Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Gretsch Country Gent 7670 and Chet

1

Wondered if we know what Chet actually thought of the remodelled chet Atkins Country Gent ? He endorsed it for a few years before jumping ship to GIBSON due to QC not actual model dislike?

2

Interesting question and of course and we can just mostly speculate. We do know through inference, that he was never a big fan of the double cut look when it came out but did like the body being without open f-holes. Wasn't a fan of the mute system either. The Gents of the 70's weren't too much different from the pre-'67 era with the pups the same, just a different cover; a different truss rod system & a different shape pickguard. I can't see Chet being concerned with those differences but perhaps he wouldn't have been a fan of the return to open f-holes. I do think he would have liked the continuing [from the '60's elimination] doing away with the mute system. His not favoring the double cut Electrotone model when it came out in favor of his '59 for most all of his appearances, speaks to where his preferences lay. I believe he played other models occasionally only to satisfy contractually obligations with Gretsch. He was loyal that way.

When he moved to Gibson, as I understand it, he had pretty much a free hand in the design of their Country Gent. I've never read anything from either Gibson or Chet regarding the yea or nay regarding open/closed f-holes. I would think Chet wouldn't have wanted them but acquiesced for his new company. Just my thought.

3

More speculation here....I've heard that he wanted Gretsch to add a center block to the Country Gent, but never got it. If true, that was unfortunate.

4

That could very well be true, given that the Gibson Gent [I have] he designed has the centerblock, albeit it might be a hollowed version.

Mine being a '98, is lighter than the first edition that came out. Gibson made changes around '93 to fix the unbalanced weight along with changing the odd square red fret markers. The final version they sent to Chet for his approval didn't have any fret markers so Chet said he cut little squares of red electrical tape he had just for his use and simply didn't bother to remove them when the guitar went back with his notes. The folks figured that that was what he wanted so they put them on the production versions.

5

gretschcrush -- Chet Atkins' leaving Gretsch had nothing to do with quality control issues. There were quality control issues during the early period of the relocation to Booneville, Arkansas, but the Gretsch guitars built from about 1973 thru the end of production in 1980 were the best quality guitars Gretsch had built since about 1954 -- as Windsordave and I can both attest. The major reasons behind Chet Atkins leaving Gretsch involved a couple of things. For one, Fred Gretsch Jr. had died in 1979 and although he had quite a bit less direct involvement with the company (remember, he was a shareholder of Baldwin) he had personally provided the financing for Bill Hagner to take over direct production from Baldwin and Fred Gretsch, Jr. and Chet Atkins remained personally very close. Once Fred Gretsch, Jr. died, Chet Atkins felt a bit adrift from the management of Baldwin, despite the fact that Duke Kramer remained the point man for Baldwin involved with guitars. A second reason -- and perhaps the determinative one -- is that Chet Atkins wanted Gretsch to make a piezo electrified nylon string guitar and Baldwin refused. And so instead of an abrupt severing of the relationship, Gretsch and Chet Atkins just drifted away from each other.

6

You know, I've heard that last part before and while I have no doubt that it is correct, it absolutely makes no sense to me. Baldwin, who owned both Burns of London and Gretsch at that point, had been the driving force in electrifying acoustic instruments, particularly nylon strung ones, with the Prismatone bridge pickup. The Ovation electric pickups were developed as a result. Even today, those pickups are highly sought after. It would have been a very simple matter to use one of those on a thin bodied instrument to keep their main endorsee/endorser happy. Customer service is everything,

7

There is a long interview with Chet in the original edition of Tom Wheeler's American Guitars and Chet was not happy with the guitars coming out of Booneville circa 1978-9.

8

ewkewk - thanks for the info. I'm a big champion of Booneville built Gretsch guitars. My 7670 is one of my all time favourite Gretsch's. I think the quality of these Baldwin era guitars is amazing. I always thought the general consensus was he left because of poor QC even though I see no evidence of this in the Booneville guitars I've seen, owned and played. I know know what really happened thanks to your explanation.

