Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Billy Bo history


The following is from a wilapiedia. Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird Jupiter Thunderbird

Billy Gibbons performing live in 2010 with his Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird. Manufacturer Gretsch Period 2005 – present Construction Body type Solidbody with chambers Neck joint Set Scale 24.75" Woods Body Mahogany with Maple top Neck Mahogany Fretboard Ebony with thumb inlays Hardware Bridge Adjusto-matic bridge G-cutout tailpiece Pickup(s) Two Power'Tron Plus humbuckers Colors available Red The Gretsch G6199 "Billy-Bo" Jupiter Thunderbird is a reproduction of a guitar designed by Bo Diddley (1928–2008) in 1959 and produced by a former Gretsch employee.

Diddley built his first guitar in 1945, it was trapezoid shaped since Diddley felt that the regular shaped Gibson L5 he was playing were hindering his live performances. The smaller trapezoid and rectangular guitars allowed him to keep jumping around on stage while still playing his guitar. Diddley went on to play a number of rectangular guitars built by himself and others, which soon became one of his trademarks throughout his career.

In 1959 Bo approached a former Gretsch employee known only as "Juliano" to build him some guitars from his own designs using Gretsch necks and hardware. The resulting three guitars (Jupiter Thunderbird, Cadillac and Cigar Box), two of which were named after popular automobiles became synonymous with Diddley and his '60s stage partner "The Duchess" Norma-Jean Wofford.

The Jupiter was later donated as a gift to ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons who used it on some ZZ Top recordings. Since Gibbons did not want to risk subjecting the rare guitar to touring and live performances, Gibbons approached Gretsch with the idea of reproducing the Jupiter Thunderbird. The end result was the G6199 "Billy-Bo" Jupiter Thunderbird which Gretsch launched in 2005.

"Some time ago, Bo gave me the guitar as a gift. It was during the recent ZZ Top recordings when the engineering crew and I snaked through the guitar vault searching for that 'certain-something' guitar and there it was! We didn't risk subjecting such a rare instrument to the rigors of the road so this new, reproduction model was recreated with some BFG Mojo thrown in for good measure. It's now the main stage guitar with a groove." -Billy F Gibbons

Jack White performing with The Dead Weather playing his white Jupiter Thunderbird. Later Gretsch also launched the G6199B "Billy-Bo" Jupiter Thunderbird Bass which is a four string bass identical to the guitar, the G5810 Bo Diddley inspired by Diddley's rectangular guitars and the G5850 Mini Diddley a miniature version of the rectangular guitar.

It was my understanding that Bo had designed the billy Bo. Billy using it added his name to it to sell more. Is all this correct ? I love my Bo diddley. I've tried a few billy bod and really liked them. The dyna one cam has sounds wicked.


Love these Billy Bo's. Ever since I saw Jack White's White Penguinish BB I was hooked. Streetsounds has a few very cool editions, black with chrome hardware. I got about 20% saved already, still a long way to go but one day....

Man, Billy Gibbons talking about a "guitar vault". I'd sure would like to snake around there too.


Sounds about right to me. I am surprised Billy Bo's aren't more popular, they have a great shape, are comfortable and play great.


This thread needs pics!


It's the one Gretsch I want, but haven't had the means to own...yet.

Well, that's a lie, but I really like everyone I've played.


Sounds about right to me. I am surprised Billy Bo's aren't more popular, they have a great shape, are comfortable and play great.

– CBell

I'd like to get a white BillyBo, but they command a steep price. It's on the list with the new white DE.


I'd love a (s)lime green, with silver binding and bezels, and chrome hardware


These are the 4 I have, I need another but want Dynas. Time to call Rocky...

Edit: and maybe Curt.


I'd straight up dropkick a baby in the face. IN THE FACE for one of those reverse Billy-Bos.


I thought the fingerboard was always rosewood... which I dont like... I want them in ebony


I want a Billy Bo. They should do an electromatic one.


I want a Billy Bo. They should do an electromatic one.

– WB

I know what you mean....

Don't worry, somebody will be along shortly to post the mock-up "Electromatic Billy Bo" advertisement... The Chonny signature model is freakin' awesome-- I'd be all over it.

EDIT: I found it... knew I had saved it somewhere...


TP, one of the things that I love about that work that Chonny did was the copy at the bottom, naturally all uttered tongue-in-cheek, I'm sure. It states:

The new Electromatic Jupiter line offers everything you've come to expect from Gretsch. Crappy tuners? We've got ya covered. Master volume control? Get real! These are Electromatics, so you'll have to pony up for the real deal if you want that. The import B50 Bigsby vibrato ensures that you'll be unable to upgrade to a cooler B3 or B7 without leaving unsightly holes in the top of the guitar. And our unique "binding nut" system guarantees tuning instability with every tug of the vibrato arm. We even equipped these guitars with our trademark pickups that have got TV Jones turning cartwheels. So check out our new Electromatics at your dealer today. You (probably) won't be sorry.

Then, under the Electromatic and Gretsch logos, where one normally sees "That Great Gretsch Sound", Chonny wrote "(...well, almost)".

For those who have arrived on the GDP since Chonny departed, he was a guy with a pretty sharp wit who didn't think that the Electromatic guitars could truly be considered full-fledged Gretsch guitars. So, he loved taking shots at the company for anything related to the Electromatic line of guitars. In those days, there were frequent threads on the GDP about whether Electromatics were really Gretsch guitars. Of course, we all know that they are and that they play a great role in the company's line of guitars, but that was quite the topic back then, particularly if Chonny was active at the time.


Wish I could take credit for having created that ad... a stroke of pure genius with tongue firmly lodged in cheek. The goofy Nelson Muntz graphics on the yellow "Hot Rod" model crack me up.


Ric, was it Chonny who did that mock-up ad?!? I didn't think so.


I thought these looked cool too. The original juptiters


I thought these looked cool too. The original juptiters

That's actually the "Cadillac".... different guitar altogether.


munman said "these" and "juptiters". Maybe he wasn't talking about the guitar.


Kinda looks like an early model of the billy Bo as we know it. I think they are all cool. The rectangle is as simple as it gets. Love mine. Some folks have become famous for their music. Not to many invented their own guitar designs and their own signature rhythm. Even if your not a diddley fan, ya gotta give him credit for cool designs and playing his hand.


Ric, was it Chonny who did that mock-up ad?!? I didn't think so.

– WB

Walter, as I grow older,I know better than to think my memory is infallible, but, that is who I recall creating it. But, as you remember, Chonny wasn't the only one who had a thing against Electromatics back in those days, so it could have as readily been done by someone else and the signature model merely attributed to Chonny.


That Cadillac model looks like an early BC Rich Warlock prototype!


I think the Cadillac was his best design.


munman said "these" and "juptiters". Maybe he wasn't talking about the guitar.

– tommy59

By Jove, I think you've got something there.


A reverse billy bo is on my list of guitars for sure. There's a few on eBay right now too.


I took pics of these in Cleveland a couple of weeks ago.

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