switches, and pickups, however.


Well, it's not entirely impossible that it's a 6122. Back then they did the occasional one-off or custom order. Of course it's hard to tell from one picture of half the guitar, but it almost looks to my eyes more like a 17" wide 2 1/4" deep body. If that's the case and it was truly made in '59 as the serial number suggests, then maybe it's just a 6122 that was finished in orange with open f-holes. GunnSlinger, is there a label inside the bass side f-hole? I'd love to see more pictures of this guitar. Sounds like it could be interesting. P.S., seadevil, Gents also had trestle bracing up until '62.


And wait a second, it looks like the body has 4-ply binding. Very interesting. I'm starting to think that it is a 6122.


Body depth looks too shallow (from the photo) to be a '59 6120. There were batches of 6120's at #312xx and 316xx, and #314xx was group of Gents as mentioned. Can we see a photo of the full guitar?


The guitar in the photo is NOT a re-issue, by the way - only one screw on the pickguard bracket.


I'd say it not a reissue because it was apparently purchased in 1959. No reason not to take Gunnslnger's info on face value.


I know. I just felt that my comment about the pickguard implied that I didn't take him at his word, and I wanted to negate that implication without just editing it out.

GunnSlinger, KCeddieB is the author of the book mentioned above. He knows what he's talking about.


I think we should all stay open-minded on this one. We recently saw what the consensus felt was a legit 1960 6120 with chrome hardware and walnut finish (sell for $8k) on Ebay, AND DCbirdman just purchased what is purported by George Gruhn to be a legit western orange finished electrotone Tenny. So it appears that anything is possible... I'm very interested in the details of Gunnslingers axe!


And it's one of the rare cases where it's been in one place its whole life so somebody actually knows that this is what it looked like when new.
I'm betting we're about to see pictures of what may be the only orange open f-hole Gent ever made. Too cool. The question I would have is how did it come to be? If GunnSlinger didn't custom order it, then it would have to have been either the shop, another customer who backed out, or something the factory did on its own for one reason or another. It seems pretty clear by now that when the Gretsch factory made unusual guitars for unknown reasons, they tended to sell them as opposed to other makers who tended to junk them.


This is certainly the interesting thread of the day for me. It is an unusual guitar, and to think GunnSlinger is the original owner makes for a very interesting thread.

GunnSlinger wrote: My parents went in hock in '59 when I broke my arm in half to buy me this guitar ( $625 in '59 ).

There's another clue - $625. To remember that specific number, I'm guessing GunnSlinger might still have the paperwork? A Country Gent listed for $525 in 1959. A $100 upcharge for the custom order perhaps?


I think it's a fascinating guitar, and I fully believe it's completely original, legit, and very possibly the only one like it out there.

And if we haven't scared Gunnslinger off, I'm betting he can answer all our questions.

And add it to the database! :)


Looks to have PAFs. One of the more interesting things we've had around here lately!

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