10

also curious as to why he happily endorsed open f hole remodelled versions of his original electrotone guitars that he always wanted?

11

I didn't hear that he 'happily' went along with the open f-holes but perhaps he acquiesced because the center-block feature didn't feedback like the trestle or parallel bracing could.

12

gretschcrush -- the quality control issues do, in fact, date to 1972-1973 because the new folks building the guitars hadn't quite learned their trade. But Baldwin sent a guy named Dean Porter to Booneville and he whipped the quality control problems fairly quickly. He personally carefully and diligently inspected every single guitar and made sure nothing left the plant unless it was first quality. Bill Hagner told me back in 1992 that once those "people from back in the hills" who had come to work for Gretsch learned "workmanship" and "craftsmanship", the build quality was as good as the best Gibsons of that era.

13

ewkewk - well that explains why the guitars from 74 onwards are so consistently well made. All new plants and workers take a while to settle in and get in gear. Those 'people from back in the hills' should be highly acclaimed instead of constantly put down.

By the way , what's happened to the ' Gretsch Lost Weekend' website? anybody know?

14

Here's a Chet quote from Tony Bacons book.....page 76 of 50 Years Of Gretsch Electrics by Tony Bacon...

"Chet Atkins, who switched to a deal with the Gibson company in the 80's, offered me a concise recollection of the Gretsch/Baldwin set up. "They just couldn't build Gretsch guitars at Boonville. I complained, and they hired a man called Dean Porter. He moved to Arkansas and got the guitars so they would play. But the quality never was like it was in Brooklyn."

IMO this is a falsehood.

15

I can't imagine Chet liking the Gibson humbuckings vs. the original FilterTron's. sonically the FilterTron's have a wide Freq. response & clarity that Gibson pickups from that time period lacked.

17

The more I play Baldwin Booneville guitars the more I love them including the pickguards. I find them a bit different and all the real players I speak to like em as well

18

I can't imagine Chet liking the Gibson humbuckings vs. the original FilterTron's. sonically the FilterTron's have a wide Freq. response & clarity that Gibson pickups from that time period lacked.

– Don Butler aka: Toneman

Chet didn't like the original Gibson pup offerings which is why he installed one of Ray Butts neck pups on the early guitar he used....the one with the square red fret markers. Gibson negotiated with Ray for the rights to use his pup, or pups, but the story goes that Ray wanted too much so no deal was struck. Gibson worked on their pups and tweaked them till Chet liked them and he took Ray's pup out of his guitar and put in a pair of the newer ones. Both he and Paul Yandel preferred Ray's pups but Chet was loyal to Gibson and once they produced a pup he found satisfactory, that's what he used.

When Gibson built a [deeper-bodied] Country Gent for Paul, the one he used on his learning DVD, he put Ray's neck pup in it, as he didn't have an endorsement deal with Gibson and could use what he wanted.

19

gretschcrush wrote:

"The more I play Baldwin Booneville guitars the more I love them including the pickguards. I find them a bit different and all the real players I speak to like em as well"

I agree. I've only owned one Baldwin era Gretsch, a 1973 Country Gentleman. It played and sounded great and I also liked the looks, including the pickguard. I'd still have it were it not so neck heavy. The photo really doesn't do it justice.

20

@Caliban335 - Gorgeous guitar. Something about the 7670 that I just love. Mines built like a tank with the lowest action I've ever had all the way up the neck. It's a quality build. The only flaw with the Booneville guitars is they are heavy but rather that than needing a neck reset and rebinding!

21

I had an "Atkins Axe" I bought new in `78. I loved it and wish I'd hung onto it. But.. the first change I made to it was removing the guard. I also installed a set of the Bill Lawerence humbuckings as those actually sounded really good and more Gretsch-like than the Asian humbuckings that came in it. I later installed a tune-o-matic and Bigsby.


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