Vintage Gretsch Guitars

A tale of two ‘55 6121’s…


Anybody out there an organ donor? I personally am a supporter of that program as it relates to humans... and in certain instances I feel like it's an acceptable fate for guitars.

Some of you might recall (over a year ago) this basket case Grestch 6121 being offered for sale. I purchased it because it presented me with an opportunity to make another guitar whole.


Not just cosmetically altered, this poor thing was pretty hacked up.


But what was still intact was it's neck, or should I say fretboard, which is what I needed (along with the original anodized Bigsby bridge) to make a (renecked) '55 6121 I had more complete. Here they are pre-op.


Oooh! Type faster! Can't wait to see where this ends up! :)


Well after over a year, my luthier finally delivered them back to me after some extensive but successful surgery. The re-necked 6121 had apparently had it's newer neck attached with epoxy, and my guy could not get it off. So... plan B was to just take the western fretboard off the donor and put it onto the newer neck of the 6121. Of course it wasn't a perfect fit, but my luthier did a great job and it all came together in the end.


Wow, that is spectacular! Very envious!


The pickguard still needs to be resolved, and I have Paul Setzer on retainer to take a stab at refurbing it. The donor guitar is not done giving however. I acquired a stripped Duo Jet body awhile back... so the neck and fretboard left-over from this project will go towards that, which I plan to make a Jet out of all vintage components. But that's a story for another day.


Cool! Too bad they cut the spring cup off that original Bigsby from the donor guitar. Quite different headstock shapes!


Cool! Too bad they cut the spring cup off that original Bigsby from the donor guitar. Quite different headstock shapes!

– JazzBoxJunky

Tell me about it JBJ... I cringe when I think of what the Bigsby would have been worth if it hadn't been chopped. It also had some weird silver paint all over it, which I've since removed to reveal the beautiful anodized gold finish underneath. I was thinking of fashioning a belt-bucket out of it maybe. Who needs one of those over-sized rodeo buckles when you could rock this!

The two necks are clearly different. Both are factory Gretsch, but the neo fretboard (re-neck) is from the '58/59 time frame, while the donor guitar neck is 1955. The profiles feel different, and the headstocks are slightly different as well. My luthier was able to get the western fretboard and headstock overlay to work on the later (expoxy'd in) neck, but he doesn't think the neoclassic fretboard will work on the '55 donor neck.


Ed... why don't you get in touch with someone @ Bigsby to find out if its salvageable ...attaching/fusing a cup to it? It's a tricky substance that metal but I'd even take it in my shop to try before it resorted to fashion...meaning if it were mine I'd have to try and save it by machining a new cup and working the metal but other people's vintage equipment I wouldn't have the nerve to touchBut it may be worth looking into. Shame it was hacked up like that.

The 6121 turned out sweeeet also,very cool!


Here's a close-up of the headstock. The overlay from the '55 donor guitar onto the '58/59 headstock. Looks great... just have to get a vintage bullet TRC someday.


I love these projects! But that donor Jet makes me cringe every time, poor thing.


Back when I conceived all this swapping of parts the master plan was... 1) get the '55 6121 as complete as possible, 2) get the stripped vintage Duo Jet body I've got together with all-vintage components, and then 3) get the donor 6121 up and running, with no concern for period correctness, or even Gretsch components, but just seems like good karma to get that guitar in some kind of playing condition again. So... it's on the list wabash slim. I'm curious to see if the two dog-ear P-90s I have will cover those gaping pickup routings. I actually like the cream finish, and might try and maintain that.


THAT looks great..i love a happy ending ! vv


you should have tk smith make a neck for that donor body...and maybe some c.a.r pups!


Yeah I think you could save that Bigsby. The spring cup doesn't really do anything besides locate the bottom of the spring. That said, I think you could make an Aluminum cup with a flange, and pin it in 2 places and be back in business.


I'm glad to hear that you're planning to save that donor. Whoever did that hack job should be seriously whupped.



I'm looking forward to seeing the donor guitar put back together


I should mention that the pickguard issue was obviously caused by the celluloid spacer under the Dyna gassing-off. I've since had those replaced with (non-volatile) tortoise replacement spacers courtesy of of Paul Setzer.


Recently a collector acquaintance of mine was complaining that the fix-arm handle on the B3 he has mounted on his '55 Jet Firebird comes very close to one of the control knobs, almost touching. I recall thinking to myself that this was a result of the Gretsch Jet solidbody models not being designed with a Bigsby vibrato in mind, so the position of that knob probably does crash the vibrato handle.

As I orient myself to this '55 6121, I'm noticing the same thing. The control knob is almost touching the fixed-arm. Unlike the Jet Firebird, the Chet Atkins 6121 was designed knowing the Bigsby vibrato would be standard equipment... so I guess I'm a little surprised to see this issue on it. But I suppose the same template was used for all the Jet-style solidbody models.

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