Vintage Gretsch Guitars

64 Tennessean - Replacement Wiring Harness


I own an original 1964 5120 Tennessean. I am experiencing a ground hum so I took the harness completely out of the body of the guitar to test the connections. Apparently Gretsch used a banana clip type of connection to connect each pickup to the harness. To my knowledge the wiring, pots, and switches are stock which would make those soldered connections over 50 years old! I have been thinking about replacing the entire harness with one from TV Jones. I don't have great soldering skills and don't feel confident with trying to solve the ground hum and I don't feel comfortable with shipping it out to someone to repair, but I might be talked into it if the repair shop was famous for working on these guitars. I intend to keep the Hi-Lo Tron pickups and use these with the new harness. Will replacing the original wiring affect the value or vintage sound of this guitar?




Those little plugs were great for removing/testing pickups easily but could cause problems. Most likely the ground problem can be found and corrected. Just cleaning everything can help a lot. Putting in a new harness, as long as you keep the old one, would not greatly affect value, but would to the vintage purist -- to a degree. Putting in a new one is tedious work, and is getting the old one out -- so you may want get an expert to do it. Keep us informed.


Probably easier and cheaper (not to mention vintage value) to clean the original harness.


Get a can of Caig DeOxit D-5" Contact Restorer. If you spray this stuff into the pots and switches as well as the little 3-pin pickup plugs, your harness will be good to go for another 50+ years. Your hum is most likely caused by the wire going to the Bigsby not making contact with the Bigsby or by the HI-Lo Tron's picking up bad AC from you hose wiring or amp. There are many reasons something will him in and guitar/amp setup. Do the process of elimination. 50 year old solder connections should be fine. Look at all the Gibson's, Fender's & Gretsches out there without any issues. There is a shop on Ebaythat goes by "Hankeroo" that has vintage Gretsch harness's occasionally


Hankeroo has one now $79.95.


I'd still start by cleaning the one that came with the guitar before buying one. That keeps it original to the guitar..just in case you'd ever sell the guitar(to me of


Yes, keep the original. If there are no breaks in the wire, the harness can last forever. Just clean the connections and you should be fine!


I think I've redone the harness in my 64 Tennesean a couple times. No problem at all for sound, good wire is good wire...use decent stuff. I really like the plugs and leave them attached to the pickups with the original coax. Nice modular design. I personally would leave the coax and plugs hooked to the pickups but check the ground connections and condition of the coax (do a continuity test). Changing those wires is difficult because they use such thick metal on that angled plate in the pickups that it's hard to solder new ground wire on unless you have a very skookum un which might get it too hot anyway. The trick for the rest (NO ^%$%^ F-holes to work through) is either using strong thread tied to the posts of the pots and switches running back to their respective mounting holes (take it all out through one pickup hole) or using flexible rubber tubing which seems to be what people do now. Both work fine. I usually found the jack most annoying and besides thread I would use a pencil or fat screwdriver with the washer and nut already on it to coax (not coaxial...) it through the hole in the side and hold it while I screwed the nut back on. Make sure you still have a wire leading to your tailpiece!


Removing vintage harnesses tricks: I used plastic coated fly fishing line tied to the pot/switch posts over a 1/2 piece of foam 2 way mounting tape, wrapping the line and granny knot end in a cone with electrical tape. The plastic coating of the fly fishing line grips better, is stronger than thread alone and can be color coded (with a sharpie, # of rings = hole number). Remember that using Deoxit D5 or similar cleaner/lube may require you to redo your tape job after squirting the pot. Wipe the post with a Kleenex and alcohol before retying to get a good clean unslippery surface. For the jack dowel rod, I used an artists paint brush with tape bushing inserted snuggly into the jack, and tied/taped the brush end with line. The dowel rod helps sort the harness during refit if necessary.

Use a schematic such as attached to number the holes/lines and Mark the line ends with coordinated rings of sharpie marks. Use common sense and be careful not to pull the lines through the holes. You may be fiddling with a pot and not pay attention to the line as it disappears. I used 24" lengths and still tied the free ends together on adjacent holes making a loop, using another line length. You must free the ground wire from being trapped under the bigsby tail before you can remove the (furthest) 2 vol pots and stanby switch. Be careful to use patients and the perfect Phillips tip to remove the 3 tailpiece screws. Mine may have been glued and it was difficult to get them started without marring or stripping the small head. Wrap the strap pin with two rounds of electrical tape and turn with small curved jawed vise grips using the lightest pressure necessary to hold the knarl. At the factory, Gretsch pulled the lower harness into position using a long black ground wire, which was cut to length at the tail once the pots were in place. You won't have enough slack wire to fish the lower harness through the neck pup access unless you free this ground. I used fly line (again) and super glued 1.5" length onto the insulation and wrapped the stripped wire around the line (~ 1.25") with a dab of super glue on the wiretip to affix it to the line. Use a toothpick and gel super glue to tease a taper at the joint ends to allow it to pass through the small hole. Labeling this line with a flag of paper taped onto the free (knotted) end with prevent pull through. To refit, pull the original ground back trough the tail, cut the glued wire tip (sacrificial) and make sure no glue or high spots remain. Use a fine 1000 grit sandpaper to clean or a q tip with Deoxit ...or do both. With the fish line still attached, separate half of the wire strands, very very loosely twist them and bend them 90 degree to the insulation creating a v parrallel to the guitar butt, then bend those back towards each other creation a diamond pattern in which one of the tailpiece screws will pass. Make sure this will not be exposed when you replace the Bigsby. Your goal is to get the largest field of contact of wire to tail. Only when you are happy with your ground wire fitment and ready to reinstall your tail should you nip the fly line leader. I allowed the ~1" of glued fly line to remain on the ground wire insulation, pushed back through the hole. You could either cut and restrip a new ground length (vintage purest mthod), dissect the glued leader line with an exactoknife, or simply be happy you're almost done.

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