Vintage Gretsch Guitars

70’s Committee Project

2

Should be Peter Hix as it's his shop that's selling this poor thing.

3

It' doesn't look all that bad... committees didn't come out until '77 or so. Any think Chet really was involved?

4

He was well involved with the Super Axe in '76 so perhaps he was. The Super Axe (and Atkins Axe) were designed with rock players in mind so maybe he had some involvement with the Committee.

5

Mike Jones (Booneville Gretsch) and I discussed this a while back. I'd be willing to bet the "Committee" included Dean Porter, Clyde Edwards and Gene Haugh. I don't think Chet was a part of it.

6

I liked the Committee I owned. Very heavy though.

7

Well...I have exactly zero real information about whether Chet may have been involved with the development of this guitar.

He had long pushed Gretsch for a guitar with more sustain, and got a few concessions from the company (though never as much as a centerblock). Everything about this guitar was designed for sustain: neck-through hardwood-sandwich construction, string-through-body tailpiece, humbuckers. It's almost a parody of a sustaining guitar.

But presumably if Chet had still been looking for more sustain from his Gretschs in the 70s, and/or was on "the committee," he would have been seen playing one at some point. If he did, I don't recall seeing or hearing of it.

While he no doubt had connections with the rock side of the industry, was at least occasionally name-checked as an influence on some rockers, and no doubt listened with interest to every variety of guitar-based music, I don't know that he kept up with the equipment deployment of the straight-ahead rockers this guitar would have been pitched at. There's no evidence he ever experimented with higher-gain playing himself, or veered toward meaningfully incorporating rock into his hybrid styles. In fact, by the mid-late 70s when Baldwin was developing this guitar, Chet and his slick, smooth countrypolitan approach were seen either as an antidote to rock and a bulwark of traditional musical values (if you believed that) - or as an example of everything that was timid, bland, wimpy, passé, square and oh-so-elevator (if you were a rocker).

So the notion that Baldwin - with whom Chet's relationship had soured, and whom he'd leave in 1979 - would have consulted much with him about a rock guitar seems unlikely to me.

I can imagine they might have shown him the design and asked if it would sustain.


Apart from any Chet connection, which almost doesn't matter on this guitar (the late 70s were not a heyday of his popularity, and the guitar wasn't designed for his followers), the Committee, like the BST, is a competent instrument, and in tune with its times. In the context of the mid-70s, Its mass, unitary construction, and DiMarzios could even be said to put it a bit ahead of the curve. By the end of the decade, several of the better Japanese builders were leveraging features like this, but they were hardly common even then.

Neck-through construction was as old as the electric guitar itself, from the Rickenbacker Frying Pan and Spanish to Les Paul's "log" Epiphone to 50s-60s Rics, but it can probably be argued that Alembic was responsible for making neck-through hardwood solidbody construction a "thing" among rockers of the 70s, with their first examples emerging around 1972. Similarly-constructed guitars at real-world prices were not common by mid-decade.

If Baldwin was looking for something to revitalize Gretsch as "not your Uncle's electric guitar," and to regain cred with the rockin'est end of the guitar spectrum, these guitars were pretty well designed and spec'ed for the job. They were emphatically nothing like traditional Gretsch designs (which was the point), so they get no love from most of us. They probably had the same problem finding buyers at the time: they didn't suit either the finger-stylin' country gentlemen or British invaders who had been Gretsch's market, and the hard rockers just fixin' to become shredders (Van Halen I comes out in 1978) weren't even considering Gretsch as a contender.

It's a shame, because these guitars are usually well made (it was arguably easier for Baldwin to continue to make competent solidbodies even as quality control on traditional Gretsch designs suffered) and nicely playable. Silly pickguard and faintly ungainly horns on the Committee aside, the Comm and the BST are good-looking guitars for the era, and they deliver the punch and sustain their specs advertise. They don't sound like Gretschs, but they're good guitars in their own right.

From another company they might have found their place. They just couldn't save Gretsch for Baldwin.

