Vintage Gretsch Guitars

51 Synchromatic 400

1

Found this on reverb.com.Allegedly belonging to J. Geils, it features a standard synchro tailpiece, but with some interesting engraving that I'd not seen before. If the link doesn't work you may have root around reverb in the archtop section, as they seem to muddle up vintage, modern, acoustic and electric. A bit pricey considering it needs some TLC (Talented Luthier like Curt), but I never tire of drooling over these.

2

I've seen a few examples with the engraving. Cat's Eyes, beautiful color, and that binding make it amazing. Beyond my price range.

5

That is an amazing specimen! The vintage is more like 1949, and it has an interesting little feature in that the model # on the label is just the "400". This is a rare early paper label that uses the Synchromatic identification (only). Not long after Gretsch began using the transition model numbers, introducing the 6xxx system we all know from the 50s.

I've posted another example here (blond) found at serial #4852, only a couple hundred numbers later than the J. Geils guitar on Reverb.com. It also has the light-bulb headstock more typically associated with pre-war Synchro models, but the model number on the paper label is "400-6040". This transition in model numbers is also captured in the Gretsch No. 50 catalog, which is the first Gretsch ephemera that establishes the new 6xxx system of model identification.

There was not a "batch" of these amazing guitars, and this is only the 2nd or third that I've encountered. It's plausible that they were custom made after the war for special clients or retailers, but it seems equally possible that these light-bulb headstock Synchros were left over from the pre-war period and released later (as evidenced by the presence of a paper label). Some other high end Synchro models (cats-eye, chili-pepper headstock) have surfaced from this late #4xxx serial number range but they have the post-war style squared-off headstock, making these couple of light-bulb headstock specimens unique to the period.

6

Here's the purported J. Geils Synchro 400 (1949).

7

Can someone explain the discoloration of the binding. Were the sunbursts over stained like that? Is that from out gassing?

8

That's a browning of the original lacquer over the binding. My Synchromatic 160 has that, but the binding underneath, while shrunken, is still very solid.

9

That's a browning of the original lacquer over the binding. My Synchromatic 160 has that, but the binding underneath, while shrunken, is still very solid.

– duojet55

So, the original lacquer was brownish colored for the sunburst? I haven't seen that kind of browning on the natural finish.

10

That is probably the laquer aging to a brown; a '57 Duo Jet I've seen has gotten brown, but not quite like that. That engraving - along with the lightbulb headstock- on the Geils 400 really nails home the whole Art Deco design for me. Ed, you mentioned in some other thread liking a particular Synchro headstock as much as the Django Levin guitar; what model was that? I would love to know who in Gretsch came up with the particulars of the whole Synchromatic line.

11

That is an incredibly beautiful guitar. I'm inclined to think it was built before WWII, and marketed afterwords.

The price is probably in line with the availability of comparable guitars. Unfortunately, too high for people who can actually use them.

If you're looking for something like this, there's a few Gretsch G400's floating around in the ether and some Chinese Eastman guitars.

Lee

12

LX... I'm not sure what headstock I may have referenced in the past. Could have been the American Orchestra model 250 (musical clef motif).

The Synchro Chromatic tailpiece on this J. Geils 400 is unique with that extra engraving. I've checked a few of the guitars I've documented in that serial number range, including the blond 400 I posted above, and none of them seem to have this engraving.

13

These guitars are very, very beautiful!

14

"The price is probably in line with the availability of comparable guitars. Unfortunately, too high for people who can actually use them."

Rest Assured this Synchro 400 sold and is being "used" almost every day by a Gretsch lover who has loved Synchro 400's for many years and had to wait close to thirty years to finally get one. Also, I hear the owner loves the sound, the neck, and the bar and cigarette/cigar smell emanating from it. "Don't assume, it makes an ass of you and me" (F. Unger). . . yuk yuk.

15

You seem to speak from personal experience... tell us more MarD! We also like photos and sound bytes! Welcome to the Gretsch Discussion Pages (GDP)!

16

I'm happy to hear this guitar is played regularly. What's wrong with putting high quality guitars in the hands of young promising players?

Lee

17

I'm happy to hear this guitar is played regularly. What's wrong with putting high quality guitars in the hands of young promising players?

Lee

– Lee Erickson

Or, in this case, in the hands of somebody who had to wait 30 years to finally snag his dream guitar.

There was a time I liked your idea better. Now, I like the wait paying off version, as it better suits my reality.

18

This guitar had been offered on ebay forever and forever but at $8999.99 so right now it is a steal!

19

Credit Card?

20

It has the Paul Pigat headstock too!

21

Nope. That's the "lightbulb" shaped headstock. The "Paul Pigat" headstock is a different animal. See the threads on his Catseye Country Club IIRC on the Modern Gretsch threads. I called that particular style the Paul Pigat headstock because: a) he brought that particular style back, and b) it seemed much easier to say than "the post lightbulb/ pre-modern/ but not quite the '59 headstock shape. If you know what I mean.

Paul knew it looked cool and brought it back. It's his.

22

It has the Paul Pigat headstock too!

– Toxophilite

I don't think so. This one is the classic pre-war "lightbulb" style headstock. What I think you guys refer to as the Paul Pigat style is a slightly less elegant (no offense Paul!) shape with less smooth contours.

EDIT: lx beat me to it!

23

But it sounds so much better when you say it, Ed. What is the story on this headstock shape? Did they come between the lightbulb and the more modern shape? They seem to turn up on some post-war Gretsches but I've only seen a couple.

24

Oh No! the Paul Pigat or not Paul Pigat headstock controversy! I stand corrected. Having seen Paul's head in person (2 times 25 years apart)I would have to say he doesn't have such a pronounced bump on top. Or he hides it well. Back to your scheduled programming.

25

The classic lightbulb headstock shape is based on the natural reaction that occurs when a lightening bolt strikes a jalapeno pepper.


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