Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Brooklyn vs. Booneville

26

Not having actually been able to afford Gretsch guitars for very long I tend to intentionally buy fixer uppers. The ones that didn't need a reset:

-64 Tennessean - needed fretboard planing/sanding to fix problem extension - 30 years ago and still fine -Early anniversary (50s?) with DeArmand in neck position. -60s Monkees Gretsch -64 thinline country club - needed new binidng - 58 Country Club - looks like it might've had a rest though hard to tell. Fine when I got it. - 67 Viking - bad binding

Ones that needed work:

  • 65 Anniversary - needed a reset
  • 55 Convertible - needed a rest..and then I reset the bad reset done prior to my owning it
  • 52 Electro 2 - needed a reset

More non resets than resets. The non resets being predominently electrotones perhaps supporting Afire's theory.

27

I owned a 1977 "Atkins Axe" for a number of years. It was incredibly well built. I ended up installing a Bigsby and a Tune-o-Matic bridge. I've never like the Leo Quan bridge. There are better bridges out there. I also installed a pair of the Bill Lawerence XL500 humbuckings in place of those crap, Asian made pickups that were used. The Lawerence pickups sounded closer to the FilterTron's. I couldn't find any real FilterTron's in 1980 when I did all the work on it and I ended up, regrettingly selling it in 1983.

28

With Fender, the conventional theory is even though CBS acquired the company at the start of 1965, things were done the same way for at least six months before management and cost cutters etc came in and started making changes. So pre CBS spec really until mid 1965.

With Gretsch, the conventional theory is (is?) even tho Baldwin acquired them in 1967, with a few exceptions (aluminum knobs, etc) things were pretty much the same up to 1970 when they moved to Booneville.. One other change may have been binding -- just my theory - since late 60s binding rot seems to be worse than earlier years, maybe Baldwin bought cheaper binding material.

Still, isn't it thought that the main change was the builders since the old school Brooklyn staff didn't make the move -- it was a new staff -- is that really the difference, if 1970s quality was more uneven than 1960s?

– DCBirdMan

Remember.....Curt has told us that the binding rot is solely caused by the adhesive used and not the binding material itself. Nobody has been able to find any firm info regarding a change in the adhesive used, but given that the issue of binding rot seeming to have stopped being somewhat rampant and jonly more occasional around 1970, it would appear there was a change of adhesive.

Adding to the mystery has to be that binding rot didn't begin appearing - and I'm just spit -balling here, until well after Baldwin stopped making guitars, the dormant no production years and well into the new Gretsch era.. By the time it began appearing, the guitars affected were still considered old, not 'vintage' as we use the term today. Adding to the issue, was the reputation that Baldwin guitars were of poor quality, this reputation coming from written articles and books prior to the internet where these opinions could be challenged.

Normally, I'd have to think that something as innocuous as a change in adhesive would even be made public knowledge, let alone have such adverse effects, albeit in such a delayed time frame aspect.

29

The few Gretsches I ran across in the early '80's were mostly '60's era -- and all had rot by then. My '56 6120 didn't. The '70's Gretsches I ran across in the '90's and later were clean.

30

The few Gretsches I ran across in the early '80's were mostly '60's era -- and all had rot by then. My '56 6120 didn't. The '70's Gretsches I ran across in the '90's and later were clean.

– lx

Very interesting and thanks for your observations. It would appear then that noticing rot on the later '60's is more pinned down than I originally speculated, being roughly a 15 year span, when the rot that starts at the adhesive surface to the binding had worked its way to the surface and became visible.

31

I think it's actually pretty well early 60s to around 1970-71. The theory about the adhesive is undoubtedly a good one . However there are many examples of guitars right in the middle of that time frame with NO original rot. I've owned a couple. I suspect it's a few factors at play (materials, environmental) and has to do with case time as well. The 65 Club I had (red one) had no rot at all till the owner (developing arthritis, sad) left it in it's case in the garage for 5 years. It came out with binding rot, and this is in the last 5 years of a 50 year existence. Another example of rotting celluloid would be 50s tortoise shell DeArmond spacers.

32

In the case for very long periods of time is also a major contributor to rot as observed by many around here and thanks for adding that to the discussion. Perhaps the ones without the rot showing didn't spend significant time in the case and that either delayed or prevented rot setting in. Maybe it's just taking much longer to manifest itself, who's to say?

FWIW, my '64 Gent didn't have a hint of rot and I had it in the early '90's.

33

I owned a 57,59,60, and a 66 in the 70s. I owned the 60 until about 1990. None of those guitars showed any binding rot, but of course they were only 20 years old or less. The only binding rot I saw in the 70s was on the Epiphones from the 30s and 40s. I don't think anyone in the 70s suspected binding rot was a possibility on the 50s and 60s Gretsch guitars. I think people didn't buy new Booneville Gretschs because they were a lot more expensive than the used 50s and 60s Gretschs and the classic ones were available at reasonable prices and fairly easy to find. They weren't in super high demand and they really didn't have that great of a reputation. Some dealers didn't like to take them in trade. Those loosely built classics ( which was part of their charm) had to be set up right to play. Not every Fender tech knew how. Once the Baldwin guitars became used, they were even cheaper. I had a 68 Streamliner when I was about 19. It was red and looked just like the Monkees model except for the pickguard. It had hot Baldwin era Supertrons on it. For a kid that was breaking up his amp to the max, that guitar was fun as hell to play. I probably paid $200 for it.

34

A big part of the '70's [Baldwin] Gretsches not selling particularly well had less to do with their build quality, actual of perceived, but rather the music culture had changed and gone away from favoring big hollowbody archtops and towards solidbodies from Gibson and Fender. Baldwin failed to recognize this trend and paid the ultimate price for it. The early days of the British Invasion when a Gretsch was a fixture in most bands, was long in the past. The Super Axe and Deluxe Axe did okay but by that time, the die was cast.

35

I think it's actually pretty well early 60s to around 1970-71. The theory about the adhesive is undoubtedly a good one . However there are many examples of guitars right in the middle of that time frame with NO original rot. I've owned a couple. I suspect it's a few factors at play (materials, environmental) and has to do with case time as well. The 65 Club I had (red one) had no rot at all till the owner (developing arthritis, sad) left it in it's case in the garage for 5 years. It came out with binding rot, and this is in the last 5 years of a 50 year existence. Another example of rotting celluloid would be 50s tortoise shell DeArmond spacers.

– Toxophilite

There's also the possibility that not everybody doing binding work at the factory used hide glue is the explanation for why some guitars show no signs of rot. You'd think choice of materials would be standardized, but you never know.

36

Dang, glad I started this thread altho the topic is perennial around here. Great reading all the perspectives, experiences and opinions.


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