8

I think Baldwin's real foray into the rock market and away from the by now outdated hollowbody designs was the Super Axe. Chet was well involved with that design and played one in performances for a couple of years. Roy Clark played one too and this model - not the cheaper version without the onboard effects - met with good reviews and some level of success, whereas the Committee is best described as wanting in looks at best. Late to the party and too little too late as it turned out. When it came out, Gretsch was on already on life support, just waiting for the plug to be pulled.

Baldwin going belly up was a good thing IMO. It allowed a new/[old] owner to step forward and resurrect Gretsch in the role of the Phoenix.

10

I happen to own a 1978 Committee and also bought one for my sweetheart and I can tell you this is a ridiculously low price for the one being offered here. The seller says it is in poor condition, presumably because the nitrocellulose lacquer has been banged up in a number of places. But this is an even more ridiculously easy fix because the guitar itself has no stain finish to it, but only the natural wood. A simple removal of the existing lacquer with lacquer remover, then a smooth sanding, wiping the guitar down with a tack cloth and spraying with a spray can of nitrocellulose lacquer, followed by a little buffing and the guitar is virtually brand new. As for the case, cases for the Committee and the BST series appear from time to time on Ebay (I know, I bought one online) for anywhere from $85 to $149 ....duojet55, you are correct in that the "committee" was Clyde Edwards, Dean Porter, and Gene Haugh but also I think Mr. Bill Hagner....Windsordave with all due respect, you are incorrect when you say Gretsch was on life support when the Committee came out in 1978. According to Bill Hagner who I discussed this with back in 1991 in several extended telephone conversations, Gretsch was selling nearly 500 guitars per month in 1978/79 when all they needed to sell was about 400 per month to be profitable. Baldwin pulled the plug having nothing to do with Gretsch's profitability --because Gretsch was finally once again making money after having lost money earlier in the decade -- but having everything to do with Baldwin's headlong charge toward bankruptcy because of their expansion into the field of insurance and annuities. Baldwin was simply trying to contract itself and retain as much capital as possible in order to stave off bankruptcy. Ultimately, though, they couldn't save themselves...Proteus, with all due respect, you are incorrect to say that quality control on more traditional designs suffered if you are referring to the late 1970's because -- while there were some quality control problems initially after the move to Booneville -- by the mid and late 70's the quality control issues were largely a thing of the past and the actual quality and workmanship of the late 1970's traditional Gretsch designs were the best the company had had since 1954. Just ask Windsordave to tell you about his SuperChet. And I have a Super Chet and 2 Super Axe's that are simply superior in quality to any of my 60's Gretsches,

11

incorrect to say that quality control on more traditional designs suffered if you are referring to the late 1970's because -- while there were some quality control problems initially after the move to Booneville -- by the mid and late 70's the quality control issues were largely a thing of the past

I don't have a wide enough base of experience with guitars from across the decade to get that granular about when there were problems, and should not have generalized about QC when I was at the same time getting specific about the evolution of neck-through solid bodies in the same era.

In any case, my aside about QC was tangential to my larger point, which was that these un-Gretschlike fully solidbody humbuckin' guitars are a breed apart for the brand, and - when considered as such and in the context of the era - deserve to be acknowledged as dandy instruments, well-conceived and executed, and a good thing for Baldwin to have done.

Nother words, I'm defending them.

12

If you read Chet's interviews about Gretsch, he says something to the effect that he didn't like how they were building guitars. He wasn't saying that they were badly built -- just that he didn't care for what they were producing. He was also frustrated IIRC that they didn't want to build the solid classical guitar. His contract was up and I'm sure Gibson was whispering in his ear.

13

Hear, hear, ewkewk! I remembered the Booneville plant in the late '70s as bustling with activity. Ben Jack's Guitar Center in Ft. Smith, AR carried a nice selection of late '70s Gretsches and they were all of fine quality. I remember seeing a Committee guitar and bass hanging on the rack together along with an ebony Atkins Axe, red Super Axe, and a bunch of other Chet models. A place up in Fayetteville had a brand new White Falcon and a few TK100s. Although I was more into the '60s Gretsch models, I still thought the new '70s models were nifty. I think it would have been an equally exciting time to be a Gretsch dealer back then. Btw, my brother bought a huge load of Baldwin United stock after they declared for reorganization and he really cleaned up. He bought his Dodge Shelby GLHS from the profits!


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